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The authors of Shurley English repeat a mantra throughout the series—"see it, hear it, say it, do it." In an attempt to write a grammar/composition program addressed to all learning styles they have integrated each of these steps into every lesson. This is helpful both for students who tend toward a specific learning style (audial, tactile, kinesthetic), and for students who do not. Many programs focus on a single teaching method and kids are either left behind because they can't keep up or fall behind on their own because they get bored. Shurley English is an attempt to bridge that gap.
How Do These Work?
The course covers grades 1-7. Each level includes a teacher's manual, student workbook, and extra practice book. In the teacher's manual there are between 28-33 chapters with five lessons apiece to be taught on a day-by-day basis. Lessons are usually three to four pages long in the teacher's manual. The student workbook isn't as concentrated, there being four different sections where students can find information relating to the lesson. Without an index in the student text and only a very limited one in the teacher manual, this can make lesson planning more frustrating.
This is a teacher-intensive program. Each lesson is fully scripted in the teacher's manual, but you will still need to read the material thoroughly beforehand. The authors stress the importance of staying one lesson ahead of your students. Actual teaching/lesson time should take 20-45 minutes, though prep time can be longer; since this is meant as a daily course, this can add up to quite a bit of time focused on one subject each week.
An audio CD containing a number of jingles demonstrating various grammar rules is included with the teacher's manual. Each lesson begins with students listening to and memorizing the jingle. Teachers use this as a segue to discuss the topic of the day (which is also the subject of the jingle). These jingles are set to familiar tunes like "This Old Man"and are very cheezy. However, this is part of the multi-sensory learning approach, so if your student needs multiple forms of reinforcement it's important to suffer through the jingles.
After the jingle, there is discussion and demonstration of grammar and composition rules. All the teacher need do at this point is read from the teacher's manual and ask the student the questions provided in the text. Since the scripting can be somewhat stilted, you may want to paraphrase or modify the text, especially as your kids get older. Direct instruction is usually followed by written practice, though not always. The exercises include editing sentences, answering questions, and filling in the blank.
There are four sections in the student workbook. The first simply contains the lyrics to each of the jingles for that level. The second is a reference section, with important rules and guidelines presented and demonstrated briefly. These references are chronologically ordered according to the lessons, but they do not include numbers or other referents to show students at a glance which lesson the rule corresponds to. The third section is the consumable practice section including section tests. Exercises include instructions and (if you don't skip material in the lessons) are fairly self-evident. The final section includes places for students to write sentences using specific words as specific parts of speech. The student book is fairly short, with many of the exercises only three or four lines long, though if you don't buy it with the teacher's manual you will have to devise your own exercises.
Students are taught early on how to write good, clean sentences. The authors approach composition very much from the technical side, having students memorize the parts of speech, the grammar rules, etc. While this is helpful, it doesn't teach good writing by itself. There is a surprising lack of exercises/practice in this series—many lessons don't have exercises at all, and the extra practice book doesn't really fill many gaps.
A common complaint about the "home school" editions is that they are complicated and difficult to implement. The older editions didn't try to do as much, and were laid out much more clearly, with obvious section breaks and headings in bold set apart from the text to separate ideas and elements of each lesson. The newer teacher's manuals seem a bit cluttered in comparison, with unclear delineations between lessons and concepts. This is one the main reasons why the course is so teacher-intensive; apart from having to teach each lesson, the teacher has to figure out how to teach it. The scripting is helpful, but the general layout is not very conducive to overall ease of use. There is a companion CD-ROM available that makes the system easier to use, but it is very expensive.
Our Honest Opinion:
If you can successfully navigate the teacher's manual, we can agree this is a good course. It offers a thorough presentation of grammar and composition, enough to prepare your students for high school work. This isn't easy to jump right into from another course as the incremental approach is somewhat out of sync with more standard courses, but if you do move to Shurley from another course you should be caught up within a month. Shurley takes more time than many comparable courses, but since learning to understand language and write well is such an integral part of a good education, this isn't as negative as it could be.
We would strongly suggest, however, that you supplement with extra grammar practice. The exercises are far from comprehensive, and almost all students need plenty of written work to reinforce what they have learned on a theoretical level. Many of our customers tend to skip levels because they feel there is too much review from year to year and their kids need to move faster. Still, this is a comprehensive presentation of pre-secondary grammar, and since it is designed for use by home school families, it is easily supplemented and adapted.
Features (PDF format)
Elements (PDF format)
Levels 1-6 Description (PDF format)
Level 7 Description (PDF format)
Scope & Sequence (PDF format)
FAQ (PDF format)
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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