Wednesday, August 2, 2017

An Effective Manipulative for Learning Grammar? You Bet!

When I heard about an opportunity to review the English Grammar Teaching Method using English on a Roll, I was intrigued.  The program is used by parents, teachers, tutors, volunteers and therapists with students ages 5 through adult in order to teach individuals and groups:
  • Beginning Reading (K-4)
  • Literacy
  • Special Education
  • English as a Second Language 
  • Adult Education 

That's a wide range of ages and learning atmospheres - all of which I have been involved in. 

Thus, I was curious to see how
English on a Roll would work for our homeschooling efforts (which include teaching a beginning reader, a child with learning challenges, and a child with attention issues) as well as how I thought it might work for ESL and adult education, both of which I have taught or tutored in the past.

What's Included?

English on a Roll

Included in
English on a Roll are:  
  • 40 durable, solid plastic cubes, 38 of which are engraved with color-coded groups of related words and 2 of which are blank cubes for customizing - These cubes are designed to be used in  by one to six students at a time, ideally, which is great for large homeschool families or small co-op classes.

  • a sturdy plastic container for the cubes -  The cubes fit a bit snugly in the container, which, happily, means you don't have to count them at the end of a lesson to be sure they are all there! It also means that it may be difficult to pluck individual cubes out of their container.  Luckily, the container comes with a tip: close the container, turn it upside down, and open it so that the cubes rest on the lid.  Then it is easy-peasy to pick just the ones you want to use for a particular lesson.

  • blank labels - Two of the cubes, as I mentioned earlier, are blank.  Blank labels allow you to easily customize cubes with additional vocabulary.

  • a 150-page instructor manual - This manual is written to be used by anyone who has a command of the English language, so novice teachers and practiced ones alike can guide students in learning using the cubes.  The manual includes a handy quick-glance cube guide chart as well as easy-to-follow lesson plans for 37 grammar points.  Each of these lessons includes a highlighted box that tells you what you'll need to prep the lesson (which cube to pull out, what reproducibles to copy, etc.), notes for teaching, and what vocabulary is used in the lesson.  Then, there are clear instructions for teaching a targeted concept, engaging in conversation and/or games, and following up with written exercises (that can also be done orally).

Lessons are written for classroom use, but are easily adaptable to a homeschool setting and - wonderfully - contain reproducible materials with copyright permission for a single family or classroom.
How Does
English on a Roll Work? 

English on a Roll asks students to manipulate 40 color-coded cubes to build phrases and sentences which target fundamentals of English grammar.  In doing so, each major learning style - tactile, visual, and auditory - comes into play

Because lessons use color-coded dice in game-like activities, tactile learners benefit from the program.  Further, word cubes unlock grammar success for reluctant writers who can "write sentences" by selecting, turning, and lining up cubes instead of always having to laboriously put pen to paper when learning to "write". 

Color-coding of word types on the cubes, as well as simple diagrams on the reproducibles within the 142-page instructor manual, help visual learners.

Auditory learners can benefit from the game-like activities and conversations inherent in the lessons.
English on a Roll, then, simultaneously keys into three main pathways to the brain - tactile, visual, and auditory - in order to help students enjoy and retain learning.

That enjoyment part is big, too! 

activities within English on a Roll lessons have a game-like quality to them, students tend to enjoy learning and be more willing to practice concepts over-and-over.  Such repetition is a significant factor in the acquisition and retention of language - especially for young natural learners of English as a first or second language as well as for struggling learners.

In using
English on a Roll with my children, I have witnessed:
  • improvements in spelling of words on the cubes
  • "ah ha" moments of clarity about grammar concepts
  • increased retention of grammar-specific words 

More important (to me!) than all that, I have also seen my children's brows knit in focus and their faces light up with laughter as we make up games and silly sentences using the cubes.

I have also thought, more than once, what a great tool this would have been for me when I was teaching ESL in Japan for five years, for some of the early lessons, I felt, almost targeted ESL learners more than native speakers - but were still useful for my native English speaking kids - and all lessons would have bee useful for my former ESL students.

Likewise, I have thought about how helpful
English on a Roll would have been when I was tutoring an illiterate adult some years ago.  She enjoyed games, and we often used cut up index cards in our lessons.  I believe she would have welcomed the English on a Roll cubes and the lessons that go with them.  Indeed, I feel they would have helped me to teach her to read and write with greater fun and quicker retention.

What the Children (and I) Thought

From the first day I introduced
English on a Roll  to my children through every subsequent lesson we've used the kit for, one of my children or another has laughed or had an "ah ha" moment.  To me, that is success!

Granted, with some of the first lessons, I initially thought, This concept is way too easy and might bore them.  However, they liked using the engraved dice, so I was able to use the early lessons just to get the children used to the format of the lessons and, for one child, to practice spelling of basic words.

Then, as we progressed, each of my children solidified basic grammar concepts and word spellings.

When I asked each of them for their thoughts for this review, my seven-year-old said:

I don't like that you have to write, but I like making sentences with the dice.  I like rolling the dice and reading the words on them.  I make kind of silly sentences.

He did, enjoy getting silly with the cubes building sentences.  He also managed the actual pencil-to-paper writing - even if he didn't enthusiastically relish it.  The brevity and focus of each written exercise made them "okay" for him.

My ten-year-old struggling learner (pictured above after proudly spelling words from the cubes without looking at the cubes) said:

I like having the dice to roll.  I also like how different types of words are in different colors.  It helps me remember which is which - where they go in sentences.

It's fun when we roll the dice and try to make sentences out of the words. 

The worksheets are okay.  I don't love them, but I don't mind them. I am able to read and spell some words better.

Anything that gets her saying "I like" about English Language Arts and has her saying she could read and spell better is a win for me!

My oldest, at eleven and with attention issues, said:

I like the dice, but I don't like the box they put them in.  It's hard to open. 

I like how the dice are all multi-colored.  I did not know it meant anything at first, but then Mom showed me and I learned the colors showed what each kind of word was.
The dice make it just a different way to do lessons.

For him, routine and structure are necessary, but not always liked.  Novelty, on the other hand, is often devoured.  So, the fresh way of studying using the cubes caught my oldest's attention, while the short, focused structure of lessons kept him learning.

Learn More

My three children with three very different learning abilities, styles, and needs have each benefited from
English on a Roll.  Perhaps your child will, too. 

If you want to "try
English on a Roll before you buy"? You can access a pdf of the first ten chapters of the Book One Instructor's Manual for FREE

If you'd like to see the dice in actions?  Take a peek here:

If you'd like to see many photos of the kit in action as well as to hear how forty Homeschool Review Crew families have been using it, just click
through the banner.

English on a Roll {Reviews}

English on a Roll

You can also find
English Grammar Teaching Method on Facebook.

Do you have a kinesthetic, visual, or auditory learner who could benefit from multi-sensory grammar lessons?  How about a child who enjoys learning through games and short-focused activities with built-in review?  Then, English on a Roll might be for you!

Crew Disclaimer


Related Posts with Thumbnails