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Diagramming: Waste of Time or Not?


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I'm trying to decide if I want to drop diagramming. DS1 (9th grade) is almost done with Rod and Staff English 6 (we switched over in 7th grade after other programs weren't effective) and DS2 (6th grade) is almost done with Rod and Staff English 6. Both boys are retaining well, and DS1 has scored well on practice ACT exams (28-30). However, I am wondering if the time for DS1 would be better spent on something else. We have writing covered through IEW, which I am very happy with. His spelling could use more work. We finished up Apples and Pears in 7th grade, but maybe I should add Megawords in.

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Well, not a direct answer to your question, but usually by 9th grade, a student has learned all the grammar concepts needed to then apply those grammar concepts to learning a Foreign Language; proper sentence construction for any Public Speaking; and esp. in Writing (especial sentence construction in rough draft writing stage, and in revising/editing in the revision and proof-edit stages).

It looks like the student is a bit remedial at this stage, so if diagramming is a tool that is helping your student understand how to construct sentences, then sure, continue. However, if his sentence structures are sound with his writing, and he understands parts of speech to help with learning the Grammar of a foreign language, then I'd drop full-time formal Grammar, and maybe go with something to just provide light review plus practice of editing -- Grammar with a Giggle (gr. 6-8), or The Chortling Bard (gr. 9-12), perhaps? A paragraph a day that adds to a continuing story for practice of editing, but also grammar concepts review, plus 2 vocabulary words. Click on the "surprise me" option when you "Look Inside" at the Amazon links in order to see some of the actual short paragraphs.

And totally okay to keep chugging along all the way through high school with the Spelling, if it is needed. We used Megawords, plus an individualized spelling that I created for DS#2, all the way from grade 7 through grade 12, and it was a real help for him. Megawords provides great strategies for breaking words into syllable bites for spelling attack, but also is designed for older students, so the word lists have some good vocabulary words in there.

And -- that's an AWESOME ACT practice test score for a 9th grader! Good job! Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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I haven't had terribly much experience with this as a parent yet, but I found diagramming interesting enough as a student to do the basics voluntarily. At some point, though, it became more about the intricacies of the diagram than of the language, so I lost interest. I think it's very valuable to be able to discuss the grammar of a sentence and to see the roles of each word and phrase. If diagramming is helping, that's great. If the time and energy it is taking could be better spent on something else, by all means move on. It is only a tool, not an end in itself.

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We have found diagramming terrifically helpful. Oldest D'S used the skills he learned in sentence analysis to voluntarily diagram a sentence from his Scripture reading in order to better tease out it's meaning (the apostle Paul used a LOT of clauses! 😉) and seeing him do that made me a firm believer in its importance and effectiveness.

That being said, it's still just one tool in a student's tool box. It's a handy and effective tool that I personally wouldn't want them to be without, but that doesn't mean they can't get the job done without it.

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Obviously, now is the time to introduce these words from Gertrude Stein:

“I really do not know that anything has ever been more exciting than diagramming sentences.”


Gertrude Stein, Lectures in America

 

(diagramming the quote is optional...) 😉

 

One of my sons thinks that Gertrude needed to get out more.

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I would drop diagramming as a regular exercise.  However, occasionally it is useful to diagram a sentence from the student's own writing usually to illustrate why it needs to be changed (problems with parallel structure were a frequent reason here).

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Our hostess, SWB, thinks it is pretty important. But I don't know that it has to be important for everyone at every grade level...  https://welltrainedmind.com/a/why-diagramming-matters/?v=7516fd43adaa  I did a lot of diagramming when I was a kid but only got "so far" in it.  It was helpful to me because it kept me out of just being lazy and thinking I knew what I was doing when I couldn't prove it.  Sort of like when I taught high school English and kids would say, "I know what I want to say; I just don't know how to say it."  Ummmm, no you don't.  If you knew what you wanted to say you could say it.  You're not English-impaired.  KWIM?  Here I go, up on the soap box again.  :::climbs down:::

 

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On 9/21/2020 at 6:31 PM, JumpyTheFrog said:

I'm trying to decide if I want to drop diagramming. DS1 (9th grade) is almost done with Rod and Staff English 6 (we switched over in 7th grade after other programs weren't effective) and DS2 (6th grade) is almost done with Rod and Staff English 6. Both boys are retaining well, and DS1 has scored well on practice ACT exams (28-30). However, I am wondering if the time for DS1 would be better spent on something else. We have writing covered through IEW, which I am very happy with. His spelling could use more work. We finished up Apples and Pears in 7th grade, but maybe I should add Megawords in.

I don't love diagramming, but if you're only using R&S English for the grammar, I'd drop it. R&S is a pretty comprehensive English course, though; the writing really picks up in the seventh grade text, such that you could zoom through the grammar portions and do the rest; IOW, you'd drop IEW. I haven't checked out the scope and sequence of IEW, but I have done so with R&S, and it really is a comprehensive writing course.

