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Elements of Language Second Course Review by Tony Silva

Holt McDougal
1900 South Batavia Avenue
Geneva, IL 60134

Parent teachers looking for prepared curriculum in language arts fundamentals may want to look into the Elements of Language series from Holt, Rinehart and Winston (now Holt McDougal). The edition reviewed here includes the student text in hardcover ($65.95) and the Teacher One Stop on CD ROM ($135).

At first blush, it appears that everything one needs for a complete and comprehensive introduction to grammar and the writing process is at your fingertips in this pairing of student text and teacher resources. Depending on your teaching style and approach to classroom management, that may be the case. However, we found some possible limitations to the usefulness of the Teacher One Stop when used in the homeschool environment.

The Teacher One Stop is easy to install and can be set up to be completely accessible on your computer. You also have the option to save hard drive space by setting the system up to run from the CD ROM. Resources such as lesson plans and printable materials are easy to find by keyword searching. You can customize the system with your own keywords and edit lesson plans to match your unique needs. The Teacher One Stop also includes a complete copy of the teacher's wrap-around edition of the textbook.

As with the other resources, the teacher's edition is fully searchable. Unfortunately, it is not printable. That is not a problem in a traditional classroom, where the teacher sits at a desk in front of her students. If your classroom is not organized that way, a netbook or an iPad and a subscription to can give you access to the machine in your home where the Teacher One Stop is installed. A more practical solution for most families is to purchase the bound teacher's edition instead.

Among the printables in the Teacher One Stop are resources for a spelling curriculum that is not included with the package. There are other resources mentioned in the teacher's edition that are not included in the Teacher One Stop. Depending on your approach, you may want to purchase the cross-referenced resources to use with this curriculum. It would be better as a prepared curriculum for all of the resources to match up based on the edition you buy. A teacher has no way of knowing what is included without purchasing the Teacher One Stop and playing with it for a few weeks. As we worked through the first few chapters, it became clear that the separate resources would be valuable indeed, if their quality is close to this curriculum.

Also included in the Teacher One Stop are an assessment suite, a puzzle maker and a calendar planner. With a subscription to companion services on Holt's website, the assessment suite and calendar planner are useful tools for teachers in a traditional setting to administer tests online and to communicate with parents and students. PuzzlePro ® is a clever tool that does just what the name implies.

The student textbook is organized into three parts. The first section provides a brief preparatory course for students getting ready to take standardized reading and writing tests. This tool does a great job of linking the student from the "test world" to the "real world," with cross-references to the places in the main body of the text where the related topics are covered more in-depth. The main body of the text is devoted to a thorough and systematic review of basic English grammar. The course begins with subjects and verbs and builds to complete sentences, paragraphs, and essays. The second part emphasizes the writing process in a variety of applications, with exercises and optional activities that get the students involved in their writing. The activities and projects in this section are well worth the price of the textbook because they give students exposure to the writing process in such a wide variety of ways.

The textbook has all the characteristics of modern public school textbooks, with lots of interesting graphics, call-outs, and sidebar articles. These are all great features but can sometimes be distracting when overused. For our purposes, they tended to be distracting, particularly with the frequent jumps to other sections of the book. This probably is not a result of poor planning or organization on the publisher's part. It reflects a philosophy among educators that cross-referencing can expose a student to concepts related to what they're learning.

While the Teacher One Stop and the student edition make a great companion set, some parent teachers may find the teacher's wrap-around and the student text to be more economical. However, the printable and worksheets you lose with this combination can be replaced by similar exercises that are available for free on many websites. Our favorite of these remains the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University ( ). The student edition and the Teacher One Stop are only two items in an extensive line of products for this curriculum. With the right combination of products, you can tailor the curriculum to your needs.

Product review by Tony Silva, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2011