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Monday, September 29, 2014

Fix It! Grammar - Review

We got to try a sort of fun book to work on our grammar!  It is from Institute for Writing Excellence (IEW), called Fix It! Grammar. Book 1:  The Nose Tree  As part of this review, we got hard copies of both the student book (this is also available as a downloadable e-book), and the teacher manual..

Even though this product can be used with as young as 3rd graders, I decided to let L-girl use this, not because she is bad at grammar, but, because she still, even in 7th grade makes a lot of little mistakes in her writing.  Little mistakes that add up when you start taking off points.  I knew that I wanted her to head into the more difficult years of her writing work with a really strong background in the big stuff, and the little stuff.

I had L-girl start at the very beginning, is a very good place to start.....(anyone else singing Do, Re, Mi....from Sound of Music right now?)  There are 6 sets of these Fix It!  Grammar Books, designed for ages 3rd grade and up. But, they aren 't really age specific in and of themselves, so, we started with Book 1:  The Nose Tree.

My other choices were:

Book 2:  Robin Hood
Book 3:  Frog Prince, or Just Deserts
Book 4:  Little Mermaid
Book 5:  Chanticleer
Book 6:  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

I could have had L-girl take their placement test to determine which book she should start with, based on what she already knew.  But, I looked over the placement test and even though she could have started in Book 2 or maybe even 3, there were still some things in Book 1 that I knew she was missing and not doing correctly when she was handing in work.  So, like I said, we started at the beginning.

It was a very good place to start.  

The idea behind Fix It! Grammar is that they learn proper grammar rules one sentence (of a fairy tale) at a time, and only spend about 15 minutes a day doing it, by searching for and correcting grammatical errors in a story.

Yes, one sentence at a time.

Sounds pretty easy, right? 

It actually was.

First, you read the sentence.

In that sentence, there will be a word that is printed in bold.  The bold word is your vocabulary word.  If you complete this book, you will have added 132 new words to your vocabulary.  You write the bold word  in your notebook along with the definition.

I was worried that since we were starting with book 1 that this area is what would feel young or childish to her.  You know, that they would be "baby" words.  But, surprisingly, there were some tough ones sprinkled in with the easier words.  Words like "alleviate" would be mixed in with words like "dwarf", or phrases like "bade farewell" would be there as well as "keeping watch".  For L-girl, I think it was a good mix in her mind of words that she already knew and words that she had seen before, knew how to pronounce, but just didn't know exactly what they meant.

After writing down your vocabulary words and definitions, it is time for you to mark and fix the first passage, or sentence.

This is where my part came in, and it was definitely where having the teacher manual came in really handy.  I am a pretty good editor, but I don't know all the fancy schmancy symbols that you use.  So, it was nice to have the book to help me out in that area.

L-girl then reviewed the passage, the markings, her grammar cards (cards included in the book that remind you of what a noun, or superlative adjective is) and would ask me for help when she needed it (rare).

The last thing she would do every week was rewrite the sentence into a separate notebook, where eventually, the entire story will be printed out in her handwriting.  You do not use the markings during the rewrite phase, just like in a normal writing project where you mark up your draft copy and turn in the cleaned up version neatly typed or written.

Sounds pretty simple and pain free, right?

It honestly was.  The first day or two while we were both figuring things out we stumbled a bit.  Like, L-girl rewrote her sentences in the notebook with the markings and had to erase them when we both went back and checked the book!  But, the good thing was that you only 1 sentence a day, so by the end of the week, you only have 4 sentences to erase....not a whole page or paper.  You know, for example, if you told your mom you had it covered and knew what to do, and she trusted you and slacked off checking your work until, let's say....Friday.  Hypothetically, of course.  

They recommend completing 4 lessons a week for 33 weeks, so it is easy to follow. Especially because it isn't overwhelming.  The student book is only 126 pages long, so the lessons are kept concise and manageable.

 (The book tells you everything you need to cover in your 4 day week)

Review weeks were her favorite because she didn't have to learn anything new.  She just had to prove to herself (and me) that she had been paying attention.

Fix It!  Grammar was a very easy thing for us to fit into our normal routine, and our normal language arts curriculum.  It didn't take a big chunk of our day.  It really did reinforce, and in some cases, teach her the proper grammar needed.  It is presented in such a unique way, that....well, I was going to almost didn't feel like school.....but, to L-girl it did feel like school.  For me, if this was the way I was taught grammar, it would not have felt like school to me.

I like the concept of just one sentence at a time, but I will admit that it almost felt too slow sometimes.  I understand the concept on not wanting to overwhelm them and for some students that is why this program would be phenomenal.  For your older students, I think you could definitely move through the book faster and maybe double up and do 2 sentences a day.

That sounded so funny when I typed it up......a whopping 2 sentences a day!  Emoji

Overall, we really liked Fix It! Grammar.  I am glad we started in Book 1, even though she is in 7th grade and some of this is really easy for her.  I can see us continuing through the series of books.  I am going to give this a try with A-man who is in 4th grade this year and see how he does with a sentence a day.  I think that is probably just the right speed for him so he doesn't get overwhelmed....which is the whole idea!

This is one of those things were I definitely recommend having the 228 page teacher's manual.  It makes the day to day lessons very easy to teach, you don't have to really do much prep work and if you have questions, they are all answered in the book.  The back portion of the teacher's manual is a Glossary that lists and explains all the stuff you are teaching.  For example, when to use commas, semi-colons, and indentation rules.

In case I haven't explained how Fix It! Grammar works, here is a link to a webinar that explains it all.

You can try out Fix It! Grammar yourself. The student book is $15.00 and the teacher manual is $19.00

Find out what other TOS Reviewers thought of Fix It! Grammar.