Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind
Eagerly anticipated for years, Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind is a sequel to Susan Wise Bauer's First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind. For those wanting a definitive English grammar that will cover all aspects of this (troublesome) language and who are willing to devote the time and energy necessary for mastery, this program will not disappoint. It provides a user-friendly, comprehensive, and thorough roadmap through all the nooks and crannies of basic grammar, usage, and mechanics and into advanced English skills (detailed analysis of complex sentence structure). The author confidently states, "A student completing four years of this program will have all the skills needed for the study of advanced rhetoric persuasive and sophisticated writing." I believe it.
The series is built on three guiding principles, the elements of classical language learning. First, students need to understand and memorize the rules of language. Next, they need meaningful and valuable examples of every rule and principle. And finally, they need to practice in order to incorporate these rules and principles deeply into their oral and written communication skills. In keeping with its classical roots, this program provides rules and definitions with lots of opportunity to memorize them along with excellent examples and plenteous exercises for mastery. There are four program components: the Grammar Guidebook, the Core Instructor Text (both non-consumable), the Student Workbooks (consumable) and the Answer Key for the Student Workbooks (non-consumable). There will eventually be four Student Workbooks and Answer Keys (designated by colors) for each of four consecutive years.
Serving as both a resource and a reference to be used each year of the four-year series, the small-ish (7 x 10.25) The Grammar Guidebook is indeed both comprehensive and a rule book. It contains all the principles that govern the English language as well as examples of each. Included are parts of speech, sentences, parts of sentences, dialogue and quotations, capitalization (summary of rules), punctuations, documentation (Turabian method), and sample conjugations. To give you an idea of the scope, nouns are covered thus: types, capitalization rules, gender, plural formation, noun imposters, and nouns that serve as other parts of speech. Each is clearly illustrated by examples that come from great literature (often classic but sometimes contemporary). In the verb section, there is a helpful five-page verb summary chart that provides active and passive formation with examples for four verb tenses (indicative, modal, imperative, and subjunctive). An index is provided (thankfully). Although a key component of the Grammar for the WTM series, it could easily be used as a reference by anyone wanting a solid, definitive English grammar resource.
The Core Instructor Text is the scripted teachers book for the entire four years. All rules and examples as well as teaching notes explaining the ambiguities and difficulties of each grammatical construct are built into student-teacher dialogues. There are question/answer dialogues for 130 lessons. Including reviews, the expectation is lessons on 4 days a week for 36 weeks. It helps to have an understanding of classical methodology to appreciate what is here. Essentially, each of the lessons contains a single theme that will be repeated in each of the programs four years. The idea is that at first concepts will be imperfectly grasped but through repetition and through four years of exercises, mastery of both concept and applications will be perfected. The instruction is done through teacher-student dialogues. That means a significant time investment will need to be made by the teacher (I'm guessing 15-20 minutes per lesson) for each of the four years. While this may seem a bit daunting, remember that everything is scripted (i.e. provided for you) with little to no teacher prep and that you will also gain familiarity with the dialogues as you progress through the years.
The Core Instructor Text interacts with the Student Workbook. Whenever a rule, definition, information, or a sample sentence is needed as part of the teacher-student dialogue, it is provided in the Student Workbook (SW). The SW also provides all the exercises that the student is expected to complete. There is variety in these exercises some are underlining and labeling, some are diagramming, some require the student to construct his own new sentences. Answers to these exercises are provided in the Student Workbook Answer Key. The key contains reproduced exercises with answers as well as detailed notes that explain or clarify the answers. Students are encouraged to check their own work much of the time and to discuss any discrepancies they find between the answers and their own work.
Review is built into the program in several ways. Routinely, as part of daily dialogues rule/definition content from previous dialogs is repeated/reviewed. Additionally, regular exercise reviews are built into the courses. Every three weeks the student lesson provides six exercises that review what was covered in the previous three weeks. Toward the end of each Workbook (i.e. Lesson 27), the reviews double (twelve exercises) and become cumulative (back to the beginning of the course). These reviews are completed over the course of the week with every fourth week as a review week. There are no other formal assessments.
The general idea of this series is unusual. Teacher dialogue (from the Core Instructor Text) is identical from year to year. In the workbooks, complexity of the exercises increases over the course of the year (particularly after Week 20) but the workbooks are comparable in difficulty from year to year. Students may find it challenging to complete an entire workbook in the first year. However subsequent years can be completed more efficiently due to familiarity with the rules, definitions, and exercise expectations. This means that a student can start with any of the workbooks. However, they are strongly encouraged to go back and complete the remaining workbooks in later years. Mastery/proficiency is based on four years of interacting with the workbook material according to the instructional outline of the Core Text. Purple and Red Workbooks are available currently with two others to be added.
Many of us have wondered what Ms. Bauer's approach to Grammar would be. Thoroughly classical and rigorous, yet user-friendly; this program steps into the void and will be welcomed. The Grammar Guidebook 95 pgs, hb. Core Instructor Text 387 pgs, pb. Workbook 579 pgs, pb. Answer Key 417 pgs, pb. ~ Janice