Angela Carter, the author, has an introduction that tells about her own teaching experiences and her desire to share her lesson plans that teach diagramming as a logical process. The book starts by introducing simple subjects and main verbs. Lesson two introduces direct objects. This sets up very basic sentence structure in an easy to understand way. From here forward each lesson introduces one new concept at a time so the children are always diagramming what is already familiar while adding one new part of speech. There are a total of twelve lessons, and one review section that has twenty-five sentences.
Each lesson begins with simple instructions. A lesson is four pages long and every lesson has the same four parts: correcting errors in diagrams, filling in diagrams, writing sentences to match diagrams, and diagramming sentences on your own. The sentences aren't overly complex, but they do test understanding of what has been learned.
The book is a workbook. The pages are perforated to be easily removed, and there are answers in the back. But The Critical Thinking Co.™ has a generous copyright that allows the purchaser to copy each page for use in their own home. That is helpful for families like mine!
How we used this book:This book is intended for grades 3-12+. Since my two older children tried diagramming in the past, I expected it to be fairly easy for them to begin this book. They are in grades 8 and 6. I also decided to include my 3rd grade daughter as we worked through the book. We don't worry much about more than the basics of grammar until late 3rd grade, even 4th depending on the child, so I was interested in seeing how she would do.
I copied each lesson as we worked through the book, and we did one page per day. You don't have to do it at that speed, it felt slow for my older kids. I would introduce the new concept the first day to make sure they understood. My older children usually did the page alone and didn't ask for help. I often helped my 3rd grader, though I was quite surprised to see how well she understood what she was doing! Often she didn't actually need help, just reassurance. We are on the fifth lessons and I've been impressed with how well all three children did!
I feel that the instructions and examples are easy to understand and that is why my older children were frequently able to work through the lessons without my help. The only thing that stumped them (though rarely so far) was the first page... the one about correcting mistakes in a diagram. I feel like it would be easier to practice diagramming correctly first and save correcting diagrams with mistakes for later in the lesson.
I asked my children what they thought of this book.
3rd grader - "The beginning is pretty easy. Farther into the book it gets a little harder. It helps me write my sentences correctly. I like doing the diagrams."
6th grader - "I like this book more than the other books we used. This one makes diagramming seem a lot easier to do. It's pretty easy at the beginning then starts getting harder, and the instructions explain it pretty well so I can learn."
8th grader - "It's really easy for me, but it might be because it explains it a lot better than the other book we used in the past. I like doing one concept a week so this is a good speed for me. I like that it does the same concept in different ways each day of the week. I think it will help me structure my writing better."
When I think of The Critical Thinking Co.™ I think of their logic puzzle books and software. But did you know they have so much more than that? Besides the Sentence Diagramming: Beginning for grades 3-12+ that I reviewed, the items that other members of the Homeschool Review Crew tried are:
- Language Smarts™ Level E - Grade: 4
- Alphabet Song Game™ Software - 2-PCs Win Download - Grades: Toddler-1 | New Version 2.0
- Letter Sounds Song and Game™ Software - 2-PCs Win Download - Grades: Prek-1
- Vowel Sounds Song and Game™ Software - 2-PCs Win Download - Grades: Prek-2
- Fun-Time Phonics!™ Software - 2-PCs Win Download - Grades: Prek-2