Monday 21 October 2013

Bridgeway English-a review

Bridgeway English is a grammar and writing course produced by Bridgeway Academy.

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The English course has three components: a grammar book,

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  Focus on writing 

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 and an answer key.

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 I was pleased to have the opportunity to review these books as I had been looking for a grammar and punctuation course to add to Middle Son's writing course and English literature work. Middle Son is 13 and would be in UK year 9 or US grade 8. Bridgeway Academy's website states that the books are suitable for grade 7 to 12.

 Each book is spiral bound. The Focus on Grammar and Focus on Writing are consumable books where the student fills answers in the book. Somewhat confusingly, these books are described as remedial books. This almost put me off reviewing them but once further information was available it became obvious that remedial was going to mean tasks like going over the eleven rules of capitalisation and the uses of colons and semi-colons along with identifying compound and complex sentences. This wasn't quite what I expected for a "remedial course". I wonder how many adults can remember the eleven rules of capitalisation?

Middle Son was able to work independently on the workbooks. Unlike many English grammar books, they avoided "busy" work, such as writing out the whole sentence in order to underline the verb. Each section contains a self explanatory introduction, a section to fill in to assess understanding of this introduction, followed by practical exercises. For example, the section on different types of sentences starts by listing these; followed by questions where the student has to list the types of sentence and their function. It then goes on the short sections on each type of sentence each of which is followed by questions on that type of sentence and a section where the appropriate sentence, e.g. an interrogative sentence, is underlined. At the end of the chapter are sentences where the correct punctuation must be added and different types of sentences written. I marked Middle Son's work but the books do state that as the books are self-instructional the student can mark their own work except for the end of section tests. The Teacher Answer Key has smaller copies of each page with the correct answers so this could be given to the student to mark their work.

Book 1 is Focus on Grammar. It is divided into six sections or PAKs. Much of the initial work is on sentences: types of sentences, definition of sentences, components of a sentence: subject and predicate, sentence fragments, run-on sentences and how to correct them and compound sentences. The latter part of the book covers parts of speech, followed by a final revision unit.

Book 2 is called Focus on Writing and covers PAKs seven to twelve. This starts with more work on sentences: simple, compound, complex and compound-complex and subject-verb agreement; followed by work on verbs, work on punctuation and proofreading, including proofreading symbols.

 PAK 10 covers letters of various types, including  e-mails. PAK 11 is a little different but includes information about study skills and taking tests as well as critical thinking. The last unit is a revision unit and includes the final test.

At the end of each section, the material is meant to be reviewed verbally and then the section review which is really a test. The book states that 80% mastery is to be achieved in the final test or the section is to be reviewed.

What we thought
This is a thorough course. In the UK, we probably study grammar less than in the US but it isn't, at all, what I would think of as a remedial course, more a course that could be taken in a year to improve grammar and writing skills. In my opinion, it shouldn't be used alone but is a great course to use in conjunction with other work for comprehension and English literature. We certainly plan to continue using the book for the rest of the academic year.
Middle Son's favourite subject isn't English but spontaneously volunteered that he likes this course. I suspect because it is so logical.

I wouldn't have chosen this book from the description on the vendor's site. The description didn't quite add up. The programme is described as "remedial" but the information then states that the contents of the course include "sentence fragments, run-on sentences, compound sentences...prepositions and prepositional phrases".  Book Two includes "clauses, sentence variety, subject/verb agreement...letter writing, business writing, study skills, critical thinking and reasoning."
It would be really helpful if there was more information on the site and in particular, perhaps, a sample chapter. I am pleased that we had this opportunity to review and use this helpful and thorough programme. It would be a shame if others missed this.

Each book costs $23.33 (£14.45 on the calculator on my computer today).

For further reviews of this product and also of Bridgeway Academy's on-line courses visit the Schoolhouse Crew Review Site.

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  1. This was a very interesting for me review and came at a really good time. With T11 going into secondary school level education this year, it has been all about him and ensuring his chosen course of study is successful. Next year will be the girls' turn and one of them loves writing and wants to be doing it all day long. So I'm looking for an interesting course of study to cover all the elements of writing. I might look into this a bit further for her. Thanks as always for writing such a thorough review.

    1. Thank you, Claire. Children going into the secondary stage feels such a major threshold.