Monday, July 28, 2014

Analytical Grammar - A Crew Review

If you’re wondering whether or not it is important to teach your child grammar, I’ll answer you with one word - YES! How you teach grammar can vary widely, but I think we all want to spend our time wisely. I detested the thought of spending time every year teaching our girls grammar, so I was always on the lookout for something that could help them learn grammar and retain it for future use. When they were little it was easy, just pop in the Grammar Rock DVD and watch it. As they got older, that wasn’t enough and we tried a couple different programs. Now Emily is half-way through High School and I realized there were things she really needed to brush up on before taking those standardized tests hoping for scholarships. I also wanted her to have a quality refresher course before writing all of those scholarship essays. Whether or not your child is planning on pursuing a college degree, I think you should take a good look at Analytical Grammar. Emily and I have been blessed to review their flagship product the Set of Analytical Grammar, which includes both a Teacher’s Book and a Student Book. Trust me, you’re going to want the Teacher’s Book!

Analytical Grammar Review

Robin Finley created Analytical Grammar and tested it out in her classroom for twelve years  making adjustments along the way before its first publication. I will say this is a thorough, solid, step-by-step approach to grammar. I’ll be honest, I had grammar in 6th grade. The only times I’ve diagrammed a sentence since then were while translating English to German in High School, and more recently English-Latin and back again. That does not mean it isn’t important to learn to diagram a sentence, it just means I don’t usually need to when proofreading. 

Analytical Grammar
Grammar is more than diagramming sentences, as you’ll learn inside the pages of Analytical Grammar (AG.) This book is designed up to be used over three school years, but not for all year long, just part of each year. You could begin using AG in 6th grade and use it 6th, 7th, & 8th…or anytime after that. To keep your student’s skills sharp, AG offers four different review and reinforcement books ($19.95 each) to work on once every two weeks during High School. If your student doesn’t begin AG until their  Junior or Senior year of High School, you can skip the extra books and just focus on the AG Student Book.

The Set of Analytical Grammar costs $94.95. If you are going to use it with more than one student you must purchase additional Student Workbooks at $49.95 each. While I know some people may think the Set cost of $94.95 pricey, you will really appreciate all that you get in the Teacher’s Book and be thankful you spent the money. Not everything in grammar is easy . . .  when is the last time you picked out a gerund? Like I mentioned earlier, it’s been a long time since I did much sentence diagramming, so it’s wonderful to have Mrs. Finley’s step-by-step instructions with me when explaining it to Emily. 

analytical grammar
Notice the bottom line? It's from the Teacher's Manual! So unless you want to do every marking and diagramming exercise yourself - buy it!

One point I liked a lot about AG is that in the beginning it starts, well, at the beginning. Some grammar programs I have seen throw too much at the student in the first week and expect them to absorb it all. In the Teacher’s Book, Mrs. Finley shares suggestions for grading your student’s assignments that include just focusing on what they got correct, and ignoring what they missed, or mis-marked. Beginning with Nouns, Articles, and Adjectives, Season One (year one) includes 10 units and ends with Conjunctions and Compound Situations. As each lesson proceeds, it reviews what the student has already learned and adds something new. Thus, you’re always marking the nouns, but you’re not marking verbs until Unit 4. Make sense? Seasons Two and Three go deeper into Grammar and include topics like participial phrases, adverb clauses, and transitive/intransitive verbs.

A unique feature (probably born from Mrs. Finley’s years in the classroom) is the teaching of overcoming common errors. How many times have you stopped and wondered “Who” or “Whom?” If you don’t think this is necessary to learn, may I point out to you that Weird Al Yankovic just released a hilarious parody about “Word Crimes” and he pointed out this error. While I know Weird Al is probably not your definitive source on what is socially appropriate grammar, if he is pointing it out, I will guess employers are noticing it at job interviews too!

So how does AG work exactly? You (the teacher/ parent) introduces each concept (reading the instructions) then you work on the first example or two WITH your student. Then the student does a page of exercises by themselves (referring back to the instructions, which are also in their book, as necessary.) Then you grade their exercises. If you see anything they are really struggling with you can talk about it right then. Tomorrow your student will have another page of exercises on the same topic. The third day your student will have a third page of exercises, then there is a Skills Support page. This Skill Support continues for the first ten Units (year one.) Then comes the test. It can be an open note test. Mrs. Finney also gives suggestions about having your older students ‘test out’ of an unit if you think they might not need to review/ learn the topic covered. If they score an 80% or higher, feel free to move on.

This is the Skill Support page from Unit 2, notice how Emily marked the nouns, pronouns,  and articles? (You can't see the adjectives in this shot.) Then she paraphrased the passage. I'm not worried that she missed a couple words she should have marked, as she worked through each unit, she got better at recognizing and marking her parts of speech. 

While normally I would have had Emily try to test out of the beginning units, I wanted to see how the 5 day cycle suggested in the book worked, so she did every exercise. This is not an independent study course. I guess you could try to use it that way, but I really think your student will do better spending the time with you as the teacher, than trying to learn it themselves! Please don't make them learn Grammar by themselves - how boring and frustrating that would be. Don’t worry - the Teacher’s Book is excellent, and you’re really only talking about 20 minutes a day. Think about that, 20 minutes a day, for parts of 3 years. You know your child is worth that investment! While studying grammar is rarely thrilling, these books are a lot less painful than those blue grammar books we used when I was growing up. 

I encourage you to check out Analytical Grammar’s website, and read through the “How it Works” and “FAQ” pages for more on the technical side of AG. For us, Analytical Grammar has been a painless way to make sure Emily has a solid footing for the rest of her writing years!

Feel free to stop by AG's Facebook page, or visit in person with Robin Finley and her daughter Erin Karl at your local homeschool convention. I had the chance to sit down and talk about Analytical Grammar with them this past April at our convention - they're a hoot!

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