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Having a hard time justifying time spent diagramming when we NEVER use the skill...


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Have you ever said to dc, "Now, aren't you glad you learned to diagram??? Isn't that skill coming in handy??" I haven't; and I've been hsing for 8 years. Ds brought up the question again this morning..."When am I ever going to need this except in English class?? This is such a waste of my time. There are great writers out there who don't know how to diagram, and they're doing just fine!" So, I answered with the typical "This is teaching you about sentence patterns and how to recognize a correct/incorrect sentence. It's a good workout for your brain. This puts you light years ahead of your peers in writing skills, etc." But honestly, I'm starting to question whether he will ever use what he's learning, and justifying all the time we spend on it is getting more and more difficult. Any advice??

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I truthfully haven't bothered with teaching my kids diagramming, at least not yet. I haven't done it myself since maybe 7th grade, and that was more than 25 years ago.

 

I do occasionally focus on parts of the sentence by having ds10 shade the nouns one color, verbs another, etc., just to help him see them in use. But that's it.

 

ETA: We're using a combo of GrammarLand and The Sentence Family right now. There's a bit at the end of The Sentence Family that has to do with diagramming. If the kids want to try it we will, but I'm not planning on spending a lot of time on it.

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It becomes more handy when the kids are learning to edit their own papers... for example, you might proofread and mark a sentence as "awkward," at that point a child could enlist diagramming to figure out what is wrong with the sentence on their own.

 

Many high school and college kids cannot do this without a lot more help.

While it is true that there are some great writers who may not know how to diagram, imo, the greatest writers wrote with lots of forethought into not just putting down a story, but in choosing specific words to add emphasis to what they were writing (things like assonance, onomatopoeia, etc.)

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Unless he's doing latin or another inflected language, I would have him diagram. There are certain relationships in grammar that don't become evident until you diagram (or do something roughly equivalent). He's correct that he doesn't need to diagram to speak or write correct english. However, he DOES need that higher level of understanding of grammar to be able to study other languages, something he may need to do in the future. Many engineers, history majors, and people in seminary end up studying languages.

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I have said that to dd, and she's said it herself (I'm so GLAD I can diagram). That said, she's not my logic stage child, she's in high school. When she was still in the logic stage she enjoyed the puzzle aspect of diagramming, for her it's always been like a good look behind the curtain (this is why one sentence works and another doesn't).

 

Ds, who is in the logic stage, hates it. However, he believes that one day he will agree with his sister. That day just happens to lay in the future... in high school.

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We have used what we've learned in diagramming in "the real world": when reading the Declaration of Independence, my older was flummoxed by certain parts until he began to diagram the sentences in his mind. It was much clearer then. In addition, when he is writing papers, and a sentence is unclear, I will ask him to diagram it and see if he can "find" the error himself. With diagramming, he often can.

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We have used what we've learned in diagramming in "the real world": when reading the Declaration of Independence, my older was flummoxed by certain parts until he began to diagram the sentences in his mind. It was much clearer then. In addition, when he is writing papers, and a sentence is unclear, I will ask him to diagram it and see if he can "find" the error himself. With diagramming, he often can.

 

:iagree:

 

We use both the MCT approach and diagramming. They each have different strengths. I have found diagramming more useful as time goes on, not less. (Not more useful than MCT--they are both useful. I mean more useful in general.)

Edited by Hilltop Academy
clarity
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I found it helpful when studying foreign languages. And although I have not studied theology formally, in reading the Bible, especially Romans, and reading about the Bible in theology books, being able to diagram has at times helped me to sort out complicated sentences expressing very complex ideas.

 

Also, my dd is not all that great at grammar, but for some reason, she finds diagramming fairly easy and it has helped her a lot in sorting out grammar itself.

 

At this stage in my life, I rarely diagram on paper, but I do sometimes mentally diagram out a sentence to figure something out about it. I read older books with more complicated sentence structures fairly often, and so this skill has been really helpful.

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Unless he's doing latin or another inflected language, I would have him diagram. There are certain relationships in grammar that don't become evident until you diagram (or do something roughly equivalent). He's correct that he doesn't need to diagram to speak or write correct english. However, he DOES need that higher level of understanding of grammar to be able to study other languages, something he may need to do in the future. Many engineers, history majors, and people in seminary end up studying languages.

 

:iagree: I don't think of grammar diagramming necessarily as a skill that will be important to whip out occasionally (which may also be true), but rather as a basis for understanding concepts, much like learning fractions or some other math topic will involve diagrams or other pictorial/visual methods for demonstrating relationships.

