When I was planning our school year back in August, I decided not to get the next level of our regular grammar program. Even though I love it, and I know the kids are learning a lot from it, they don’t particularly care for it, so I decided to give them a year off from using it. This left us without a grammar program, which I’d planned to fill with something along the lines of copywork. That’s only been happening sporadically, so when the opportunity arose for a review of Sentence Diagramming: Beginning from The Critical Thinking Co.™, I was very interested. You see, grammar is my strongest subject as a teacher, so I felt kind of lost without having it in our school day. Having something grammar related that was different from what we’ve used in the past was a definite win for everyone involved.
About The Critical Thinking Co.™
The Critical Thinking Co.™ was founded in 1958 by John Baker, and they offered only math back then. They included logic problems in their math curriculum in order to help students to learn not just the math being taught, but also to think more critically about what they were learning. They’ve gone through several name changes in the past 58 years, landing on The Critical Thinking Co.™ in 2003. Their mission statement is to “develop students’ critical thinking skills for better grades, higher test scores, and success in life.” Things you won’t find in a product from The Critical Thinking Co.™ are math drills or requirements for rote memorization. When you use a book or software program from this company, you can rest assured that you won’t be teaching your students to pass a test – you’ll be teaching them to succeed.
About Sentence Diagramming: Beginning
This book was written by elementary and middle school teacher Angela Carter after she was unable to find a quality resource for teaching children to diagram sentences. She learned to diagram sentences herself in college, and really loved how seeing words broken down that way encouraged an understanding of how different types of words work together to create sentences.
There are twelve lessons in the book, and each one can easily be broken up into several days. They start with the simplest of sentences: simple subject and main verb (Babies eat.). There’s a gray box at the beginning of each lesson which is the teaching portion; this section takes between a third and half a page. Then there are four pages of activities for students to practice their new knowledge. Sometimes, there are additional boxes of teaching on subsequent pages in the middle of a lesson. Activities include:
- The following sentences are diagrammed incorrectly. Diagram them properly.
- Here are some sentences and empty diagrams. Place the words from the sentences where they go on the diagram.
- Here are some empty diagrams. Write your own sentence to match the diagram.
- Here are some sentences. Draw your own diagram and fill in the words properly.
The types of sentences get pretty complex quite quickly; by lesson 3, adjectives and coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, nor) have been added. By lesson 7, prepositional phrases are introduced. The last four lessons of the book each add a different compound component: subjects, predicates, direct objects, and predicate adjectives and nouns.
How We Used Sentence Diagramming: Beginning
As I mentioned previously, this has become our grammar curriculum for the time being. The boys have enjoyed doing something new and interesting; I like that they’re building on the grammar foundation they already had. Each morning, I would read the teaching section to them, simplifying the explanation as needed to make sure they understood. Then they would do the activities on a separate sheet of paper for inclusion in the grammar tab of their binders. The Critical Thinking Co.™ has a very generous copyright policy, allowing photocopies to be made for use within a single family for as many children as you have, but making those copies was never very convenient for me, so we just used the separate paper method.
When the sentences were easy (lessons 1 and 2), we did all four pages of activities in one sitting. As they continued to get more and more complicated, we broke it up over several days, eventually getting to where we just did one lesson over the course of a whole week.
Sentence Diagramming: Beginning has been a really good thing for our homeschool. It keeps the boys’ interest, and they don’t whine when I say, “Open up to your grammar section.” They’re learning new kinds of words, constantly being refreshed on the kinds of words they already knew, and with each diagram, they have a visual reminder of how the different words go together to make an interesting sentence. This book is a definite win!
This is the second time I’ve had the privilege of reviewing for The Critical Thinking Co.™. Last year, Seahawk and I worked through their Pattern Explorers math supplement book (we didn’t finish it at the time, and he still goes back sometimes to do activities from that book; he loves it).
Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing a variety of things from The Critical Thinking Co.™ this week, including Language Smarts™ Level E, a 4th grade language arts curriculum and a variety of software downloads:
- Alphabet Song Game™ Software – 2-PCs Win Download
Grades: Toddler-1 | New Version 2.0
- Letter Sounds Song and Game™ Software – 2-PCs Win Download
- Vowel Sounds Song and Game™ Software – 2-PCs Win Download
- Fun-Time Phonics!™ Software – 2-PCs Win Download
The Critical Thinking Co.™ is also really invested in helping young children from an early age develop their critical thinking skills. They have a great article on The Importance of Preschool Academics, which I would highly recommend reading it if you have young children. Once you’ve read the information on that page, you can then click over to the page that offers 5 preschool apps for under $40, which cover basic reading, writing, and arithmetic for young students.