Author Melanie Wilson wanted to create an easy-to-use language arts curriculum that children enjoy and that also teaches for mastery rather than repeating the same concepts year after year. The result is the Grammar Galaxy curriculum.
Grammar Galaxy is a series of three courses (thus far) that can be used for students in grades one through six, although the level of difficulty is better suited to the younger end of the spectrum. The courses are ungraded, so you can use them wherever they are most suitable. (Two more courses are planned to complete the sequence at the upper end.) These courses cover grammar, vocabulary, spelling, composition, literary concepts, and speaking, but they do not teach phonics or handwriting. One area where I would add more attention would be literature. I would likely supplement with a few full-length novels, possibly with study guides of some sort to accompany them.
Volume 1: Nebula is best used with students who are just beginning to read and write, usually first or second graders. Volume 2: Protostar is ideal for third graders, and Volume 3: Yellow Star is likely to suit the average fourth grader. Older students who have struggled with language arts might even start with Nebula. The amount of writing required in Nebula is minimal, which means it won’t be adequate for the average older student, but it could be perfect for those who have difficulty with written work. An older student can also start with one of the other courses, but since this program doesn’t repeat topics, you will need to make sure students are placed at the proper level. Click here to use Grammar Galaxy’s placement quiz, or, if you have a good idea of what your child already knows and needs to learn next, you can identify which course to use from their scope and sequence.
Each course consists of an Adventures in Language Arts storybook and a Mission Manual. Adventures in Language Arts books each present chapter-by-chapter stories about three children—Kirk, Luke, and Ellen—and their parents, the King and Queen of planet English. The King explains to his children that whatever happens on planet English affects the entire Grammar Galaxy. He frequently enlists the aid of his children to combat problems, appointing them Guardians of the Galaxy.
The children are called upon to avert potential disasters such as the disappearance of words like abominable and atrocious that are not used frequently enough. Or they might confront a problem caused by the Gremlin who is out to destroy Grammar Galaxy by such nefarious acts as breaking apart all compound words or tricking all of the pronouns into moving to the Confinement Condominiums where they are imprisoned and can’t be used.
Snippets of instructional information are snuck into the stories as the English children figure out how to deal with each dilemma. Vocabulary words are taught within the context of the story as well. These are bolded, and brief definitions are shown in sidebars. Spelling strategies are also taught within the stories rather than having children study lists of spelling words.
Three questions are posed at the end of each chapter. Questions are always of three types: one asks the meaning of one of the vocabulary words; one is a comprehension question relating to the story; and the other has to do with grammar rules or definitions. These questions are intended for oral responses. No answers are supplied for these questions, parents should be able to figure out correct answers easily enough.
After reading a chapter, students complete activities in the Mission Manual which often refer back to the story. Each activity is introduced with a brief letter assigning a particular mission to students which relates to the story. For example, the story about the adventure of the imprisoned pronouns in Nebula: Chapter 23 connects directly with Mission 23 in the Nebula Mission Manual where students complete three activities about pronouns and vocabulary words. Some review of previously taught concepts is usually included in the first activity. A fourth activity for “Advanced Guardians Only” is optional and should be used with advanced student or those who need a greater challenge. Correct answers for all activities are on the final page of each mission.
Since Volume 1: Nebula is intended for young students, Wilson has purposely limited the amount of writing required. For most activities, students can use a highlighter to mark the correct answer. She suggests that parents work closely with younger students through the course, reading aloud the story, discussing vocabulary words and questions, and working through the activities. Volume 2: Protostar might also be read aloud to students depending upon their ability to read and understand on their own. By Volume 3: Yellow Star, students should be able to work independently. Even if students can read independently, I recommend that parents go over the three questions at the end of the story aloud with their child(ren) as a quick verification.
Each course is divided into either four or five units. At the end of each unit are two quizzes, each with ten, multiple-choice questions. You should use one, and if a student answers at least nine questions correctly, he or she can move on to the next unit. If not, you can review then retest with the second quiz. When children pass the quiz for a unit, you should give them a star to put on the bookmark that comes with each Mission Manual (if you order a printed book).
Grammar Galaxy tries to teach for mastery when it covers a concept, so it does not repeat concepts. Using nouns as an example, Nebula introduces nouns (common, proper, singular, and plural). Then Protostar teaches about possessive nouns and nouns used as subjects. Yellow Star covers abstract nouns, direct objects, and subject-verb agreement. Similarly, concepts build from year to year in other areas. For instance, for literature concepts, Nebula teaches about reading from context, reading for comprehension, identifying fiction and non-fiction, the elements of a story, tall tales, and rhyming words. Then Protostar moves on to book reports, classic books (meaning enduring children’s literature such as The Velveteen Rabbit and The Box Car Children), myths, fables, autobiographies, alliteration, story action, and drama terms.
In the area of composition, children begin to write in Protostar and gradually encounter more challenging writing assignments as the series progresses. Beginning even with Nebula, the optional activities for Advanced Guardians often include writing.
Teaching these courses should be easy. There’s no advance preparation time and no separate teacher manuals to read through.
For many lessons, it will take longer to read the story than to complete the activities. Even as activities become more challenging, most will not take a great deal of time. The publisher’s website says that some families read the story and complete all of the activities in just one day per week. However, you can spread the reading and activities out over as many days of one week as you wish. Even though each course has 36 chapters (and missions) that can be used over an entire school year, it should be easy to move through courses at a faster pace, even getting through two courses in one year. (The efficiency results from not reteaching concepts over and over again.)
Course books are available in either print or digital editions. The non-consumable storybooks can be read by a parent to children, but digital versions can be shared on mobile devices. This might be helpful for those teaching more than one child in the same course. Children write in their Mission Manuals which average about 350 pages each. If you purchase digital versions, you can print pages for more than one child in your household.
I am strongly in favor of not belaboring grammar by reteaching over and over again, so I appreciate Grammar Galaxy’s approach in that regard. I also understand that many children will enjoy the use of the stories as instructional devices. This should work well in many situations.
However, a few children might find the story an unnecessary bother to get to the instructional information, preferring a more efficient approach. And while I, personally, like the integration of the various areas of language arts, some parents and children might prefer separate instruction in grammar, literature, composition, etc. These are matters of preference which parents should consider when deciding whether or not Grammar Galaxy is a good choice for them. Free sample lessons are available on the publisher’s website, so you can try before buying.