Review: Fix It! Grammar

hTeaching grammar has been a struggle with my children this school year.  Diagramming sentences has been the bane of my existence.  If I hear the expression “Why do I have to do this?” one more time, I might very well rip my own hair out.  I understand the importance of grammar.  I know it is a vital skill that my children need, but our current program isn’t working.  In a hunt for a solid, easy to navigate writing curriculum, I was given the opportunity to review Fix It! Grammar from the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW).

What is IEW?

Before we discuss the product itself, I want to give you some background information about what IEW is. Even as a veteran public school teacher, I had never heard about this curriculum. IEW uses listening, speaking, reading, and writing to help teachers and parents instruct writing in a way that will help their students become better thinkers and writers. Click the IEW logo below to view a video about the Institute for Excellence in Writing.

What is Fix It! Grammar?

Fix it! Grammar is a unique writing program containing six sets of lessons.  The first set “Book 1-The Nose Tree” is the specific set that I was given the opportunity to review.  Other sets include: “Book 2-Robin Hood”, “Book 3-Frog Prince, or Just Deserts”, “Book 4-Little Mermaid”, “Book 5-Chanticleer” and  “Book 6-Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”.

Each day, students read a sentence, culminating at the end, in them reading the entire story contained in the set.  In “The Nose Tree” there are 33 weeks of grammar and instruction which lasts about fifteen minutes a day, four days a week.  The first day of each week is known as a teaching day.  The remaining three days are days in which the learner works independently on the skill. 

Fix It! Grammar is not a traditional writing program in that a grammar “rule” is not given and then applied through worksheets or practice questions.  Rather, Fix It! Grammar, teaches a grammar “rule” as it is needed.  Instruction is limited, which provides the learner the ability to think more analytically about writing.  While reading the sentences, the learner uses their grammar knowledge to identify parts of speech, or to insert correct punctuation.  This works best when the teacher models explicitly for the learner about a rule as it is presented.  Through repeated modeling and practice it is the goal that the learner gain confidence and will be able to edit the sentences correctly on their own.  If this does not occur, the rule should be discussed again.

To gain access to sample pages click the icon below. On this page you can discover the sample pages, the placement test for the curriculum, and other useful information.

What is the learning process?

 The process for using the Fix It! Grammar program is as follows:

Learn it: Teacher and learners explore the grammar concept.

Fix it:  The learner edits four short passages a week.

Discuss it: The teacher and learner discuss how the grammar rule is used in the passages.

Copy it: The learner rewrites the passage correctly into their notebook.

In addition to grammar, Fix It! Grammar also focuses on vocabulary by having students using context clues and the definitions provided in a dictionary to decide which definition best fits the meaning of the word in the sentence. This is done daily.

What does the set contain?

Each set in the Fix It! Grammar contains a student book, and a teacher’s manual.

The teacher’s manual has access to free downloads to the following items: Fix-It! Student Book e-book; Mastery Learning e-audio; But, but, but…What about Grammar? e-audio.  The e-book allows you access to download the student pages to use within your immediate family or classroom. 

The teacher’s manual has directions and information for the teacher to guide you through the process.  This information includes an introductory page to use with your students that helps them set up their Fix It notebooks, a Scope and Sequence, and a glossary containing the rules and guidelines that both the teacher and learner will use.

The student book contains the lessons that the learner is expected to work through. Each week begins with the “Learn It” section that details what the expected learning outcome is.  All four days of work is contained within two pages.  The student book also contains a “Certificate of Completion” for the learner, as well as grammar cards that can be used to reinforce the skills that they have learned.  A glossary is also found at the end of the student book, like found in the teacher’s manual.

How did we use it?

We began with “The Nose Tree” since it was the first set in the series, and we had no previous experience with any Fix It! Grammar products.   The comparison chart below shows what each of the sets include.  Despite my children being older, I wanted to start them with ”The Nose Tree” because I didn’t want them missing on any of the skills found in the beginning sets.

Fix It! Grammar was used as our daily opener everyday but Friday, as it is a 4-day a week grammar curriculum.  Since the Teacher’s Manual provided us with an e-book download, I did not have to worry about breaking any copyright issues by using this product with all three of my children. 

We completed two days’ worth of work each day.   This is because my children are older, and the teacher’s manual recommended that older children could work at a faster pace.  

Each of my children had a three-hole fastener folder. They used the three-hole fasteners to keep their Fix It! pages.  We would add these at the end of the week.  It is recommended that you use a spiral notebook with each learner to rewrite the passages, and to record their definitions.  I opted instead to use loose-leaf notebook paper, and to affix them together using paperclips. We stored them in the pockets of their folders. This allowed us to use only the amount of paper we would need, and not have extra materials.

Since all three of my kids would be using the grammar cards, I kept those and used a metal ring to keep them bound together.  The grammar cards are found in the downloadable e-book. If you wanted to provide each learner with their own set, this could be easily done.

Each day I wrote the sentence on the dry erase board in our homeschool room.  When we would discuss the edits that needed made, we would write them in a different colored marker than what the sentence was in.  This was because my children are visual learners.  We designated pink to mean an indentation, blue to mean an end mark, and green to show special words such as nouns.  Vocabulary words were always underlined.  I allowed them to use these colors on the Fix It! pages as well so that we would have a sense of uniformity.

If they mislabeled a word, they drew a line through the wrong label, and then labeled the correct word. If they didn’t label a word they had to label it and circle it.

When recopying the sentences into their notebooks, I used guidelines to ensure that they were using their neatest handwriting.  This is often an issue with my youngest son.  He likes to rush through any writings that he completes, which results in very messy writing.  After they finished writing the sentences, we would spend a couple of minutes discussing the story as we had worked through it.  Who were the characters?  Where was the setting?  What do you think will happen next?

What’s the verdict?

There were so many things that I loved about Fix It! Grammar.  For starters, I loved that the skill was practiced in a practical way.  My children didn’t have to complete page after page of worksheets to assess their ability to understand the skill we were working on.  We weren’t wasting precious time.  If they struggled with a skill, I was able to see it right away and we would discuss this together to help them understand it better.

I loved that it was a short process.  Even doubling the lessons each day, we still spent about 15 minutes a day on Fix It! Grammar.  It is because of this that my children didn’t get bored with the program and didn’t feel overwhelmed by the amount of work.  It was a no pressure situation where they weren’t going to receive a letter grade for.  No tears, and no fears equal a happy mom.

My children couldn’t wait to find out what happened next in the story.  Since the lessons build on the story, they kept wanting to move through the lessons faster, so they could finish the story. Let me reemphasize that. THEY WANTED TO DO GRAMMAR!!!

I loved that IEW allows us to use this program with multiple children.  We are a one-income family, which means that any time I can save money by using the same program with all three of my children, I will. It seemed to me that  IEW understands the challenges that homeschooling families face, and accommodates for this.

I loved how easy it was to tie in some reading skills with the lessons.  By asking comprehension questions, I was reinforcing skills that they were doing in their reading lessons.  Anytime you can make connections from one subject to another is helpful to the learning of a person. 

We loved Fix It! Grammar and look forward to using more products from IEW

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