Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Critical Thinking Co.™ (Do You Diagram?) (Review)

The Critical Thinking Co.™ has long been a favorite provider of mine. They offer a variety of supplements and curriculum, including Critical Thinking/Logic, of course, but also a variety of Language Arts and Math, typically presented in a clear and engaging format. I mean really, who wouldn't be interested in a workbook entitled "Dr. DooRiddles" or "MindBenders."

I have both reviewed (2010, 2012, 2015) and purchased an assortment of their products, and been pretty happy with all of them, so was pleased to be offered the chance to review another book, Sentence Diagramming: Beginning Grades 3-12+.

I don't know what your public or other school education looked like, but I don't actually recall learning how to diagram sentences. It's possible that we did, but I truly do not have a clear recollection of diagramming, which is interesting, as I was a student who enjoyed my English Language classes (perhaps the personalities of my teachers overshadowed what they were teaching? Mr. Harrington's ability to throw a small bouncy ball caroming off the ceiling and the blackboard to hit a dozing student on the back of the head was somewhat legendary...).

I digress. Coming back to Sentence Diagramming: Beginning, I decided to use it with both my 4th grader and and my 10th grader, as it clearly wasn't something that we had done before. My 4th grader has been enjoying doing these "puzzles" and is possibly "competing" a little with his older brother.

Because we are working on it together, I am having them do most of their work in a notebook. The Critical Thinking Co.™does allow limited duplication within a home setting, but our ink supply needs replenished, so this works for us. Makes for a little more work for the boys, since they are drawing their own lines, but I figure that is good practice!

So, I sit on the couch with the book, one boy on either side with their notebooks, and we go through the lessons.

Each of the 12 lessons has 4 main parts, following the new concept explanation.
  1. Find the errors and diagram correctly - sometimes it's a little tricky, others less so, but "finding the errors" is a great tool for learning. 
  2. Fill in the diagram - using the provided sentence~ good practice
  3. Write a sentence to match the diagram - This is a page that I do print, just because it makes life easier ~ worth the ink even when it's in short supply. ;) 
  4. Diagram each sentence without the predrawn lines - mastering the technique

I really like the building block progression of each part, from finding tiny errors to diagramming with no assistance.

The diagrams go from simple + construction to multi-forked builds in the later lessons. Again, a building block progression, from simple to complicated, so that it makes perfect sense. I can see that this is a fantastic way to learn grammar, especially if you have a visual learner, and I'm quite surprised that more curricula don't utilize this, from the very beginning, as it shows very concretely what each word is, and how it relates to the other words in the sentence. It also turns grammar into a puzzle, which is much more exciting than  exercises like "find the noun____ " or "label the adjectives."

Lesson 1: Simple Subject and Main Verb
Lesson 2: Direct Object
Lesson 3: Adjectives
Lesson 4: Adverbs Modifying Verbs
Lesson 5: Predicate Adjectives
Lesson 6: Predicate Nouns
Lesson 7: Prepositional Phrases (Adjectival)
Lesson 8: Prepositional Phrases (Adverbial)
Lesson 9: Compound Subjects
Lesson 10: Compound Predicates
Lesson 11: Compound Direct Objects
Lesson 12: Compound Predicate Adjectives and Nouns

The book includes a review/test at the end that covers each lesson, and for those who aren't sure about their answers, there is an Answer Key at the back. I found this helpful, as I wasn't sure what to do with "the" and "a" when they showed up (makes perfect sense that they are diagrammed as adjectives, which is the way I understand it, because they describe that there is only "one" of the object. If I'm wrong in that assessment, feel free to explain it to me. ;) ).

I think this is also a helpful review for older students, which may come in handy if they have to break down sentences on their standardized tests ~ it's a comprehensive but gentle Charlotte Mason-ish approach also~ short lessons that encourage rather than overwhelm. :)

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
You can visit The Critical Thinking Co.™ on their social media pages:
Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest


Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say about this and the other titles reviewed: Language Smarts Level E (Which is a full 4th Grade Language Arts curriculum), and a variety of software downloads for Toddler/PreK to Grade 2 (Alphabet Song Game, Letter Sounds Song and Game, Vowel Sounds Song and Game, and Fun-Time Phonics). FYI, the Software is not MAC compatible, one of my few pet peeves for The Critical Thinking Co.™ , as I am a MAC girl.  As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.

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