Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Editor in Chief (Critical Thinking Company) -- Schoolhouse Crew Review

For years I've drooled over the catalogs I received from The Critical Thinking Co. I used a lot of their products when my children were in preschool and Kindergarten, but I haven't added many of their books to our homeschool in the past few years.

I was interested in seeing how Lauren did with Editor in Chief Level 1. Editor in Chief teaches twelve lessons in grammar, punctuation, and mechanics. Topics covered include content, capitalization, adjectives, adverbs, confused word pairs, verbs, agreement, sentence fragments, and run-on sentences.

Instead of using traditional fill-in-the-blank or labeling activities, Editor in Chief teaches all of these skills in the context of editing passages. The student searches through a passage to find (and correct) a specific number of errors. As an optional follow-up assignment, the student rewrites the passage correctly.

Editor in Chief Level 1 claims to be for grades 4-5. Lauren is only a third grader, but she has had a lot of grammar instruction in the past. In fact, part of the reason I looked at this book is because she enjoyed grammar activities that required her to find the mistake in a sentence. I thought that she would enjoy proofreading a passage instead of looking at isolated sentences.

I like the way that Editor in Chief divides up the errors so that the student is only focusing on one particular grammar concept at a time. For instance, the first section focused only on content errors. The student is told that the picture and the corresponding caption is correct. When they read the passage, they are looking for discrepancies between the two. At this point in the book, they are not looking for missing punctuation, spelling errors, or any other grammar mistake. They are simply looking to make sure the passage contains correct information.

Unfortunately, later lessons had a broader focus than what I had hoped for. The lesson on punctuation included all the rules for periods, commas, quotations, apostrophes, parentheses, colons, semicolons, and hyphens at the same time.

Lauren struggled more with the passages than I expected her to, and eventually we started working together on the assignments. She needed quite a bit of help just reading the passage. I later used an online readability score assessment to determine the reading level of the text. One of the first passages had an average grade level equivalent of 7th grade. No wonder she was struggling to read and correct the paragraph. I checked five passages from various locations in the book, and only one of them had a reading level in the target 4th to 5th grade range. (It scored a 5.9 grade equivalent.)

When I chose to review Editor in Chief, I wanted grammar to be our nemesis, not reading skills. I'm going to hold on to this book and try it again in a few years. I'd prefer the reading assignments to be at (or even a bit below) her reading level so that she's only working on finding the errors in the passages.

I would definitely recommend that you take your child's reading level into account before choosing this grammar workbook. A child with advanced reading skills might do well with it in fourth or fifth grade, but many other students would be better served by waiting a few years before attempting it.

Editor in Chief Level 1 is a 132 page soft-cover workbook which costs $19.99. It includes 69 lessons and a complete answer key. The Critical Thinking Co. offers three levels of Editor in Chief as well as two Editor in Chief Beginner levels.

Critical Thinking Company Review

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