Children can improve their spelling, punctuation, and grammar skills in context with the brief exercises in Editor in Chief. Each lesson begins with a brief reading passage. Topics for the passages vary from history and science to sports. Passages are intended to be "high interest" rather than great literature.
Each reading passage is accompanied by a picture and a caption. The challenge is to identify errors and then make proper corrections. The pictures and captions are correct, and they sometimes serve as prompts to help students identify content errors. An editing checklist is at the front of each book to alert students to the types of errors they should watch for.
A substantial "Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation" is at the back of each book for handy reference. Extensive answer keys identify and explain errors—helpful for us parents who will have trouble finding some of them ourselves.
Beginning level books for the younger levels offer more guided instruction and practice than do the books for older students. In addition, they tend to focus on one skill at a time rather than a broad range of skills.
There are 33 lessons per book which works out to about one lesson per school week in a normal school schedule. Beginning 1 is for grades 2-3, Beginning 2 is for grades 3-4, A1 and A2 are for grades 4-5, B1 and B2 are for grades 6-8, and C1 and C2 are for grades 8-12.
Editor in Chief, CD-ROM version
Editor in Chief volumes are also available as computer programs that will run on either Windows or Macintosh systems. Since programs use Adobe Flash, they will not run on iPads. A demo is available at the publisher's web site.
The CD-ROM versions have the same content as the print versions. However, they allow students to identify errors by clicking on the "offending" spot in the reading selection, then selecting the error category (e.g., grammar, usage, vocabulary/spelling, etc.). When the student clicks on the error category, the rules are displayed with sublinks for additional rules so the student can find the particular rule within the category that has been violated. The student then clicks on the gem icon in front of the pertinent rule. The program lets them know whether or not they are correct. Hints are available, although the program records the number of hints used.
The program builds in three levels of difficulty. All three levels use the same selection of 33 reading passages. Most of the errors are the same, but with one or two additional errors at the upper levels. The beginning level has students identify only spelling, mechanics, and grammar errors. The intermediate and advanced levels add at least one content error—something that doesn't make sense, possibly contradicting the caption. The beginning and intermediate levels will highlight only incorrect words or phrases when the student clicks on them. However, the advanced level will allow students to select words and phrases that might have no errors. If they should do so, they then have the option of selecting the "errorless" category, a category not available at the other two levels.
While students might recognize an error, there is an added level of difficulty in finding the pertinent rule. Errors are not always categorized as you might expect, and it can be tricky to locate them once in a while. The "hint" is helpful in such situations. Students gradually become familiar with the customary usages of the program, and it becomes easier to know where to go.
Even with the three levels of difficulty within an individual program, programs are still recommended for limited grade level ranges. In the CD-ROM versions, there are eight programs: Beginning 1 for grades 2-3, Beginning 2 for grades 3-4, A1 and A2 for grades 4-5, B1 and B2 for grades 6-8, and C1 and C2 for grades 9-12. Even though they are recommended for narrow age ranges, the CD-ROM versions might be a good choice for families with students of varying ages and abilities because of the level of difficulty option within each program as well as because one program will track the progress of multiple students.
The program builds in motivation with printable certificates and awards. Awards can be used to play three relatively easy arcade games (within the program) just for fun.
Whichever version you choose, Editor in Chief is a great way for students to keep grammar and usage skills sharp without reteaching grammar year after year. Students are likely to enjoy this format, although some students will find it very challenging to spot the errors.