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We have used what we've learned in diagramming in "the real world": when reading the Declaration of Independence, my older was flummoxed by certain parts until he began to diagram the sentences in his mind. It was much clearer then. In addition, when he is writing papers, and a sentence is unclear, I will ask him to diagram it and see if he can "find" the error himself. With diagramming, he often can.

 

:iagree:

 

Diagramming is just another tool for understanding what we read, or for writing with clarity. But most children aren't going to spontaneously use their diagramming skills this way. We have to model and encourage for awhile.

 

:iagree: I don't think of grammar diagramming necessarily as a skill that will be important to whip out occasionally (which may also be true), but rather as a basis for understanding concepts, much like learning fractions or some other math topic will involve diagrams or other pictorial/visual methods for demonstrating relationships.

 

:iagree:This, too.

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I agree with Autumn Oak. Having done my fair share of diagramming back in high school, I am noticing that I much prefer the analysis work of KISS grammar. We have done a bit of diagramming in the past, and will probably do more as time goes on. But I really feel that the sentence analysis makes better sense for now. Full-fledged diagramming can wait.

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We have used what we've learned in diagramming in "the real world": when reading the Declaration of Independence, my older was flummoxed by certain parts until he began to diagram the sentences in his mind. It was much clearer then. In addition, when he is writing papers, and a sentence is unclear, I will ask him to diagram it and see if he can "find" the error himself. With diagramming, he often can.

 

 

I agree that the skills learned while diagramming are extremely helpful for reading complex texts. Parsing and MCT 4-level analysis (which are both great) do not emphasize the relationship between the phrases, clauses, and modifiers and the words they modify. So they are not as helpful as diagramming (where you attach the modifiers visually to the part of the sentence they modify) when trying to figure out the meaning of a complicated passage. Contemporary writing does not rely heavily on dependent clauses and phrases, but if you wish to read and understand historical. Though once you fully understand diagramming, you don't always have to draw the diagram to understand the sentence, you should be able to do it in your head. It is a tool that develops the visualization of the relationship between sentence parts.

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But honestly, I'm starting to question whether he will ever use what he's learning, and justifying all the time we spend on it is getting more and more difficult. Any advice??

 

How much time, say, per week, are you spending on it? I just ask, because we just do it as it comes up in R&S grammar. I know others use books specifically written to teach diagraming. Anyway, doing it with R&S hasn't caused it to take up tons of time each week.

 

I do think it comes in handy in so many ways. I agree with all the reasons other posters said.

 

But most children aren't going to spontaneously use their diagramming skills this way.

 

Here's a funny story about my 13yo son. The other day he *jokingly* said to me, "Mom, you've ruined reading for me, by making me learn grammar and diagraming! Every time I see a mistake in reading, I have to stop and puzzle it out, and then the story gets ruined for me!" I was :lol:. And then I told him that sometimes it's useful to sit and puzzle out mistakes, and sometimes it's better to just sink into the story and not worry so much about the mistakes. :D Kind of like how I wouldn't correct a friend's grammar when she's talking to me. It just kind of slides on by, because I'm concentrating on my friend, not on her grammar.

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My daughter has complete CLE through grade 7 LU 707. She has taken practice tests for the SAT writing section and missed 1-2 questions on each. She credits diagramming for understanding proper sentence structure. Sure a high SAT score isn't the same thing as a practical skill. But, it opens lots of doors. HTH.

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We used diagramming just this morning, she was trying to figure out what made one paragraph on a subject 'sound better' than another paragraph by a different author on the exact same subject. "Diagram the subjects in your head," I suggested. That helped her realize that in the 'boring' paragraph, every subject consisted of ONLY either a proper name or 'he.' All the 'action' happened in the predicate for every sentence. That did more to help her realize WHY it's good to mix up your sentence structure than anything I could have said.

 

It's probably not 100% necessary. But it's so useful for structural problems! I can't imagine not teaching it, I use it all the time at work to understand what these silly lawyers are trying to say ;-)

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Ditto on the time issue. We've never spent more than 5 minutes a day, mercy. We just pick *1* of the sentences we parsed and diagram it. That's ALL you need to do. One sentence with understanding is plenty. Do that a couple times a week and let it add up.

 

I find that my kids need to diagram more than just one sentence in order to understand the grammar being taught, so I assign them a whole set of diagrams from a R&S lesson. This might include anywhere from four to eight sentences. I myself am going through R&S 8 right now, and making myself do ALL the diagram exercises, because it helps me to understand the grammar lesson/concept better. This understanding would not come for me or my kids if we only did one sentence in each lesson that contained diagraming.

