FAQ

What grade level is this program best for?

Almost every grade level.  It has been taught successfully at all grade levels from 6h through 12thand higherin class settings and 5th (and even lower) through 12th in home-school settings.  It works well with remedial students, too, because it is a fresh and success-to-success type approach to learning.  You do not even have to complete the text to see significant benefits.

Does this text work with ESL and Learning-Disabled students?

Yes.  The experience-based and cumulative-learning features enable them to succeed.

Does it meet state requirements?

Each state differs. The content is the same that I used for my (deficient) college Freshman Composition students.  Those who learn from this text end up head and shoulders above their peers in their at-homeness withand skillful command ofEnglish; in the depth of their understanding of our language; and in the background they acquire to assist them with any/all further learning (for example, they acquire an invaluable background for research-report writing, for mastering additional rules of style or usage, and for mastering more complex grammar instructionnot to mention, for faster and more accurate comprehending of social science and science texts, literature, math problems, test questions, and so forth).

Is the grammar instruction truly different?

Absolutely.  Briefly, two ways in which it is different is that first it is holistic in two ways:  its key strategies must be carried out in the context of a whole phrase, sentence, or paragraph … and structures are taught as wholes first and as made up of parts only much later.  The second way in which it is different is that the above-mentioned strategies are “interactive”they require students to rearrange sentences to verify grammatical function.

Do you teach diagramming?

Yes, but in a simpler form.  Instead of having students build a “tree” and rewrite words to fit along its “trunk” and “branches,” I have them label words and groups of words right over or under the words as they appear in the sentence (therefore, in the context of the sentence).

How does the grammar instruction help students to write better?

In several ways.  (1) It instills ownership of twelve of the ways sentences beginwhich prevents writer’s block and fosters variety in expression.  (2) Students acquire an at-homeness with sentence structure and nimbleness in expression with the result that they now write with ease, self-confidence, and excellence.   (3) It teaches the foremost rules of usage, style, and punctuation.  (4) It instills such a grasp of the system of the sentence that students not only learn the rules of usage, style, and punctuation more readily but also apply them more easily and recall them more reliably.  (5) Finally, its exercises instill in students such an ability to rearrange sentence parts and consciousness of the roles of these parts that they instinctively improve the clarity and/or effectivenessand correctnessof what they write as they write.

How are the paragraph-and-essay instruction different?

In these ways at least:  (1) This part of the text is a comprehensive treatment of expository writing (from autobiography to persuasive essay) … and teaches all of the paragraph types.  (2) Its instruction and models are clear and concrete.  (3) It assures focused writing because it requires an outline to accompany every paragraph and essay as a prewriting exercise.  (4) It lists categories for students to choose from so they can “invent” something that they are best able to write about or that is of greatest interest to their readers.  (5) It fosters coherence by teaching a range of methods (some little stressed) to achieve it; and it supplies plentiful models to assist application.  (6) Its models are simple and meaningfuland they often contain study skills tips.

Can I–should I–accompany this text with instruction in grammar from some other text?

Absolutely not.  This would confuse students.  The grammar part of this text is self-contained; and the instruction presupposes no prior learning.  In addition,  each lesson builds cumulatively on all the lessons before it so that any lost or confused link can jeopardize all subsequent instruction as well as all anticipated benefits.

Do I need training before I can teach grammar taught this way?

No.  But if you want some advanced understanding of the major strategies, you can order our DVD of orientation.  Students as young as seventh graders (in home-school settings) have taught themselves.  Some teachers have told me that all they did was keep one chapter ahead of their students.  Because it is helpful to have some kind of overview of what you will be doing before you start, the Teacher’s Guide provides just such an overview on page 14as, of course, does our DVD of orientation (in much greater depth and with demonstrations).

Should I add exercises to help students see the items of grammar at work in their own writing?

Though this could be helpful, it could be harmful.  You could find yourself tempted to teach rules before the text has laid the requisite foundation, or you could introduce concepts in ways that would interfere with later instruction in the text.

Can this text help learners be more successful on the job (or land that job in the first place)?

Yes, for all the reasons that it teaches grammar and composition more freshly and empoweringly than other texts.

