Using No Red Ink was a great idea, and next year I expect I’ll use it more. This year I focused just on teaching the standards through NRI and then once we completed the standards, I stopped direct instruction and tried to emphasize the lessons through the teaching of writing. But I think that a lot of kids — seventh graders especially, but even several eighth graders — could use more and more practice. Even review of basic parts of speech, run-ons and fragments, and plurals and possessives could be beneficial for kids. Plus, it would give students something to work on whenever they finish early or when my lesson doesn’t take quite as long as I’d hoped. It worked pretty well, I think, to have a rhythm of grammar every Monday, then practice on Tuesday, and perhaps review on Friday. But, as I started getting away from the grammar instruction, the rhythm fell apart. That’s not to say that more flexibility is a bad thing. It has been nice these last few months to be able to spend more time on reading and writing. But my seventh graders this year could probably have benefitted from more structure all throughout the year. To try to add NRI back in now, with three weeks left in the year, would feel crazy. But if they’d been doing it weekly all along, it would be okay.
This is another area where I was really structured at the beginning of the year and then less so as we went on. One issue was that the book I was using — Red Hot Root Words — had such short practice exercises for each lesson that it was hard to stretch it over two days like I’d originally planned. I hope to find something for next year that either allows me to expand on that book or has more exercises so that I can spend more time each week on vocabulary. I do like focusing on Greek and Latin roots because I think that’s really useful for students.
The Word Wizards will stay. A lot of the kids claim to hate them, but the truth is that they are easy points for them and easy grading for me. The Frayer Models were fun for a while, but they got really repetitive and I don’t think I’d want to do them all year for every unit. Maybe once a quarter I could have kids do a Frayer over roots they’ve learned.
I think I’m on the right track with grammar and vocabulary instruction. I just need to take it a step further. If you’ve got a great vocabulary series you like, please share — especially if it focuses on Greek and Latin roots.