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How does Fix It! Grammar compare to a traditional grammar program? Does it include diagramming?

Traditional grammar programs systematically teach concepts about grammar, punctuation, and usage with sentences artificially contrived to fit the rules. The theory behind such approaches is that after learning the rules, students will be able to apply them to their own writing. Often these programs teach more concepts than are need-to-know in terms of punctuation, correct grammar, or performance on the ACT or SAT, but they cover the rules well.

Diagramming is a method for helping students grasp the underlying structure of sentences, which is critical for punctuating sentences correctly but which seems to work with only about half the population. Most diagramming programs also teach more than is truly helpful to students learning grammar.

Fix It! Grammar emerged from a teacher's frustration with traditional approaches. Like many teachers, Pamela White (who earned her Master's Degree and A.B.D. in English from Vanderbilt University) recognized that students using traditional grammar programs may learn the rules well but seem to have a disconnect in applying them. The more that grammar is rooted in the writing experience, the better it sticks.

The ultimate goal of teaching grammar should be to train students to be able to edit their own writing effectively. When a side benefit is improved performance on the SAT or ACT, so much the better. Fix It! Grammar (third edition) is a complete grammar program for these goals that truly matter, but it teaches students in the context of writing and through editing rather than through exercises focusing on specific rules.

The early books in Fix It! Grammar begin with marking parts of speech and then identifying phrases (mainly prepositional phrases), main clauses, and dependent clauses. This is better than diagramming because it focuses on the structural parts of sentences that matter most and most affect punctuation rather than getting students bogged down in labeling the parts of sentences that rarely become punctuation hurdles.

Gradually, the Fix It! Grammar stories incorporate usage, grammar, and punctuation concepts, taught by asking students to correct the mistakes in passages and then discuss with their teacher the reasons for corrections.

Early stories have advanced concepts which can be used with stronger students and which pave the way for concepts in later stories.

The six books, each lasting a full year, contain some instruction at the start of each week's lesson as well as added instruction and tips to teachers to use as needed.

All six stories use natural sentences--rather than ones artificially contrived to fit an exercise--that closely mimic the kinds of errors in student writing, so students get repeated practice looking for errors in sentences (the same methods achievement tests use), along with the challenge of needing to explain the why's behind fixes. Since the sentences have the normal complexity of real writing, they also deal with the same issues any writer faces in editing his or her own work.

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