Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fix It!

I know, I say it every time I talk about any English-type of curriculum, but it's true: I love grammar. I love parts of speech and punctuation, diagramming sentences and listing homonyms. I admit to correcting others in my head when they make mistakes (and, yes, I even mentally correct my own writing for the blog, ha). I always laugh at grammar jokes and am so proud when my children speak properly. So, naturally, you'd assume that I started formally teaching my little ones grammar at very young ages, right? Wrong. I've said before that our main curriculum focuses mainly on reading for learning. We don't have separate classes for English, science, and history, but instead, learn about these subjects through the books we read. Of course, the kids hear me speak proper grammar (mostly) and mimic what they hear. We also practice language arts with fun games, like mad libs.

When I heard that Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) was offering us one of their grammar products to review, I was tempted get an advanced level for myself--for fun! But, alas, I knew that it would be better for my 8-year-old to start systematically learning grammar. We received Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree (book 1) both the student book and the teacher's manual.      

To a grammar nerd, like myself, this book is a lot of fun. The purpose is for the student to look for the mistakes in the lessons and fix them. It's like being an editor of a book! What I really appreciate about this book is that it teaches the concepts through a real story and not random sentences. Seeing how it all works together gives the student a better understanding of the material, helps him to retain the knowledge, and gives the assignments a sense of purpose. 

The student will need the Nose Tree book, a notebook with two sections (rewrite and vocabulary), and an envelope to hold the review cards. The set-up for the teacher is simple. Prepare the notebook with the two sections, cut out the appropriate review cards (in the back of the student book) for the week, and teach new concepts at the beginning of each week.

So, how does it work? The student is given one sentence of the story each day. There are multiple things that he does with that one sentence:

  • Look up the bold word in a dictionary and write in the vocabulary section of the notebook which definition best fits the story  
  • Mark and fix the sentence, using the review cards as reminders
  • Rewrite the sentence in the rewrite section of the notebook

New grammar cards are added each week. For instance, week 1 starts with the indent paragraph symbol (¶), nouns (n), homophones and end marks. Week 2 adds articles (ar), week 4 adds quotations, and so on. 

To put it in perspective, here is the sentence for day 1, week 1:

¶ Did you ever hear the story of the three poor soldiers

  1. The first thing the student does is look up the bold word and write it and the best definition in the vocabulary section of his notebook. Jake wrote down poor: lacking sufficient money.
  2. The second thing is to mark the sentence, using the grammar review cards. He put an n (noun) above story and soldiers. He also put a question mark at the end of the sentence.
  3. The final thing is to rewrite the sentence in the rewrite section of the notebook, remembering to indent because of the paragraph symbol. 

We are currently 5 weeks into the book. The sentences are longer and more complicated and there are more things to mark and fix. Of course, the rest of the book continues in this fashion. By the end of the 33 weeks, the student will be finding pronouns, clauses, coordinating conjunctions, and more. He will also be familiar with words such as elegant, divulged, immense, laden, forlorn, as well as many others.

The teacher's manual is full of information and contains everything you need to teach this to your child, even if you don't hold a grammar degree. I, personally, did not reference it often. There were times when it came in handy though, like when I wanted Jake to mark certain words as nouns. The book refers to them as advanced words, meaning words can look like one part of speech but be acting as another. Obviously, my 8-year-old hasn't learned these concepts yet. It was helpful to be reminded of that.

The Nose Tree book has been working very well in our house. As of now, the lessons are taking Jake only about 10 minutes to complete (that is, as long as he doesn't get distracted looking up other definitions, too, haha). When I first mentioned to him that the curriculum was coming, he said, "What? I don't need help with English. I snuck a peek! {hysterical laughter} I did that on purpose!" Yes, even my child thinks grammar jokes are humorous. (In case you missed it, snuck is not a word. Sneaked is the correct form.) Since working through the book though, he has told me that this is fun and his favorite part of school. That's my boy!

Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree student book (3rd grade+)  costs $15 and the teacher's manual is $19. Even though I have not used the teacher's manual daily, it is very important to have and I would recommend purchasing them together. Both books are spiral-bound. 

The Fix It! Grammar series has a total of 6 books. If you're not sure which to order, there is a placement test on the IEW site

Are you interested in how other families used this book or another one of the books in the series? You can head to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read more reviews.

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