Voyages in English 2018 Edition

Exemplifying a rigorous, traditional approach to grammar and writing, Voyages in English, 2018 Edition continues to be an excellent choice. With a long and notable history (the original 1940 series was designed to bring immigrant children to a complete mastery of English written and oral communication), Voyages provides strong grammar instruction and practice, systematic writing experiences, an eye for technological applications (i.e. blogs, email), and user-friendly teacher materials. Now meeting and exceeding standards (individual state standards, NCTE standards, and Common Core State Standards-CCSS), there are a few expansions to previous editions. First of all is the addition of Kindergarten materials which are somewhat different from other grade levels. Grades 1 & 2 are a total reorganization from the 2006 edition (the most recent edition of these grade level materials). Grades 3-8 materials, somewhat similar to their 2011 counterparts, now include three bonus writing chapters and extra workbook pages that encompass argumentative writing, literary analysis/reflection, and poetry, as well as updated online components such as web-based games for practice and reinforcement and teacher printables. Lastly, Teacher Editions now provide CCSS notations at point of use (valuable for lesson planning).

Kindergarten material in this series is new. Course components are two oversized "Big Books," a large box of Writing Cards, and a Teacher's Manual and are only available as a Kindergarten Kit. The Grammar Big Books, designed for the teacher to hold and show, cover 36 grammar concepts with clear definitions and examples. The Writing Cards are writing prompts - 90 cards in six different genres (personal narrative, friendly letter, directions, description, book report, and informational writing). There are three different levels of writing proficiency that allow students to start at their current level and grow. These two strands are woven together through the scripted Teacher Edition. Provided are materials lists, and reproducible blackline masters along with CCSS correlations. Lessons with both grammar and writing aspects are covered weekly.

Grades 1 and 2, focusing on basic skills, seem the most changed in the 2017 edition. Grammar is covered first and then writing--rather than the two areas covered concurrently (as in the 2006 edition). Graphics are totally different creating an updated look. General content is similar, though. The 1st and 2nd Grade Student Books are colorful, consumable worktexts. The early language skills are presented in a systematic manner: types of sentences, nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, contractions, and antonym/synonym/homophone study. The writing chapters conclude with a writing workshop introducing a simplified version of the series' writing process prewriting, drafting, editing, revising, proofreading, and publishing and covering some basic writing skills personal narratives, friendly letters, how-to articles, descriptions, and book and research reports. These last two workshops are well constructed although some might argue that it's a little early for these particular skills.

The grades 3rd 8th Text, Practice Book, Assessment Book, and Teacher Editions are mostly unchanged from the 2011 edition until you get to the added three chapters found at the end of the course. These three bonus chapters, however, provide a nicely done enhancement to an already excellent series. For example, in the 4th grade course, the chapters cover Consumer Reviews (what an engaging way to cover descriptive and persuasive writing), Literary Reflection and Poetry. There are additional lessons in Word Study, Study Skills, Writing Skills and additional Writer's Workshops.

Starting with grade 3, the Student Books are hardcover and non-consumable, and the spiral-bound Teacher Editions are extensive with reduced copies of student pages. There is also an assessment book, a practice book, and an answer key for both. This series presents a multi-year framework for an apprenticeship approach to teaching writing. Young writers are mentored in their writing by modeling techniques and sharing insights. Individual feedback is offered, which is clearly tied to the real-life reasons we communicate. In other words, students never face a blank sheet of paper having been told to write about what happened over Christmas break. Instead, teachers and students explore writing together. If you approach this program as it is designed, it will require a fair amount of teacher-student interaction, but teacher preparation is almost non-existent because the lessons are well laid out and easy to follow.

Each Student Book comprises two parts. The first part contains the grammar instruction sections while the second part covers the written and oral communication chapters. The parts are designed to be woven together. Grammar instruction includes parts of speech, sentences, punctuation, capitalization, and diagramming. Writing chapters each study a particular genre of writing which include personal narratives, how-to articles, creative writing, descriptions, business or personal letters, expository writing, persuasive writing, research reports, argumentative writing, literary analysis/reflection, and poetry. Chapters open with an engaging model of that particular writing genre. Two lessons follow which identify and explore the elements of effective writing such as purpose, audience, voice, tone, mood, and organization. The next four lessons develop skills and habits of good writing such as word analysis, correct sentence structure, effective study skills, and the ability to present and evaluate oral presentations. Each of these six lessons is to be covered over two days. Each chapter concludes with a twelve day writers workshop. A seven stage writing process is followed: prewriting, drafting, content editing, revising, copy editing/proofreading, and publishing. For each of the writing genres covered, the students prepare a portfolio piece, examine real-life applications, and complete a wide variety of exercises designed to sharpen skills or produce a part of the whole.

The Teacher Edition has reduced student pages with teaching helps "around the edges." These helps include correlating pages from the support materials, teaching options, grammar connections, warm-ups, practice activities, answers, CCSS notations, and, my favorite, tech tips (i.e. suggestions for correct e-usage). Additionally, the TE (with divider tabs to help navigate between the grammar, writing, diagramming, and handbook segments) also includes introductory information for each genre study - literature links, and writers workshop tips.

The Student Texts are quite thorough and could be effective if used independently especially if you complete the writing chapters and grammar sections in parallel fashion. However, the teachers manuals are very helpful and provide the day-by-day plan for weaving the grammar chapters with the writing chapters as well as using the assessment and practice books. Also, the text (grammar) answers are only available in the TE, so you have to consider how much your time is worth if you choose to instead try and "figure out" the answers. The Assessment Books provide grammar section tests and summative tests (multiple sections) as well as a writing skills test and a writing prompt for each of the writing genre chapters. Practice Books, as you would expect, provide additional practice for each chapter and include a series for "daily maintenance." Please note that there is a separate Answer Key for the Assessment and Practice books.

There are online enhancements available at every level including sections for Parents/Students and Teachers. For parents and students there are printable resources such as proofreading charts, graphic organizers, writing traits charts, a list of irregular verbs. There is also a series of Jeopardy-type games for 1-4 players. These games cover the various parts of speech, sentences, punctuation, and capitalization. For Teachers there are writing prompts (15-20 different prompts for each of the different types of writing) and a collection of printables scoring rubrics, lesson plans, and literature links (suggested books for each chapter). Please note: there are some online resources mentioned in the course materials (online digital student edition and an online assessment system) that are not available as part of the material we carry.

In summary, this is a strong course with an emphasis on the writing process and grammar instruction. The grammatical side includes a chapter on diagramming in grades 3-8. Its approach is interesting and engaging, making good use of colorful graphics and appealing use of graphic organizers. Lessons are a nice combination of verbal interaction (many of the exercises could/should be done orally), written activities, and assignments. There is an underlying assumption that the books are being used in a classroom, and several of the activities require cooperative interaction between or among multiple students. Although a revision of an older, Catholic textbook series, this series does not include any faith-based material. Its alignment to CCSS makes it a good choice for some of our charter schools. If those are not your motivating concerns, it is still an excellent choice for a quality educational series. ~ Janice

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