The Bob Jones University Writing & Grammar series is one of only a few programs we can recommend that combines study in both grammar and composition in the same book (along with other communication skills). The materials, now in their second (or even third) editions, have been around a long time, and they have definitely improved over time. Many parents appreciate the completeness of the program, and kids enjoy the color in the workbooks. A couple of things to note right away: these courses are meant to be taught (although students can complete most of their work independently), and, like most other grammar programs, the same basic material is reviewed year after year. Be prepared to adapt them for your use.
Although the Bob Jones English program starts in first grade with their phonics materials, the Writing & Grammar series technically begins with their 2nd grade materials. It is from there that a consistent review can be written. The series is available all the way through 12th grade, though a significant shift in the approach takes place at 7th grade.
How Do These Work?
English: Writing and Grammar — Grades 2-6:
In the lower grades, BJU places an equal emphasis on grammar and writing skills. By alternating grammar and writing chapters, the student is encouraged to make immediate application of his grammar skills as he writes stories, book reports, instructions, descriptions, letters, and poetry.
There are sixteen chapters in each worktext, all of which contain about ten lessons and include literature links, chapter reviews and cumulative reviews. The lessons are usually two pages long and include an introduction to the topic of the day, as well as space to practice. The grammar chapters are built around a theme (introduced in the Teacher's Edition), and because the practice sentences reflect these themes, some of the vocabulary may be new to your student. Each writing chapter assigns a specific type of writing and takes the student through the five steps of the writing process: planning, drafting, revising, proofreading, and publishing.
While a confident (and competent) teacher or parent could use the worktexts alone, we recommend the teacher's editions—especially for a first-time user. First, they include each chapter's theme introduction, and this can be a fun element for students. Second, they contain the answers—a time saver for many parents. Third, they include the writing rubrics, which are checklists to evaluate the writing assignments. You may not need these, but there's a good chance you will. Also, the teacher's editions offer additional material for doing more with each lesson, and the Toolkit CD contains extra practice pages. If the price is a problem, Christian Liberty Press produces inexpensive teacher manuals (just answer keys with additional notes) and tests.
Writing & Grammar — Grades 7-12:
At 7th grade the program shifts from alternating grammar and writing chapters, and each book is divided into units with several chapters each—Grammar, Usage, Composition, and Reference. Unlike the early grades, chapters aren't broken up into two page lessons; instead, they're divided into small sections that often include instruction of new material. Every section of new material closes with an "In Summary" review of the concepts, followed by "Practice the Skill," "Review the Skill," "Use the Skill," and/or "Cumulative Review" exercises.
While the units do focus on specific areas, other areas are also covered. For instance, each Grammar and Usage chapter includes writing instruction and assignments, ranging from mundane sentence combining and rewriting to creative activities that allow the student to learn to work through the writing process in many different applications. The focus on writing increases in each grade, and the skills develop from fairly simple paragraphs to more complex essays, poetry, persuasive speeches, monologues, dramatic scenes, memoirs, interviews and video reports, etc. The Reference units include information that will benefit students throughout the school year, like library research and study skills. Throughout the textbooks, "Combine the Skills" icons identify related information that is elsewhere in the textbook. The teacher can use these icons to combine instruction of skills from one chapter with related skills from another.
As an aside, the books add interest by using literary excerpts, showing how the study of language applies to other skills, and by occasionally offering the histories of word etymologies. Diagramming is explained and shown throughout the grammar lessons, but exercises within the worktexts never require students to diagram sentences themselves.
Because these are designed to be used in conjunction with a literature program (Bob Jones recommends theirs, of course), these books offer about a semester's worth of work. However, the teacher's editions include schedules to demonstrate how the course may be used over a full year if preferred. The spiral-bound Teacher's Editions also include the answer keys, lesson plans, additional suggestions for teaching, and the answers to sentence diagrams. For grades 7-11, an included CD-ROM comes with additional helps including writing rubrics and extra practice pages. In grade 12, this material makes up a second volume of the Teacher's Edition.
Tests and Test Answer Keys are now available for all levels. They are not required, but are included in the Home School Kits. For grades 9-12, we recommend obtaining a copy of The Writer's Toolbox, a grammar and writing handbook published by BJU. To see a Table of Contents or product samples for any particular grade, please click on any worktext or Teacher's Edition.
Our Honest Opinion:
This is a clear and thorough writing and grammar program, one able to help your kids to a pretty high level of composition proficiency. It is a teacher-intensive course, especially in the elementary grades, so if you're looking for something more student-directed you'll need to look elsewhere. Because the levels are seen as elements of the collective whole, there is a degree of continuity between each grade that may make it difficult to move into BJU Writing & Grammar from another course.
If your kids (and you) prefer workbook-based programs, this is the one we'd recommend for this subject. We heartily believe, however, that writing instruction needs a bit more of an organic approach, and that simply doing the one or two page lessons everyday won't necessarily give you a real feel for drafting an original composition. IEW Structure & Style and Writing With Ease/Skill are our favorite writing programs; Put That in Writing is also fantastic, though less full-orbed.
One particularly strong point of this curriculum is the insistence that grammar and composition knowledge are inseparable. Many programs echo the sentiment, but few so deftly combine the two, showing kids exactly why they need to master the mechanics of the language if they ever hope to become fine communicators. Also, the biblical emphasis throughout the series is a great way to present the way in which everything, even something as academic as writing, relates to the all-encompassing Gospel of Christ.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.
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