Is this a whole-language approach to teaching grammar?

Yes and no. Yes, to the extent that whole-language instruction requires involvement of all the senses in learning. It is my recommendation that teachers have students say their rearranged sentences out loud (or, at least, subvocally) not only to test whether they are meeting the criteria for some grammatical element but also to hear what correctly spoken English sounds like. Of course, they do write and read the sentences as they carry out the exercise material.

No, because this system for immersing students in structure does notand cannotteach grammar through literature or through the students’ own writing. Students must learn the structure of the sentence systematically, building from the known to the unknown in an experience-based and carefully sequenced way. This ownership of structure cannot be learned in random order nor without “interactive” types of exercises.

How does this way of teaching grammar relate to the process approach to teaching writing?

Nancie Atwell, a chief proponent of the process approach to teaching writing for middle school students, recommends occasional 10-minute mini-lessons in grammar primarily for the purpose of fixing some usage error. (Her reasoning is that the indispensable, if not sole, means to becoming a better writer is to do personally meaningful writingas opposed to learning grammar as a means.)

Although my program would provide ideal subject matter for 10-minute mini-lessons, the primary instruction would have to be in the fundamentals of grammar (not in rules of usage); it would have to be virtually daily, not occasional, in occurrence; and it would have to be accompanied by extensive practice. It would have to include incrementally developed lessons on how sentences and their parts work and interact and would address usage errors only as sufficient background to understand and consistently apply them have been absorbed.

The philosophy of the proponents of the process approach to writing is that improvement in the mechanics of writing will take place with students’ heightened desire to make sure that their message is read and acted upon and without formal instruction in grammar. (There remains the troubling question as to whether such experiences can lead to the remedying of most, let alone all or the most serious, mistakes. Then there is the question of permanency of the error-free writing.) Is it not reasonable to believe, too, that any lasting improvement in the mechanics of writing might occur just for the brightest of students or for those immersed in correct usage of English in their homes?

My philosophy regarding mastery of writing on the part of middle school studentsin fact, all studentsis entirely different. My philosophy is that immersion in grammarthat is, an experiencing of the roles of the key parts of the sentence by means of hands-on strategies, strategies that initially involve the rearrangement of sentence partsis a prior and, for many (if not most) students, an indispensable means to self-confidence and competence in writing. 

It is in light of this that I recommend that my grammar programin accompaniment with on-going composition workbe the initial component of any foundational writing program (and, therefore, of any middle school program). My teaching suggestions in the next section offer some insights.

Should the grammar portion of the text be taught every day?

As nearly as possible.  I recommend that you devote two class days out of three to grammar work and roughly every third day to composition work.  I also recommend that  you include out-of-class or in-class reading (light reading would work) while you teach the textso that your students’ growing command of structure can facilitate their comprehension and speed of reading, too.

Must the text be finished in a set amount of time?

No.  On the contrary, the need for mastery of the content is so paramount that this criterion alone should guide the timing of the instruction.  Note, as mentioned before, that benefits exceed expectations no matter how many chapters you have time to cover.

Is there a recommended strategy for teaching the grammar to underprepared or ESL students?

Yes.  You could explain enough of the instruction in your own words that students can complete an exercise successfully.  Then, once they have understood the concepts through experience, they can read the text for themselves.

Is changing the order of the instruction (chapters) a bad idea?

Yes.  Do not do this.  From Chapter 5 on , the grammar lessons build on each other sequentially (and the chapters before Chapter 5 lay the foundation for later instruction).  A student simply cannot successfully complete the grammar exercises in later chapters without having mastered the exercise content in the preceding chapters.  On the other hand, there is more freedom to rearrange chapters in the paragraph-and-essay instructionat least within the first six chapters and from Chapters 9 through 13.

How much time should be spent on composition?

About one third of the time.  I recommend that some time be spent on concurrent reading as wellprovided that this can be done without interrupting the continuity of the grammar instruction.

Can any of the chapters be skipped?

