Tuesday, September 30, 2014

REVIEW: Fix It! Grammar from IEW

Grammar has not been an easy subject in our homeschool. One of my children, in particular, seems to have an unusually difficult time. I think part of it is that she is a very visual learner, and grammar can be a little tricky to teach visually. She has an inherent understanding of it, but when we try to put names to things, she struggles. There have been many tears. I find this utterly confounding, because I'm a grammar geek and I assumed my kids would love it too. There is still hope for #3 (fingers crossed).

When I received the opportunity to review Fix It! Grammar from the Institute for Excellence in Writing, I was intrigued by the concept. Students look at one or two sentences per day, label parts of speech, add punctuation, discuss a vocabulary word, and then fix any problems they find. Once their sentence is corrected, they copy it into a notebook (without the markings). The student will have read, and copied, the entire story when they finish the book. Lessons are kept short, about 15 minutes per day. For the purpose of my review, I received a printed copies of both the Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] (Teacher's Manual) and the Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] (Student Book).

Both books are spiral bound. The Student Book contains the daily lessons, a nice Glossary of grammar terms covered in the book, and grammar cards, which help to review the week's concepts as the student works through the lessons.  The Teacher's Manual contains everything in the Student Book (with the exception of the grammar cards), along with the corrected sentences so you can see exactly what the student needs to do. There are also Teacher's Notes, which have reminders for you, along with definitions for the vocabulary words and interesting tidbits of information. For example, did you know, the paragraph mark is called a "pilcrow," and was created during the Middle Ages? I did not! There are also Advanced Concepts included throughout the book, so if you are lucky enough to have an interested student, you can discuss those.

The Fix-It! Grammar program has 6 levels, and is recommended for 3rd-12th grades. I used Level 1 with my girls, who are in 8th and 9th grades, because we've not done much formal grammar before. We have been able to move through more than one lesson per day, when we've already known the concepts. Even with doubling up the occasional lessons, we haven't had to spend more than 15 minutes per day. When we're learning something new, we work on one sentence at a time, knowing the concept will brought back in with plenty of review throughout the book. We have enjoyed using the program–no tears so far!

The Teacher's Manual states that this program is a teaching tool, and is therefore ungraded. I like that, because it means no pressure on my grammar-phobe. Also, as the teacher, I'm instructed to model the process as needed for my students. I did sit with them each day, so if there were questions I was readily available. As we move through the program, I think they will be able to tackle it on their own after we go over the week's teaching.

By the end of book one, we will have covered:
  • Parts of speech: nouns, articles, pronouns, verbs, helping verbs, adjectives, -ly adverbs, prepositions, coordinating conjunctions, and clause starters
  • Punctuation: End marks, quotations, apostrophes (both to show ownership and with contractions), exclamation points, and clause starters
  • Homophones: "to, two, too; its vs. its; your vs. you're
  • Other Concepts: indentation rules, capitals, comparative adjectives
What I like best about the program, aside from the gentle approach, is that students learn invaluable editing skills. I've noticed in going over my girls' writing that they aren't great at self-editing. When I have them read over what they've written, even before I make suggestions, often they can see what needs to be corrected. I love that Fix-It! Grammar encourages a careful eye for finding mistakes in writing. I can see understanding dawning as we work through this program, and that is wonderful. My grammar-hating child still looks askance at the books, but no longer considers it torture to have to work on grammar with me.

The six levels of Fix It! Grammar are:
Each Teacher's Manual is available for $19, and comes with a downloadable PDF of the student book. If you prefer printed student books to PDF versions, they are available for each level for $15 each. You can also purchase a complete set of teacher's manuals for $89. This program stands alone as a gentle, yet effective program, and would also make a great supplement alongside another grammar program for review or reinforcement.

If you'd like to find out more about Fix It! Grammar, you can watch a webinar here. It's recommended to start with the first book, as each book contains advanced concepts and you can move more quickly through material you already know. However, if you would like to find out where to place your child in the program, click here to download a placement test.

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