Sep 30, 2014

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Fix It! Grammar

We have been homeschooling several years now, and we have used a lot of different products. We have dealt with plenty of companies that peddle their wares to folks like us. In our years of experience there have been a couple of companies that just flat out impress me. Companies that I would have no hesitation in recommending any one of their products. I feel strongly about these companies because I know they only offers products of the highest caliber and that the company has demonstrated their dedication to treating customers right! The Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) is one such company. I have been blessed in the past to review their writing curriculum. Their PAL curriculum is what we used to finally teach my younger two kids to read!

Because of my excellent experience with IEW I was thrilled to be asked to review their Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] with my two older kids, Kaytie and Nate. There are six levels to the "Fix It! Grammar" series aimed at 3rd graders and up. We were given level 1 to explore.
We received a Teacher's Manual ($19) and a Student Book ($15). First off I want to tell you my favorite thing about IEW: I am free to make all the copies of the Student Book that I want (as long as it is for my own family). Also, in the TM, there is a link to where you can download the Student Book. That means that I can simply print off whatever copies I need for both kids and get clear, perfect sheets with a minimum of fuss. I LOVED this feature! But that wasn't all I loved.

Kaytie and Nate have used other grammar programs before with little success. And we have yet to find a single one that they enjoyed doing or that actually helped them retain any information. This being the case we started with the very first book, even though they are fifth and sixth graders and The Nose Tree is targeted for kids as young as 3rd grade. IEW also provides a placement test so you can determine where to start with your student. You can check out the scope and sequence of The Nose Tree  at the bottom of this PDF.

The TM starts off by explaining their incredibly simple process. After that the lessons are laid out just like in the kids book except with the answers marked. This makes checking your kid's work is fast and easy. It contains some notes that give the teacher a head's up on what to look out for and things you might need to remind your student about. Advanced concepts that you can choose to discuss with your kids are also highlighted. In the back of the book there is a chart that shows the scope and sequence of the program as well as a glossary of the elements and rules of grammar. Here is what Week 5 looks like in my TM for level 1.

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The Student Book includes the teacher's script so the kids can read along. Then, of course, it has the lessons. This consists of a sentence to be marked by the student. In the back of the book there is a copy of the glossary that is in the TM. Also included in the back of the book are grammar cards. These cards are printed on cardstock and are intended be cut out of the book. They have the rules, parts of speech, and other concepts printed on them and are to be used for review and reference by the student. The TM tells you when to give each new card to the student.

The lessons are divided into 33 weeks with 4 days of work in each week. I liked this setup because we only have school four days a week. Each lesson introduces a new grammar concept (or two or three), starting with nouns, homophones, and end marks. There is a short passage for the teacher to read that explains each concept. After you read through the information, you and/or the kids read the sentence. There is one sentence for each day. In each sentence, there is a vocabulary word in bold type. The kids are supposed to look these words up in the dictionary and choose which definition best fits the meaning of the word used in their sentence. Then, they mark up the sentence, writing "n" above the nouns, "ar" above the articles, and so forth. They are also required to add in any left out punctuation. They are only responsible for the concepts they have been taught. However, after each lesson they are responsible for all the concepts they have learned to that point. For example they start marking nouns in Week 1 and they are still marking the nouns in Week 33. This gives them built-in review so I have no fear that they will forget what a noun is! After 33 weeks of looking, surely they will be able to find one in a sentence! After they mark up their sentence, they copy it on to a separate piece of paper. Then they are done for the day. The instructions say this should take you no more than 15 minutes. I think it took us less than 10.

Here's a peek at Kaytie's page as she worked on it today. I like that everything they are supposed to be looking for is printed at the top of their page for a handy reference, This will be even nicer as they add more concepts to mark so they don't get all those symbols mixed up!

I can't say enough how much I love "Fix It! Grammar"!! I love that for me, the teacher, it's open and go. I don't have to do anything ahead of time except print out their work sheets. I love that it's scripted and that the script is simple and easy to follow. I love the way review is built in to the lesson. I love that the sentences are not made up, contrived exercises but are taken from a real story that engaged my kids' interest. I love that it only takes 15 minutes out of our school day. I love that my kids don't whine about doing it but actually enjoy it. In fact...

On the first day, we sat down to do grammar and Nate groaned. "Oh no! Not grammar! Why do we have to do grammar? I hate grammar!" I assured him that we were going to do it anyway, and we got started. When I closed the book and said, "Ok, that's all, we're done!" Nate said, "What? Done? Already? I don't want to be done! Can we do the next lesson? I love this!"

After weeks of working on Fix It! Grammar, this is their opinion:

Kaytie: I like how it follows the lines of a story. I like how we get to fix it. I'm excited to see what happens next in the story. And I can't wait till we get to a new level so I get to see what the new story is! 

Nate: Well, it's fun. It's easy to do. It teaches me a LOT! I like copying it and finding out what the vocabulary word means and fixing the sentences. There's not much I don't like about it. It's just really, really, GOOD!

Just keep in mind that Nate is allergic to writing of any kind, so for him to say that he likes copying it is a Really Big Deal! It makes me so happy that I have found a grammar that my kids enjoy, look forward to, and learn from! And I will declare here and now that Fix It! Grammar is now our family's grammar of choice. This is what we will be using from now till the end of the series.

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