Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Analytical Grammar {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

My kids sometimes call me the "grammar nazi" and I have done my part to earn the title. However, we are still in need of a good grammar curriculum in our homeschool, especially for my high school age son. We had the opportunity to review Analytical Grammar to see if it would be a good fit for us. We received the Student Book and the Teacher Book.
Analytical Grammar Review
Analytical Grammar  is a program for teaching grammar, punctuation and usage for older students. It's designed to be taught over three "seasons" but is flexible enough to be completed in one or two years as well. The approach is very easy to follow, with a logical step-by-step progression through the parts of speech and sentence diagraming. The thorough teacher's guide means that the homeschool teacher does not need to be a grammar expert in order to guide the student through the course, or to grade the assignments accurately. In fact, the teacher can learn along with the student!
There are a total of 34 units, which break down as follows:
  • Units 1-10 cover parts of speech, parts of the sentence, and basic sentence diagraming.
  • Units 11-17 discuss phrases and clauses, and complete the study of grammar.
  • Units 18-34 detail the rules of punctuation and usage.
Each unit begins with Unit notes - essentially a "teaching page" that gives a definition of the part of speech for that unit, along with explanations and examples. This is followed by three exercises to practice parsing sentences and diagraming, and a test. In the first ten units, there is also a Skills Support page which allows the student to do extra practice, if needed, on a short selection of literature. The teacher's book gives explanation, notes, and complete answer key for grading all assignments and tests, and is presented in the same order as the student book, with matching page numbers.

How did we use it? There are three suggested timelines for using Analytical Grammar, depending on the grade level of the student. Since Landon is going into Grade 10, he does have a fair amount of working knowledge of grammar concepts, even if it's not a favorite subject of his! We want to finish this book in this school year, so we chose the one year suggested timeline. (The one-year timeline for completion that we are following does not the require the use of the additional Reinforcement and Review Book that is needed for students that will complete the course over a two or three year period.)

Landon and I sit down together to go over the Unit Notes, and he labels and diagrams at least the first two sentences of Exercise #1 so we can be sure he understands. So far, that hasn't been a problem! He's familiar with some of the terms already, and the Unit Notes include very clear explanations. Then he can work on his own to complete Exercise #1. A day or two later, we go over the Exercise and correct any errors. If the errors are few and minor (and so far they have been), he goes on to complete the Unit Test. Yes. We are leaving out Exercises #2 and #3, as well as the Skills Support in these early units, but I assure you we have the author's permission to do so! In the opening set of Notes in the Teacher Book, she gives Suggestions for Shortcuts when using the course with a student in Grade 10-12. These students usually have a pretty good background in parts of speech and find the early units quite easy. She suggests having students "test through" these units by doing just what we have been doing, and then slowing down. Our goal is to get through the entire book in this school year, over a period of about 34 weeks, one week per unit.

As we go along, there are more elements to label and diagram in each Unit. Landon has completed Unit 5 and has just started Unit 6. He is now able to identify and label nouns, articles, adjectives, pronouns, prepositional phrases, subjects, verbs, and adverbs. Some of the prepositional phrases are the only parts of speech that have given him any trouble, as he sometimes missing some of the less obvious ones. (The sample Unit you can see HERE happens to the the one teaching prepositional phrases!)

The pages in the Student Book are all perforated, and the expectation is that the student will transfer the pages he uses, along with his own notes, into a personalized grammar notebook as he completes them. To date, Landon has chosen not to remove pages to make his own notebook, but he has just started doing that now, as the diagraming needs to be done on a separate piece of paper, and he has a growing collection of loose papers that need to be contained and organized. (And while I have pictures that show that, they are on my computer that is being repaired right now. I will be adding pictures to this review when I get my computer back!)

We are finding that the explanations in the Unit Notes are very clear. Even I, a grammar nerd, am learning as I walk Landon through the notes. I don't have any fond memories of diagraming sentences when I was in school; in fact, I disliked it and didn't see it as very helpful. Learning this systematic approach, and taking it step-by-step is helping both me and my student understand the process and the value of the exercise. So far, of course, we haven't tackled some of the more advanced grammar topics or the many punctuation rules, but I have browsed ahead in the Teacher's Book and I really like the way those are presented as well. For example, the comma rules are presented over four units, giving the student time to process them in smaller chunks. At first, I thought it odd that the word usage units are at the very end of the book (things like pronoun-antecedent agreement and subject-verb agreement) but upon further reflection, it does make sense. In identifying and diagraming these parts of speech in other sentences, the student will be very familiar with correct usage by the time the rules are presented; and I think this should make it easier to learn.

What we liked best:
  • systematic, logical, no-nonsense approach to teaching
  • one day's lesson time in going over Unit Notes or working on an Exercise averages 30 minutes or less.
  • I love that the Teacher Book is an exact copy of the Student Book, except that it includes the answers and additional notes. The teacher's notes are on extra pages at the beginning of each section, and the answers to all the Exercises and Tests are on pages that look the same. This may seem like a small thing, but any parent who has wasted time flipping forward and backward in an answer key trying to figure out which answers belong to which student page, or tried to decipher the answers to a test without being able to see the questions, this presentation makes so much more sense! 
What I need to mention:
  • if you plan to complete the course over a two- or three-year period, you will also need to purchase the Reinforcement and Review Book.
  • if you have more than one student, they will each need their own Student Book. It is a consumable product, and you may not reproduce pages.
Analytical Grammar Review
Our bottom line: We really liked this straight-forward and efficient system of learning grammar. It's definitely a good fit for my "just get to the point and get it done" son, so it's going to be used throughout the coming school year. I should also mention that while Grammar is still not a subject Landon loves, he gets this work done without complaint, and understands it well. Since the Teacher Book makes it easy for me to check his work and grade it, Analytical Grammar earns high marks from this homeschool!
Analytical Grammar Review
Would this approach to grammar work for your homeschool? Here's what you need to know:
Visit the website: http://AnalyticalGrammar.com 
See a sample Unit (this link will open a pdf file); and more info about Analytical Grammar for Grade 6 and up, including timelines. You can see all three suggested timelines at the website as well (on that page, click the link for clearer versions of the schedules).

Pricing: The Set of Analytical Grammar is available for $94.95. The set includes one student book and one teacher book, but does not include the optional Reinforcement and Review Book, which is available for $19.95.

Recommended Ages: Analytical Grammar is for students Grade 6 and up.

You can follow Analytical Grammar on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other reviews. Crew members also reviewed Junior Analytical Grammar, so be sure to check those out as well!
Click to read Crew Reviews
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