 

I only mentioned time because I was imagining the OP spending several hours per week at it. But the way we do it does not add up to hours per week - maybe an hour total? Many times less.

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Is there a strong curriculum that teaches diagramming? We are in R&S 6 and while it teaches some diagramming, I find myself constantly saying, "well what about that word...where would it go?" because it hasn't taught everything yet! I am wondering if there is something more straightforward out there that might help us do what you are all talking about: analyzing sentences in what you are writing or reading for grammatical accuracy.

Brownie

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Yes, often. :D Diagramming is a logic skill. I taught it to dc when they were younger, but it didn't really click until they were a bit older. Now it is a great tool.

 

I use it in my writing instruction and correction with them. We discuss sentences we see around us. Mostly, though, I see them using it indirectly in the fact that they are able to break apart language in general, even without the diagram.

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We have used what we've learned in diagramming in "the real world": when reading the Declaration of Independence, my older was flummoxed by certain parts until he began to diagram the sentences in his mind. It was much clearer then. In addition, when he is writing papers, and a sentence is unclear, I will ask him to diagram it and see if he can "find" the error himself. With diagramming, he often can.

 

This is why you diagram - to edit.

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It's a good workout for your brain.

 

That's enough for me. No one ever asks when they are going to use what they learn at the gym. They work out because they know it's good for them. Diagramming is good for the brain even if your dc "never uses it." (Which I suspect is untrue anyway; learning to diagram teaches kids how to structure sentences correctly, so they don't need to diagram them, kwim?)

 

Any advice??

 

Don't try to justify it. If you think it's important for your dc to spend time diagramming, then tell them they have to do it because you say so. If you don't think it's important, don't make them do it.

 

There are great writers out there who don't know how to diagram, and they're doing just fine!

 

I would like to speak to this. I used to be an editor. There are lots of people who think they are great writers but aren't. There are lots of people who think overblown, overly complex sentences crammed full of big words make good writing. It doesn't. There were tons of writers I edited who were in serious need of learning how to diagram so they could see that their sentences were not concise, clear, and effective. What you child is saying here is the equivalent of, "But everyone else is [not] doing it!" to which I, the meanest mom in the west, would respond, "Too bad you got stuck with me for a mom/teacher."

 

My dd17 is an ETL student (I made that up; it means English as a third language). None of her schools have ever taught diagramming. I have not taught her to do it for various reasons of my own that I won't go into here, but MY knowledge of diagramming helps me justify why I am having her correct errors in her papers when I edit them. I can draw her a picture and say, "That right there is why what you did is wrong." She doesn't care or understand, but since it's clear I know what I am talking about, she will make the change. Learning to diagram will help your dc help others. It's a public service! ;)

 

Tara

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Okay....I went to a private Christian school when I was a child and we were made to do pages of Abeka grammar. Pages of Abeka grammar means..PAGES OF DIAGRAMMING! Seriously, I hated it! However I know sentences front, back and sideways. When taking placement tests for college classes and/or standardized tests I have always scored almost perfect scores and I attribute this to all of that diagramming. I believe diagramming really taught me the "meat" of grammar and gave me the tools to master the subject. I am very thankful for this:) Hope that helps someone who is wondering if it is a waste of time!

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Have you ever said to dc, "Now, aren't you glad you learned to diagram??? Isn't that skill coming in handy??" I haven't; and I've been hsing for 8 years. Ds brought up the question again this morning..."When am I ever going to need this except in English class?? This is such a waste of my time. There are great writers out there who don't know how to diagram, and they're doing just fine!" So, I answered with the typical "This is teaching you about sentence patterns and how to recognize a correct/incorrect sentence. It's a good workout for your brain. This puts you light years ahead of your peers in writing skills, etc." But honestly, I'm starting to question whether he will ever use what he's learning, and justifying all the time we spend on it is getting more and more difficult. Any advice??

 

There are also some talented musicians who never needed a day of lessons.

 

But there are many competent and talented musicians who benefit daily from the repetitive and systematic lessons in their past.

 

I don't sit down and diagram sentences. But the deep understanding of how sentences hang together has definitely been of good use. I use it when I write in English, when I study the Bible, and when I study other languages.

 

No one plays scales in concert. But scales and exercises do improve playing of "real" music.

 

I really like the expanation SWB gives of how diagraming aids in determining why a sentence doesn't sound right.

