I tried G.U.M. by Zaner Bloser, the free online KISS grammar program, Shurley Grammar, and the free online Daily Grammar. I looked at several others, but didn't purchase or try to use them. Here is what I found:
- G.U.M. - The grammar rules are presented in a straightforward manner. I liked that the child was not required to write out sentence after sentence to complete the exercises. The negative is that each sentence in the exercises is so similar to the others that once the first sentence is completed, the child isn't required to think. The patterns are fixed so that without even reading the sentence you could find subject and verb according to position in sentence. There is little to question or discuss. While saying this, I know that combined with other language activities this workbook could work. We completed most of these activities.
- Shurley Grammar - I know this is the favorite program of many people, but I found it unwieldy. There were just too many components to pull together for each lesson - jingle, study time, test time, scripted grammar time, reference grammar section, practice sentences, improved sentences, vocabulary. I would have liked the grammar songs and chants if we had not already mastered this information earlier. We liked the preposition and helping verb chants we created, not because they are better, but because we already knew them. Grammar concepts were not over practiced and the question and answer flows are helpful in analyzing sentences. Again, I found nothing wrong with the program, it was just not the right one for us. Shurley Grammar was just too comprehensive to work with the other things we were doing.
- KISS - I really like what is going on at this site. KISS is a work in progress, but could be unbelievable. Ed Vavra has taken excerpts from real books and has created grammar teaching tools. I chose not to use the program for a full year, not because it didn't match my grammar philosophy, but because I found that I spent too much time looking for the next section on the web site. Using excerpts challenges the student because the sentences do not follow an identifiable pattern. Ed has worked to get an organized printable workbook ready. I believe the 3rd grade level is ready now. This is a free resource so if it doesn't work no money is wasted.
- Daily Grammar - DG is a straightforward program of grammar teaching exercises. You, now, have several choices of how to receive your daily dose of grammar - email, archives, an ebook, or a workbook. The material is the same regardless of your choice. The email and archive versions are free. Daily Grammar gives you a rule and a couple of sentences for practice. We used most of the archive last year, yet I never felt like it was truly integrated into our other language arts activities. Overkill is not a problem, though.
- New concepts are added as the older ones are mastered.
- Students (older than 6 or 7) are able to take the memorized definitions and apply their knowledge to understand how sentences work.
- The ability to analyze sentences increases as reading proficiency increases.
- Sentence structure patterns become recognizable because more sentences have been viewed.
- Communicating in writing becomes more important and the ideas communicated become more complex, increasing the need for grammar and usage mechanisms.
In addition to reviewing and learning the grammar according to The Elements of Style, I will teach the children to deconstruct and analyze sentences through diagramming, edit writing, increase spelling efficiency, increase vocabulary, and write. Honestly, there is nothing new here. What is different, for us, is that with these flexible segments I can work with each child where he is, while letting them see the beauty and flexibility of our language, and giving them tools for effective communication. I am trusting myself, rather than a packaged plan. I will post more specifics when we begin using the plan.