Saxon Grammar and Writing
Publisher: Saxon Publishers
This is one of my 101 Top Picks!
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Saxon Grammar and Writing
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. Also, continual review and building upon prior concepts in a spiral fashion helps students retain what they have learned. 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. (In the introductions to the student editions for grades 7 and 8, a few vital lines have been added to direct students to dictation and journal topics in the appendices.) 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. These tackle previously-taught concepts. Italicized numbers next to each question indicate which lesson(s) taught the concept in case students need to review. 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. In fact the review is so extensive that you can easily skip some levels. For example, in SGW 4 and SGW 5, student edition lessons have the exact same titles and cover essentially the same material in all except two lessons. However, SGW 4 provides diagramming templates for exercises while SGW 5 does not. Other levels are not quite this repetitive.
SGW has a stronger composition component than many other comprehensive programs, and it was increased even more with the second editions (for levels 5 through 8) in 2013. Aside from the dictation and journal assignments in the student edition, the separate student workbook is where composition instruction occurs. A schedule for the lessons—showing which days students are to do lessons from either the student edition or the student workbook—is found in the teacher guide. I would recommend copying this schedule for students.
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. (Note that in the student editions it says “See More Practice Lesson 'x' in the Student Workbook.”)
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.
The content of the lessons sometimes integrates information about literature, history, geography, and character building. While U.S. history gets some attention at all levels, the eighth grade text brings in U.S. history and government even more through examples, exercises, dictation, and journal topics. This makes the eighth grade course an excellent companion for simultaneous study of U.S. history in social studies or history.
Beginning after the first ten lessons in the student edition, there is a test after every five lessons. This does not follow a predictable schedule such as testing every Friday since there are five student edition lessons and sometimes one or more student workbook lessons between tests. Tests and answer keys for all components are in the teacher guide.
All three components for each level are printed in black and white in soft cover books. There are no graphics other than those required for diagramming or other exercises. The books are definitely meant to be consumable books. Students can complete many of their exercises directly in the student edition and student workbook, but sometimes they will need more space for such tasks as rewriting sentences or diagramming. Thus, students will also need to maintain a notebook for some of their exercises as well as for composition assignments.
Saxon Grammar and Writing seems comparable to A Beka in the grammar department, but better on composition. It is both stronger and more challenging than Easy Grammar. And the inclusion of diagramming distinguishes it from many other options. The distinctive Saxon incremental teaching and review approach 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.
Saxon Grammar & Writing Grade 6 Kit, 2nd Edition
Saxon Grammar & Writing Grade 8 Kit, 2nd Edition
Saxon Grammar & Writing Grade 7 Kit, 2nd Edition
Saxon Grammar & Writing Grade 4 Kit (1st Edition)
- 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"
HMH Supplemental Publishers
181 Ballardvale St.
P.O. Box 7050
Wilmington, MA 01887
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