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I've really enjoyed reading all your responses! Some of you asked which program he's using - it's Analytical Grammar. He's almost finished with the first season. Grammar is actually quite easy for him, and he always makes A's - sometimes A+'s on the tests. But, he is my "efficient" son and wasting time (if he sees it as such) drives him insane! I'll be reading him lots of these responses.

 

-I think what I really need is a book on diagramming that SHOWS some application of the skill. Does that exist? Did SWB's ALL do that? All the texts we've used never address WHY you need to learn it. For example, Deniseibase said it helped dd to analyze 2 paragraphs using diagramming to see the difference between a boring paragraph and an interesting one. I know SWB pulled sentences (bad ones) from her students and used diagramming to show the problems. If any of you smart ladies want to publish a book that shows the practical application of diagramming, I would be first in line to buy it! :D

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Is there a strong curriculum that teaches diagramming? We are in R&S 6 and while it teaches some diagramming, I find myself constantly saying, "well what about that word...where would it go?" because it hasn't taught everything yet! I am wondering if there is something more straightforward out there that might help us do what you are all talking about: analyzing sentences in what you are writing or reading for grammatical accuracy.

Brownie

 

Get the Rod and Staff handbook. It's not very expensive, and it covers everything.

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-I think what I really need is a book on diagramming that SHOWS some application of the skill. Does that exist? Did SWB's ALL do that? All the texts we've used never address WHY you need to learn it. For example, Deniseibase said it helped dd to analyze 2 paragraphs using diagramming to see the difference between a boring paragraph and an interesting one. I know SWB pulled sentences (bad ones) from her students and used diagramming to show the problems.

 

And that's exactly how we *use* diagraming. When my kids write paragraphs, if a sentence/clause/phrase sounds "off," we diagram it to find the grammatical error. Most of the time they can figure out how to fix the problem, and thus, they end up with a much better-sounding sentence - one that says exactly what they had wanted it to say.

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Diagramming also helps a child when they start reading heavier, more difficult material. It teaches them to break a sentence down and take it word by word...a necessary skill when reading material that is really challenging. Dow e ever diagram anything in real life? No, but recognizing that there are many ways to create sentences is helpful and you start seeing the effects when writing and the natural flow begins to be less awkward. I see it as more of a tool to assist a student to become a better writer and reader, but it is not a skill they will use in the real world.

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Here is a quote from my history professor friend:

 

"I met one of my thesis students on Monday to discuss her introduction and first chapter. She is very bright but is a master of the passive voice and circumlocution. So I ask her to tell me the subject and verb in her first sentence. She can't do it. I asked her, as I ask all my students, whether she ever learned to diagram sentences. None of them ever has, and neither has she. I gave her a style manual and told her I was going to be paying close attention to her subjects and verbs. It turns out that if no one ever teaches them the parts of speech, they never learn them. It also turns out that if they don't know the parts of speech, they can't manipulate the relationships between words effectively, so they can't write well."

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It's like musical scales and exercises

There are also some talented musicians who never needed a day of lessons.

 

But there are many competent and talented musicians who benefit daily from the repetitive and systematic lessons in their past.

 

I don't sit down and diagram sentences. But the deep understanding of how sentences hang together has definitely been of good use. I use it when I write in English, when I study the Bible, and when I study other languages.

 

No one plays scales in concert. But scales and exercises do improve playing of "real" music.

 

I really like the expanation SWB gives of how diagraming aids in determining why a sentence doesn't sound right.

 

This. Excellent analogy.

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Here is a quote from my history professor friend:

 

"I met one of my thesis students on Monday to discuss her introduction and first chapter. She is very bright but is a master of the passive voice and circumlocution. So I ask her to tell me the subject and verb in her first sentence. She can't do it. I asked her, as I ask all my students, whether she ever learned to diagram sentences. None of them ever has, and neither has she. I gave her a style manual and told her I was going to be paying close attention to her subjects and verbs. It turns out that if no one ever teaches them the parts of speech, they never learn them. It also turns out that if they don't know the parts of speech, they can't manipulate the relationships between words effectively, so they can't write well."

 

Thank you for this!:001_smile:

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Have you ever said to dc, "Now, aren't you glad you learned to diagram??? Isn't that skill coming in handy??" I haven't; and I've been hsing for 8 years. Ds brought up the question again this morning..."When am I ever going to need this except in English class?? This is such a waste of my time. There are great writers out there who don't know how to diagram, and they're doing just fine!" So, I answered with the typical "This is teaching you about sentence patterns and how to recognize a correct/incorrect sentence. It's a good workout for your brain. This puts you light years ahead of your peers in writing skills, etc." But honestly, I'm starting to question whether he will ever use what he's learning, and justifying all the time we spend on it is getting more and more difficult. Any advice??

