A Better Grasp of Grammar Use (Curriculum Review)

by Travis Zook

Are your students growing in their grasp of English grammar? Do you, and they, enjoy the subject?

Travis shares the benefits he and his students realized in using Grammar and Writing from Curtis and Hake. Travis says this curriculum has improved his students’ speaking and writing. He finds it easy to teach, easy to grade, and enjoyable for teacher and students.

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The grammar program we have here is published by Curtis and Hake which has—if you are familiar with Saxon Math—the layout of the lessons, the layout of the reviews, are very similar. This is my third year using this. I teach seventh and eighth grade. I alternate between the two.

I’ve had lots of positives with using it. The first year I used it, I used it with eighth grade students who had had a different curriculum the year before and they were very positive about using this curriculum. Said they learned better. Said they understood better.

The lessons all begin with vocabulary. We talk about different Latin, Greek, and just other similar English words.

(Classroom)
We’re going to use the Latin prefix “post” which means “after”—like postscript and postdate.

We begin with the vocabulary but then all that vocabulary becomes part of the lesson and ends up on—they need to know this vocabulary for the test as well.

It is very strong in diagramming. Once we start diagramming the first few sentences we have two or three fairly—getting fairly complex sentences, each day that we diagram. I found that’s helpful for them doing this every single day.

I found that it’s fairly easy to grade in class.

(Classroom)
You need to have all three of these or it is all wrong. Nominative, objective, possessive. Twenty-three: any—singular. One wrong—half wrong.

There is also a very strong writing element involved here. Every day there is a journal topic suggested.

(Classroom)
Teacher: Please come read us your report.

1st Student: Just as hot dogs are disgusting covered in ketchup and mustard and relish and drowned in chili. This makes them disgusting. If they did not have chili, they would only be slightly better.

2nd Student: A food I have never liked is tomatoes. When I bite into a tomato the terrible tasting juice fills my mouth and makes me want to gag. The slimy insides of a tomato make me shiver. I wished I liked tomatoes because they are on a lot of things and I don’t like picking them off.

They provide a topic as well which I find very helpful to provide a variety of things. There are a few of them that I skip or I change.

(Classroom)
Today we are going to be looking at—thinking about—camping outdoors. Staying in your RV is not camping by the way.

I have not found items that I have found to be offensive.

The other part of it is, is that there is a writing workbook. This workbook has lessons that go along when you give a test. You don’t give a lesson out of the textbook then. They have many different kinds of writing. They have descriptive, essays, narratives, true and fictional narratives, doing summaries—there’s even a little bit of poetry towards the end, but there’s a lot of different types of writing involved and I really like how they set it up very strongly with three parts. We plan what we are going to do, we talk about what we’re going to do—what are all the things we want to do and then the next lesson, we do it. And then we—usually those two lessons are back to back—and then we just put it away and we let it sit for a week and we come back to it again and it kind of makes it fresh again in our minds. I like how we can come back later. They give some very good tips on how to how to evaluate their own writing and going back to—this is what we planned, did we do what we planned?

They currently have curriculum, I believe, for grades three through eight and one of the interesting things about each one of those years individually is that the example lessons and the example sentences and things follow a particular topic the whole way through. One may deal on mammals. One of them deals with items from literature. And so they follow these stories and the characters in the stories are all used as examples as we go through the book. And that adds a little bit of extra something that they learn about these other things as they go through here, and that makes it more interesting for them.

I think that my students have a have a better grasp of an overall grammar use in vocabulary, in tenses, in diagramming, in parts of speech. I have found it to be easy to teach, easy to check, and have really enjoyed working with my students the last few years as I do this. It has drastically changed the way I look at grammar class. It is much more enjoyable for myself as well.

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CONTRIBUTOR: Travis Zook

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