No, not in the area of grammar anyway.  However, a student does not need to finish the text to receive exceptional benefits.  Students must not skip chapters in the grammar part of the text because its exercisesto the very end of the textare cumulative; their successful execution is utterly dependent on the correctness of students’ application of all previous lessons.  Of course, some changing of order would cause no harm in the paragraph-and-essay portions of the text

Which books must be ordered?

The teacher should have all four books (note that those who order class setsat least fifteen of both of the textsreceive the four books free, and note the discounts offered under the Order Now section).  In class settings, each student should have both textbooks.  Although some teachers buy only the Skills Practice Book for their students, this deprives students of the chance to see the wording of the text, its emphases, its charts, and its multitude of examples.  In home-school settings, parents need all four books to start with and then at least an additional Skills Practice Book for each extra child (some wish to have an additional grammar text for each extra child, too).

How do I divide the text into lessons?

The best criterion is by length of timebased on the age of a child and his/her ability to stick to it.  A rough benchmark is 20 minutes per session for 5th graders; 30, for 7th graders; and 40-50 for 9th graders and higher.

How can I evaluate their paragraphs and essays?

For the first six chapters, your concern should be more for whether they are following the directions for forming an outline and then using their outline as a springboard for their paragraphs.  In fact, your chief concern for all their composition work should be whether they are following the directions fully.  The quality of their writing should improve as the helps for style and usage are taughtthat is, as they get deeper into the text.  Just make sure that they are applying all the now-learned rules to their current paragraphs and essays.  It might be counterproductive to correct every least mistake before the type of error in question has been addressed in the book (that is, in the area of grammar).

Does this text teach everything a child needs to learn from 5th grade through 12th?

A student who finishes this text has a better preparation for college than most of the students entering college today. On the other hand, this book should not be the sole source of help with writing during all those years of schooling.

I would recommend for children who might learn the text during, say, fifth and sixth grades that they go through the book a second time, say in ninth grade, and even a third time in twelfth as a superb preparation for college. In the in-between periods they should continue writing: they could write short stories or plays; they should write research reports; they might keep a daily journal; they could be encouraged to write letters; and so forth (I would not recommend written book reportsoral ones remove the “double jeopardy” effect).

In addition to on-going composition efforts, students should be learning the more complex elements of grammar and more advanced rules for usage and style, say, from a handbook of English (a high-school or college one).

What should I teach to my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders?

You may want to put less emphasis on grammar than some programs do for this age child and teach your children just what they need to know in order to correct a particular recurring fault (using the helps that this text provides). I do not recommend any particular text because I am not familiar with texts for children this young and because I fear that every one of them uses misleading definitions.

You could use this text with a third or fourth grader, but you should proceed in the order of the chapters and cover only what can be absorbed. (You should not rely on these youngsters to understand the wording of the text or of some of the practice sentences without assistance.) You might then repeat the instruction and go further as they advance in age and ability.

Should the text be finished in one school year?

This is not necessary; and, for younger children especially, it is not even advisable.   What is far more important than how much of the text is covered in a year is how well it is covered.  Your youngsters must master the materialthat is, learn it to 100% accuracyas nearly as possible.

How do I know when to assign an exercise?

For the text proper (the grammar instruction), this is easy.  You look for the large black dots that tell you just which exercise the student must carry out and when.  However, there is no such help for the paragraph-and-essay lessons and/or exercises.   See the next question for how to handle that part of the instruction.

Does the text tell me when to do the paragraph-and- essay work?

Unfortunately, no. This is because the paragraph  and essay lessons were added to the Skills Practice Book long after the grammar text was written. As I have mentioned elsewhere, you would want to have your children do the composition work every third day or so.

Is the text self-teaching?

Yes and no.  For  grammar instruction, yes from 7th grade on.  For the paragraph-and-essay writing, supervision will always be required .

Is there a difference between the hardcover and soft-cover texts?

No.  They are identical in content.  They differ only in the type of cover.

Is there a policy regarding the returning of books?

Yes.  Books may be returned within thirty days of purchase with a full refund (provided that they are returned in resalable condition).  It may interest you to know that not a single home-schooling family has returned the books for two years straight as of this writing though hundreds of sets of books have been sold.

How quickly do you ship orders?

The same day if possible.