Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fix-It! Grammar: Robin Hood - A Crew Review

Fix It! Grammar Review
Many home schooling families are familiar with the Institute for Excellence in Writing, commonly referred to as IEW, and the quality teachings of Andrew Pudewa. What you may not have realized is that IEW has a team of quality teachers and curriculum writers working together to help students improve their skills in all things related to writing. Arlene and I have been reviewing one of newest IEW items, Fix-It! Grammar: Robin Hood, written by Pamela White. If you looked at IEW's Fix It! Grammar books in the past, we invite you to take another look, as this is a complete re-do of their older grammar series.

Robin Hood is the second book in the Fix It! Grammar series of 6 books. For the review we received the Fix It! Grammar: Robin Hood [Book 2] Teacher Manual ($19) and Student Book ($15.) You will need to decide for your own family whether you want to purchase the spiral-bound printed student book, or choose to use the download of the Student Book and print it yourself. Note: The download of the Student Book is included with the Teacher's Manual, but at 132 pages, expect to spend quite a bit of time, paper, and ink if you decide to print it yourself. Once again, IEW scores bonus points for large families as they allow the printing of multiple copies for use within the immediate family. For us, we would have chosen to purchase the spiral bound version for Arlene anyway. Let's face it, this is our student who tends to misplace loose pages. . . and having it spiral bound makes it easy for her to find, and use!

Another perk of purchasing the printed version of the Student Book is the card-stock weight printed grammar review cards. Like I mentioned before, Arlene can have a tendency to misplace loose papers, so she and I talked and decided she would NOT cut out the cards as suggested in the lessons, but keep them in her book and flip back to review them as necessary.

We're going to jump over to the Teacher Manual for a bit. The Teacher Manual is an open-and-go resource. The seven page Introduction should only take you twenty to thirty minutes to read and understand. That means you can jump in and get going with your student right away. That is a new concept for me, as most Grammar programs require a lot more Teacher Prep to get ready for day 1 with your student. IEW has organized this series to take about 15 minutes a day, four days a week, for 33 weeks. The method used is "Modeling proper grammar within stories." Each week's lesson is using a small portion of the story to teach a specific grammar lesson to learn "at the point of need." We have found this method to work well for Arlene, as she is practicing the grammar skills within a story that holds her interest. At about 10-15 minutes a day, the Fix It! Grammar's style of presenting new concepts has been good for her learning level, without being overwhelming. 

For a couple years now, Arlene has been able to tell when something didn't sound right, but because of her slower learning of spelling rules, we have not forced her into a grammar program before we thought she was ready. How did we know where to start Arlene? IEW has a set of placement tests on their website that correspond to the levels in the Fix It! Grammar series. Arlene whizzed through the first placement test, but struggled on parts of the second one, so we knew she should start in book 2. Please make time for your students to take the placement tests. The exception to that would be if your student has not done any grammar, just start with book 1. Book one can be used anytime third grade or after, and since each book builds upon the previous skills learned, your student can do however many levels you think they require. If you are considering all six levels, look at the Complete Package that includes all 6 Teacher's Manuals (and the student downloads) for $89. If you are living outside the US (or have a large family,) and are planning on teaching your students English Grammar, give serious thought to getting the Complete Package at the beginning.

The Teachers Manual takes you step by step through how to teach each new grammar concept to your student, and then gives you a layout of how each day of your student's rewrites should look. It is a multi-step process. Week one only has six concepts, and gives them four days to learn them. After each sentence is corrected, the student re-writes the story with all of the corrections, giving them a correctly edited version of the story to read when they finish the course. The first week was pretty easy for Arlene, with the exception of the Indent rules. Those took a while to master. Arlene could do more than one day's worth of work each day, but she is enjoying just spending a few minutes a day. Since there are four days' worth of editing work each week, she usually decides to save the rewriting until Friday. You will need to decide which works better for your student, to write one sentence a day, or write all four sentences on Fridays.

I like the ease of only adding a few new skills each week. In the above photo you'll see my Teacher Manual at the top, Arlene's Student Book at the bottom. Arlene's vocal word for week 1, day 1 was reigned. She was instructed to look it up in the dictionary and then copy the definition that applied in this sentence into her notebook where she would also be writing her edited version of the story. Arlene opted for a 3-ring binder and loose-leaf paper since she didn't know how much space all of her definitions would take. The first day of each week, you work through the sentence with your student, modeling how to mark each item. Because Arlene is 14, I decided to have her try each day one sentence herself after we talked about the concept, then we continued talking about it until she had successfully marked all of the items correctly. Days 2, 3, & 4 she did on her own, and I graded each day's sentence by placing checkmarks above the ones she got correct. Because this is only the second time Arlene has had any real grammar instruction, I made sure we talked about all the items she should have marked, but missed before she moved on to the next week. Younger students might need you to take extra time each day and not save the reminders until the end of the week.

If you look in the picture above, you'll see that there are some sentences that just don't have much to mark yet. That's ok, if you look below you'll see how much more there is to mark by week 4!

language arts

The Teacher Manual (about 250 pages total) is significantly thicker than the Student Book because it has one page for each day's editing. This page gives you plenty of explanations to share with your student to help then understand what they might have missed. These pages sometimes have extra notes for grammar lovers. I'll admit that I like that they include the definitions the student should have looked up, I'm a Mom with a night job, I really don't want to spend my precious teaching moments looking through a dictionary.

Both the Teacher Manual and Student Book include a Glossary in the back. Your usage of this section will vary. Since IEW uses the layman's terms for Grammar, it can be helpful to look back here and get the technical terminology for yourself and your older students. The glossary is 45 pages of detailed information. I think the page Arlene will probably use the most is the page listing the most common prepositions.

Overall, we have found Fix It! Grammar: Robin Hood to be a fairly painless way to help Arlene learn grammar. I've been keeping up with our friends who I heard are using it for their students, and they like it too. In the Student Book, each week's sentences are one one page, and the reminders of what to mark are at the top of each page. Each time a new concept/ skill is added, the reminder is spelled out, when it is the second week or more for a skill, it is abbreviated. I have been reminding Arlene to look at he top of the page each day so she doesn't forget to mark something. Each week adds a part of speech skill, and every few weeks, a new punctuation mark and/or a general skill (like homophones) is added.

complete grammar program, editing, grammar

The Crew reviewed levels one through five of the Fix It! Grammar series. You can read all the reviews by clicking the banner below.

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