Fix It! Grammar is a newly revised series published by Institute for Excellence in Writing that teaches grammar principles through real stories. By teaching grammatical principles in context rather than through drill, the carry-over to actual writing should be greater. There are six books in this series, which is written for third grade and up.
IEW recommends that any age learner begin with Book 1, but does offer a placement test for students who have had other grammar instruction and wish to begin at a higher level. We started with Book 3: Frog Prince, or Just Deserts, which is for grades six and up. The Teacher’s Manual includes a free downloadable Student Book, but a printed Student Book is available for those who don’t wish to print their own copies.
Fix It! Grammar is a simple concept that is enjoyable to use. The student uses a notebook, divided into 4 parts: Fix Its, Grammar Glossary, Rewrite, and Vocabulary. The Fix Its and Grammar Glossary are included in the spiral-bound Student Book, so students that use it will use a two-section notebook.
Each day, the student marks parts of speech and corrects grammar errors on a short (1-2 sentence) passage. On Monday, the teacher teaches the weekly concept and helps with or demonstrates the markings. On Tuesday through Thursday, the student works independently or with minimal assistance. Each day after correcting the passage, the student carefully copies the sentences into a notebook. The sentences tell a story, so when the course is completed, the student will have a complete, handwritten story.
Grammar cards are included for the student to reference rules as he or she completes each assignment. I love these—instead of reminding Emily of the rules, I can just say, “Check your grammar cards,” or better yet, she can reference the rules on her own without even asking for help.
The tasks and concepts in the early portion of Book 3 include:
- Vocabulary (one word per day to look up and copy in the vocabulary section of the notebook)
- Marking subjects and verbs
- Marking prepositional phrases
- Labeling clauses
- Punctuation errors
- Sentence openers (in the IEW format)
Emily was intrigued by the format and actually squealed when I explained that she would be writing a complete story in her notebook. (This reaction was totally unexpected!) The concepts in Book 3 were ones that were familiar to her, although a bit fuzzy at times, since she hasn’t studied grammar for a couple of years. She’s pretty good with punctuation in her own writing, but needed a refresher on parts of speech, clauses, etc. Because of that, I sat with her for the first few lessons, offering help as needed. Before long, though, she didn’t want my help at all. I am still insisting that I supervise the Day 1 lesson, but other than that she prefers to work independently.
The teacher’s manual is excellent at giving explanations for each of the corrections. If Emily makes an error, or if I just want to further explain a concept that she did mark correctly, we discuss those concepts briefly. Punctuation rules are tied into the grammar concepts, teaching the student reasons for adding a comma or not. Additional helps can be found in the margins for advanced students or “grammar lovers.” More grammar helps and tips are included in the manual than any one person would likely use. The user is encouraged to pick and choose from the teacher’s materials in order to keep each daily lesson to no more than 15 minutes.
The lessons really do take no more than 15 minutes to complete. Because of this, we often do two lessons at a time. Since Emily is in ninth grade, even two lessons are not a burden. I really like the concept of a grammar program that can be done with such a minimal time investment. The 15 minutes are quality instruction, however, with the parent working with the child and discussing each concept. I think more learning takes place when the content is challenging, but an adult is present to help than when a child is, for example, just underlining nouns on a page of random sentences.
The story itself is funny and engaging. I would not confuse it with great literature, but it’s enjoyable enough for a child’s grammar assignment. Using a real story was a great touch, making the assignments a bit more relevant and interesting to students.
Overall, we are finding Fix It! Grammar easy to implement, enjoyable to use, and taking a minimal amount of time. Even better, I’m already seeing some carry-over into Emily’s writing assignments.