Saturday, October 26, 2013

TOS Review: Bridgeway Academy

I have a confession to make: I'd much rather teach math or science--even physics, than English. 
If I knew what a gerund was at some point I've since forgotten, I overuse commas, and don't know where to use a semi-colon.  When I saw one of the products available to review from Bridgeway Academy was a remedial grammar and writing program I was interested in it for myself even though it's geared to 7-12 graders.  After all I need to understand it before I can teach it to my son.  I received three spiral bound books.

Bridgeway English Book 1 Focus on Grammar  ($23.33)
Bridgeway English Book 2 Focus on Writing  ($23.33)
Bridgeway English Key ($23.33)

 Book 1, subtitled Focus on Grammar, is organized into six PAKS, which are further divided into Sections.  There are section reviews, a Self-Test for each PAK and then a Final Test:
  • PAK 1: Parts of a sentence, types of sentences, fragments, run-ons, & compound sentences.
  • PAK 2:  Types of nouns & their functions
  • PAK 3: Types of pronouns & their functions
  •  PAK 4:  Adjectives, adverbs, and the difference between the two
  • PAK 5:  Prepositions, conjunctions & interjections
  • PAK 6: A review of all five previous PAKS

Book 2, subtitled Focus on Writing is a continuation of Book 1 so it starts with PAK 7.  This course is all about mastery and the material builds on itself so you are not supposed jump around to the topics you need to work on.

  • PAK 7: Dependent & Independent clauses, compound and/or complex sentences, subject verb agreement.
  • PAK 8: Action vs. linking verbs, irregular verbs, participles, gerunds, and infinitives, review of the 8 parts of speech
  • PAK 9: Capitalization, punctuation, and proofreading for errors
  • PAK 10: Letter writing for various purposes, envelopes, e-mails & memos, filling out forms
  • PAK 11: Test-taking, critical thinking, and reasoning skills, fact vs. fiction
  • PAK 12:  A review of all five previous PAKS
The Teacher's Answer Key provides reduced copies of the pages from both books with the answers filled-in.  Although it's called the "Teacher's" key, this course is designed for the student to teach himself and if you trust him, he may score his own daily work--just not the Final Tests.  (The textbooks actually say "Check your answers", "Correct your mistakes", and" Recheck your answers" which makes it seem like the student should do it himself).   In some lessons there is a spot for teachers to initial and date as proof that students have done certain tasks or memorized explanations, etc.  There is no syllabus or guidance on how much work to do each day -- you just move forward when the student has demonstrated mastery.

I started this program on my own but  after a week I felt that my son (a fifth-grader) could do this work himself -- tasks like underlining the interrogative sentences  or add the correct punctuation mark to the end of a sentence.  Each day we would work until we reached a page that ended with "Check Your Work" which may mean a single page or as many as three.  There were also some pages or passages labeled Tremendous Tales that covered topics like Gutenberg's press and the Pony Express.  They weren't referenced in the lesson and had nothing to do with grammar so we usually skipped them.

I have to express some concern, at least based on our working through PAK 1, that students who are already struggling with grammar might be more confused after this remedial lesson on verbs vs. predicates and simple vs. complete subjects, etc.  Just look at these examples...

The instructional section just (correctly) taught that the Subject is all the words telling who or what the sentence is about and the predicate is all the words that tell what the subject did.

The exercise that immediately follows asks us to underline the subject once and the predicate twice.  Every word in the sentence is either part of the subject or predicate so every word should be underlined once or twice.  The answer key shows...

 This is actually underlining the simple subject and the verb -- the topics of the next lesson.  A few pages later the lesson is on complete subject and complete predicate  but the sample sentence is labeled ...

 "...jumped through the flaming hoop of fire" is not the verb, a verb is a single word.  This is actually the complete predicate.  I hate to nit-pick, but this product is being marketed as remedial English.  Now I am looking at the teacher's key first and changing the instructions to fit the answers, but like I said grammar is not my best subject and at some point I may not recognize faulty instruction.  For that reason I am leery to recommend this curriculum.


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