As I’ve posted before, the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year brought a number of changes, namely the addition of twins to our family, which in turn caused this mama to substitute out some of the more teacher/time-intensive curriculums in favor of easy-to-implement curriculum choices.
Fix it! Grammar and Editing Made Easy with the Classics is a grammar program from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) that I didn’t even know existed until the middle of last summer. My interested was piqued. I checked it out. I found a winner!
The Program (5 Levels)
This year we went through the first story in the book, Tom Sawyer. IEW says this story is appropriate for kids in grades 3-6. There are 5 stories in all:
- Tom Sawyer
- Frog Prince, or Just Desserts
- The Little Mermaid
- The King and the Discommodious Pea
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Each story gets progressively more difficult and introduces more advanced grammatical concepts. The recommended level for the final story are grades 9-12.
How It Works
At the beginning of the year you start out defining vocabulary words, determining where to indent, identifying subject and verbs, and correcting faulty homophones. As the year progresses, you add more concepts: placement of commas, apostrophes and other punctuation, verification of subject/verb agreement, searching for adverb clauses, and more.
Tom Sawyer is divided into chapters and each chapter has an editing checklist. At the beginning of each chapter we go over our new checklist and discuss any new concepts. There are 4 sections, ranging from 1 sentence to a paragraph, to complete each week. This works out perfectly for our schedule since we have co-op classes on Mondays.
I write the day’s section on our whiteboard before we begin. I often tell Bradley how many items there are to “fix” in the passage. He finds as many as he can, and with the remainder I give him hints. For instance, I might urge, “Look for a homophone,” or “Are you missing quotation marks anywhere?”
After Bradley has found everything in his daily passage, he looks up the vocabulary word for the day and writes the meaning on the provided line in his student book. Finally, he spends a few minutes copying the corrected passage into a composition notebook, providing him with hand-writing practice (his least favorite part of this curriculum since he hates anything handwriting related).
- I like that this program can be done in a half hour or less each day, though much depends on how quickly (or slowly) Bradley completes the handwriting portion. The prior grammar program I’ve used took more than an hour a day. For a 7 year old, Bradley spends a lot of time on school. I was looking to simplify our school day as much as possible without sacrificing a quality comprehensive education.
- Fix-It puts grammar in context. For instance, when was the last time you diagrammed a sentence? Yeah… never (or maybe when you were in school). That’s what I thought! I don’t believe this is a (completely) useless skill, but grammar is most useful in the context of learning to write and edit what you’ve written. Learning parts of speech and how they fit together happens seamlessly with a program like Fix-It.
- Because I also use IEW’s curriculum to teach composition, there is much overlap. Fix-It uses the same terminology as the writing curriculum. The two curriculums compliment each other beautifully. Bradley learns in his writing curriculum how to use a “strong verb” when composing a paragraph and in Fix-It he learns how to identify the “strong verb” in the sentence. The continuity between programs helps to solidify and reinforce new concepts.
- For $30, you get 5 years worth of grammar curriculum that can be used for multiple children. That’s a bargain! You receive the soft-cover teachers manual and student e-books that you can download and print off at home…and then print off again for your next child when they are ready to go through Fix-It…and again for the next kid (I think you get the idea). Worst case scenario: you don’t like to the program and send it back to IEW for a 100% refund.
The last few weeks of Fix-It were a challenge for Bradley, but overall he did fantastic with the program. Between SWI-A for composition and Fix-It for grammar he learned a lot about the use of the English language.
I am still on the fence about how to proceed with grammar this year. I am concerned the next Fix-It book will be too challenging, so I think we will hold off and use that next year. I’d also considered going through Tom Sawyer again, but I’m not sure I want to do that. We are using All Things Fun and Fascinating (Writing Lessons in Structure and Style) from IEW for writing this year so he will continue to learn as he corrects his own writing, but I have not yet decided whether that will be enough or if I need to add something else to focus more specifically on grammar.
I know with my last few posts on IEW curriculum I may sound a bit like a commercial for their program, that’s not my intention! I receive no reimbursement from IEW and they don’t have an affiliate program I’m part of either (though I did check!). I’ve been genuinely impressed with the quality of their curriculum and how straight-forward and easy to implement it has been. You can read more about our experience with their writing program, Student Writing Intensive, and their spelling program, Phonetic Zoo.
Have you used any of IEW’s curriculum? What was your experience?