Cathy Duffy Reviews home > Composition & Grammar > Saxon Grammar and Writing

Saxon Grammar and Writing

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Author: Christie Curtis and Mary Hake
Review last updated: November 2014

This is one of my 102 Top Picks!

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Saxon Grammar and Writing

See the complete review in 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.

Saxon Grammar and Writing (SGW) uses the same educational methodology that has popularized the Saxon math books. Courses for grades four through eight are designed so that students can do much of their work independently. New concepts are taught in small increments, building upon prior concepts in a spiral fashion that helps students retain what they have learned. Lessons also offer continual review.
There are three components for each level: student edition, student workbook, and teacher guide. Both the student edition and student workbook serve as worktexts with instruction, exercises, and assignments.
The student edition, the largest of the three books (with 107 to 112 lessons per volume) is the starting place. A brief introduction succinctly describes course content. At the top of the first page of each lesson is a box that says “Dictation or Journal Entry” followed by “Vocabulary”—a few words with definitions and sample sentences. Without instruction, students would not know that there are dictation passages for each week at the back of their student edition....Students copy dictation passages on the first day they begin a group of lessons and study them on remaining lesson days until they reach a test day. Then they write the passage out from oral dictation as part of testing. Spelling and punctuation are learned primarily through the dictation exercises.
Each student edition has 100 journaling topics at the back. Students should write about these topics between the first day when they copy the dictation and test day, although they are not assigned for particular days. The bulk of the book is dedicated to instruction, examples, and exercises in grammar. Lessons follow a standard format of instruction accompanied by examples. This is followed by some practice exercises on the new concept and the vocabulary for that lesson. The review set is where students find the bulk of the exercises for a lesson. Reviews tackle previously-taught concepts....While many students will like the variety in these exercises, others might prefer exercises all on one topic such as you find in Easy Grammar.
This is a fairly comprehensive English program covering grammar, writing, spelling, punctuation, and vocabulary. Literature and reading are the only areas missing. Grammar instruction is very challenging and includes sentence diagramming.
The program does review and repeat through each level, so it is possible for a student to begin at any level....
Aside from the dictation and journal assignments in the student edition, the separate student workbook is where composition instruction occurs. SGW has a stronger composition component than many other comprehensive programs, and it was increased even more with the second editions of levels five through eight published in 2013....
All levels work on paragraph writing as well as essay writing—persuasive, descriptive, and informative essays at first, but gradually adding other types of essays and honing essay-writing skills. Students also write personal narratives and imaginative stories, and they write in response to both literature and informational texts. Surprisingly, even fourth graders tackle a research paper with an outline, note cards, and a working bibliography. Research paper instruction is almost identical through all levels, but I question whether most fourth and fifth graders are ready to work at this level. Use your own judgment.
In addition to composition lessons, student workbooks have “More Practice” lessons that are to be used in conjunction with student edition lessons....
The student workbooks also include a few supplemental activities that are similar to Mad Libs where students come up with a list of words that fit designations such as “abstract common noun,” “preposition,” or “nominative case personal pronoun (feminine).” They then slot these “parts of speech” into a pre-written story in the workbook, and the result is bound to be silly. This is a great way to review grammatical terms.....
After the first ten lessons, tests are in the student edition after every fifth lesson....Tests and answer keys for all components are in the teacher guide....
Saxon Grammar and Writing seems comparable to the more rigorous grammar program in its coverage of grammar, and its composition instruction is better than that in most comprehensive programs. Also, the inclusion of diagramming distinguishes it from many other options. The distinctive Saxon incremental teaching and review approach—the same approach used in the Saxon Math series—will also attract fans as well as put off those who prefer more concentrated coverage of each topic in each lesson. I suspect parents will like this program since students can complete most of their work on their own, and even with composition assignments, students learn to self-evaluate to a certain extent. The content appeals to a broad audience that might be either secular or religious.

Pricing

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    Instant Key

    • Learning styles: especially good for Competent Carls and Perfect Paulas
      Suitable for:
      mostly independent work
      Audience:
      grades 4-8
      Need for parent/teacher instruction:
      generally low
      Prep time needed:
      none
      Teacher's manual:
      essential
      Educational philosophy:
      traditional, but uses a spiral approach with lots of practice and repetition
      Religious perspective:
      secular but "Christian friendly"

    Publisher's Info

    • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

      10801 North Mopac Expressway, Bldg. 3
      Austin, TX 78759
      800-289-4490
      email: info@saxonhomeschool.com
      www.saxonhomeschool.com