 

Well, in Latin, my 9yo ds is able to understand that he needs to change the word endings of nouns and adjectives in large part because he's picturing the diagraming frame from FLL 3 in his head.

 

My other kids are also studying German. I was trying to explain to the 13 yo that he needed to change adjective endings when they are directly modifying a noun, but not when they were predicate adjectives. This son has not done much diagraming. At one point, the 9 yo was explaining to him what a predicate adjective was.

 

Just one example.

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Is there a strong curriculum that teaches diagramming? We are in R&S 6 and while it teaches some diagramming, I find myself constantly saying, "well what about that word...where would it go?" because it hasn't taught everything yet! I am wondering if there is something more straightforward out there that might help us do what you are all talking about: analyzing sentences in what you are writing or reading for grammatical accuracy.

Brownie

 

We are using KISS Grammar. It has been an excellent fit for my son, who is dyslexic. I was worried about so much diagramming, but he positively thrives at it. I have to wonder if he doesn't see diagramming as a comforting pattern. Spelling and writing are so difficult for him, because letters have no rhyme or reason to him, but diagramming gives a pattern to that chaos. I am thrilled with how well he's doing with KISS.

 

There are also some talented musicians who never needed a day of lessons.

 

But there are many competent and talented musicians who benefit daily from the repetitive and systematic lessons in their past.

 

I don't sit down and diagram sentences. But the deep understanding of how sentences hang together has definitely been of good use. I use it when I write in English, when I study the Bible, and when I study other languages.

 

No one plays scales in concert. But scales and exercises do improve playing of "real" music.

 

I really like the expanation SWB gives of how diagraming aids in determining why a sentence doesn't sound right.

 

Nicely said.

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I don't really understand why grammar courses for elementary school teach diagramming.

 

I taught my girls how to construct syntax trees rather than how to diagram sentences (which seem weirdly old-fashioned). At least syntax trees can be used in later linguistics courses, can be used across languages, and can be used to show movement.... plus they show hierarchical relationships between phrases which isn't a part of diagramming.

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my ds(11) is finishing up KISS grammar this year. Last week, I taught him diagramming (including verbals) in 1 hour. He LOVED it. On his own volition, he has diagrammed some of his own very complicated sentences over the last 3 days.

 

If your child knows grammar, diagramming is just an add on. It is not hard to learn.

 

Ruth in NZ

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We diagram. Is dd11 happy? No way! Before her diagramming revolt, I didn't have actual reasons for teaching this skill; diagramming was something I actually liked doing.

 

Full Disclosure: My husband, with a bachelor's and a master's in English and a law degree, has never diagrammed. Not. One. Sentence. ;)

 

Here are a couple of the reasons I've come up with for diagramming.

 

1. (dd11's least favorite) Diagramming requires her to synthesize all the grammar definitions and skills she has learned. It makes her brain WORK, and lets me know when she is just memorizing definitions and patterns instead of comprehending the material.

 

2. In one of SWB's audio lectures she uses a couple of sentences from freshman papers with unwieldy sentences that don't make sense. Instead of saying "this makes no sense," she recommends diagramming so the student discovers which words or phrases have no justifiable function in the sentence. I always recommend all SWB's audio lectures, and I really wish I could remember which this was in. Look at the resource page on the WTM website; there are handouts available for the lectures.

 

If your child absolutely hates something like diagramming, only you can decide if the angst is because the task is a waste of time, is improperly understood, or because his or her brain just does not want to work. :lol:

 

Good Luck! :001_smile:

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  • 4 months later...

I can give you one more great reason for diagramming, on top of all that has already been said: If you can't get to sleep at night, and are lying awake, try diagramming sentences in your head, LOL. You will be asleep before you've even finished the first one.

 

The best textbook on diagramming I have found so far is;

http://www.amazon.com/Diagramming-Sentences-Deborah-White-Broadwater/dp/1580372821/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340513912&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=diagraming+sentences+bevorah+white+broadwatrer

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Rex Barks: Diagramming Sentences Made Easy is a good supplement.

 

Rex Barks is a great text, but I wouldn't put it in front of my 9 year old. It really helped me.

 

So far GWG is introducing diagramming, starting with level 3. FLL in book 4 (the only one I have seen) acts as if you already have the basics, so FLL 3, at the latest, will introduce it.

 

I love to diagram, even if I'm still only middling at it. I also see the delight that springs up in the eyes of a fellow-diagrammer when they find out I'm teaching my son. I feel like there is a kind of club awaiting him.

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