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Analytical Grammar

Junior Analytical Grammar
By: Robin Finley

Well, I for one am very relieved to have discovered Analytical Grammar. This program is going to unburden a lot of families from the pressure of having to do grammar 'all the time'. Robin had written this program originally for the public school, but I believe she has gifted us as a community of homeschoolers as well.

Doing exactly what the name suggests, this program looks at grammar from a purely analytical point of view. Like Corn Flakes, Analytical Grammar is pure, no fuss, no extra ingredients; but flaky, it definitely is not! You get a method for tackling grammar in stages, quite intensively for three years. This program is aimed at the middle to junior high years and the idea is to study grammar every year for about 10 - 12 weeks intensively and then review for the rest of the year.

Robin claims that if you follow her plan, at the end of the three years (after 8th grade) students will be done with formal grammar and will have an awesome notebook to carry with them throughout the rest of their education and beyond. You will not find any writing or spelling instruction in this program which is exactly why I love it. I have a great writing program and we needed to learn some grammar in order to use the program effectively. Yet when I tried to incorporate grammar study with the writing and spelling, we found ourselves quickly overwhelmed. I love to write, but my own grammar skills have always been weak, so I felt very inadequate trying to teach them to my children. This program has saved me from myself and is proving the very thing my son was needing. I am sure it will be a blessing in yourhome as well. Let me explain the nuts and bolts of both the original Analytical Grammar and it's brother, Junior Analytical Grammar which is designed for 5th graders.

Analytical Grammar looks at grammar through a 3 year 'window'. I love the view from this window because it frees me from the specter of having to teach grammar forever, and it assures me that my children will be extremely well grounded in everything they will need to know to succeed in their written studies. Here is how it breaks down.

Teach the first 10 units. For most of you, this will be 6th grade. This will take 10 weeks and after that, NO new grammar for the rest of the year. To reinforce and review what they have learned, your students will do a reinforcement exercise once every two weeks. These reviews can be done independently by each student, answers are provided in the teachers book. Year 2(Gr.7) begins with one week of review and then Seven more units - that's it for the year. After that, reinforcement exercises once a month rather than once every other week.

Year 3(Gr.8) teaches Units 18-34. This is the longest block and will take 16 weeks. Still less than half the school year. Your formal study of grammar isnow complete and the student can then be held accountable for all mistakes with his writing.

Now for the very cool part. The workbook the students have been using throughout the three years becomes a lifelong reference book. As they proceed through each uit, the set of notes you and they have been reading stays in the book. The exercise pages and tests are removed once they are marked and corrected. What's left is a Table of Contents, all the notes from units 1 through 34 and an index. This will become the reference tool for ensuring consistency and accuracy in their written work.

Yes, really, that's it. And it works! Robin has testimonials from students in their 30's and 40's who still have their AG notebooks and use them. Analytical Grammar is perfect because of its simplicity. It just makes sense that a subject taught sequentially and logically becomes internalized. There is nothing else to cloud the waters or distract the focus from the task at hand. Robin gives lots of great practice exercises for each new skill introduced. Most of the time the exercises and reinforcements are taken from classic pieces of literature and they will challenge your students to use their newly acquired skills. I was so excited as I moved through this program. It just kept getting better and better. In fact, I intend to go through the program with my son because I was writing my review and the realization of how poor my own grammar skills are almost kept me from completing it. Robin's explanations and directions are clear, understandable, and concise. The short, intense training each year is just enough for students to give it their full attention. When they know it won't be continuing all year, I can guarantee you, they will be glad to pay attention. My son is ecstatic that he can learn grammar, learn how to apply it to his writing and then just use it, not drill it over and over again. At the junior high level students very often will rise to the occasion and be glad to do what is set before them when it has a purpose and a clear ending point. My two oldest children both started college this year, and both of them have told me after their English classes that they wished they had 'boned up more on their grammar'. That in itself was reason enough for me to try it out, and I haven't once been disappointed.

As well as the notebook I mentioned earlier, you will receive a Teacher's Book containing unit notes discussing every important point and highlighting possible trouble spots, with tactics for avoiding them, and to help aid understanding. The answers to all units are in the Teacher's Guide.

Each unit in the Student Book contains 4 pages of notes and 2 or more exercises, then a skill support exercise. This will usually be in the form of paraphrasing a quotation or rewriting a new poem from an old rhyme. Each unit should take about a week to work through and includes a test at the end. You will then assign the reinforcement and review exercises that I mentioned. These are in a separate book, and can be worked on directly from the book.

So, with 34 units in the book, and 36 weeks in a school year, why not do it all at one shot? Burnout, boredom, and retention. There is a lot of material introduced in each section and to expect your students to be able to assimilate and use all of it, were it to be learned in one year, would be asking too much of most anyone. Too much info in too short a time defeats the purpose for which it was written.

There is, however, something to prepare your students for Analytical Grammar. In response to requests from many parents, Robin has written Junior Analytical Grammar. With this program to look forward to, you honestly have no need to do anything but the very basic grammar with your primary children. Junior Analytical Grammar contains the same information found in the first 10 lessons (Yr.1) of the regular program. The information and exercises have been rewritten to an earlier grade level, with expanded notes, and a beginners point of view. The assumption is that there has been little if any prior exposure to grammar and it is written to the 5th grade level.

Junior Analytical Grammar is a delight to my workbook weary children. They now enjoy diagramming and analyzing and I think it's because of Robin's teachings. Straight to the point, no fluff, or excessive busy work, Robin simply teaches the foundations of grammar. Beginning with nouns and introducing each point from there, the skills are the same but the exercises are a little shorter, with sentences and selections more suitable for the younger student. The notes are written with a larger font and the whole book reads a little easier than AG. In the Student Book, there are rule reviews at the bottom of each exercise page, as well as a 'playing with words' section, and a test for each unit. Robin again gives very helpful pointers as in the higher version of her program. She also lays out the proper procedure for home learners, explaining how much of each unit to do daily so we don't get caught in the 'hurry and finish the workbook' syndrome. Each unit again, should take you 1 week or so to finish and you will be aiming for at least 70% correct on each test before you move on. Small errors will be corrected with more exposure to the written word, and with consistent reinforcement. I believe Robin has struck an absolute home run with these programs. They are an answer to prayer, both mine, and my children's! Don't let the fear of 'grammar forever' get a hold of you again. Try these programs, you won't be sorry. Straightforward, organized and complete, I can't see how it could get any better. Enjoy!

--Product Review by: Heidi Shaw, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

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