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On 9/21/2020 at 6:31 PM, JumpyTheFrog said:

I'm trying to decide if I want to drop diagramming. DS1 (9th grade) is almost done with Rod and Staff English 6 (we switched over in 7th grade after other programs weren't effective) and DS2 (6th grade) is almost done with Rod and Staff English 6. Both boys are retaining well, and DS1 has scored well on practice ACT exams (28-30). However, I am wondering if the time for DS1 would be better spent on something else. We have writing covered through IEW, which I am very happy with. His spelling could use more work. We finished up Apples and Pears in 7th grade, but maybe I should add Megawords in.

Rod and Satff is more than diagramming. It also has solid writing exercises per SWB. I will say that my oldest dd did R&S through 8/9 and scored a nearly perfect ACT in English. 
 

I love Rod and Staff. IMO, it’s as open and go as English gets. My children feel about R&S Grammar like they do Saxon math, lol. I feel it’s worthwhile. We also do IEW. 
 

 I’ve told my recent kiddos when they are done with R&S 7 they can be done completely. 
 

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15 hours ago, BlsdMama said:

Rod and Satff is more than diagramming. It also has solid writing exercises per SWB. I will say that my oldest dd did R&S through 8/9 and scored a nearly perfect ACT in English. 

<snip>

 I’ve told my recent kiddos when they are done with R&S 7 they can be done completely. 
 

So although your older daughter did through grade 9, you think stopping after grade 7 is sufficient? Do you think it would've helped her ACT almost as much? Although I can't know for sure, I suspect even the grade 6 book has helped my DS tremendously with the practice ACT questions.

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55 minutes ago, JumpyTheFrog said:

So although your older daughter did through grade 9, you think stopping after grade 7 is sufficient? Do you think it would've helped her ACT almost as much? Although I can't know for sure, I suspect even the grade 6 book has helped my DS tremendously with the practice ACT questions.

Fwiw, the way to answer that is to look at the scope & sequence for the publisher. You want them to get through complex and compound sentences, verbals, etc. etc. If you see *redundancy* in the coverage, then you can assume the shift is in vocabulary, whatever. But you're probably going to find those last few levels are covering the meat you really want. 

My dd wasn't a grammar lover and we merely tolerated R&S. We went to Abeka in high school doing the same lick and a promise of only assigning *3* in each section. Like BlsdMama my dd had almost perfect ACT english scores. So I don't think it's *which* curriculum you use so much as sticking with it and getting through the material. If R&S covers it by the end of 8, that's fine. The stopping point is not your dc's age but when they either get through the material or spin their wheels so much it's no longer profitable.

My ds has significant language challenges, and we work *2 hours* a day almost on grammar. I kid you not. In Biblical terms, "you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood." LOL But I'm DESPERATE to get him through sentence complexity, gerunds, infinitives, etc. to make sure he can even understand middle school text by the end of high school. 

So wildly different kids, but both needing to get through that material. And you can see what is being covered in their scope and sequence and decide for yourself where your jump point is. I would rather *decrease the work* than to drop it. Diagram *1* of the 3 three exercises he does for the section. That's what I did with my dd. If he needs to do more, I wouldn't change what was working. But if you need to trim, that's another way.

Edited by PeterPan
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20 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

Fwiw, the way to answer that is to look at the scope & sequence for the publisher. You want them to get through complex and compound sentences, verbals, etc. etc.

I understand the idea. However, my own K-12 schools did a lousy job with grammar, so I don't even know what to look for in a scope and sequence. Much of what R&S 6 covers is new to me. For example, I already knew about -ly adverbs, but I had no idea that adverbs also tell when, where, or to what extent. I only knew what direct and indirect objects were because I took so many years of Spanish. Nobody ever taught us the difference between lay/lie, etc.

I am thankful I am able to give my boys a better grammar foundation that I had.

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26 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

My dd wasn't a grammar lover and we merely tolerated R&S. We went to Abeka in high school doing the same lick and a promise of only assigning *3* in each section.

What did you like better about Abeka?

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3 hours ago, JumpyTheFrog said:

I understand the idea. However, my own K-12 schools did a lousy job with grammar, so I don't even know what to look for in a scope and sequence. Much of what R&S 6 covers is new to me. For example, I already knew about -ly adverbs, but I had no idea that adverbs also tell when, where, or to what extent. I only knew what direct and indirect objects were because I took so many years of Spanish. Nobody ever taught us the difference between lay/lie, etc.

I am thankful I am able to give my boys a better grammar foundation that I had.

So I'll tell you a secret. They're going to go beyond where you are! The materials will help you get there. It's why I suggested looking at the scope & sequence, because your question reflects that you didn't realize how much *more* there was to cover. 

It's OK that you don't know this stuff! I worked at a university and handled transcripts for kids of a homeschooling mom who had *never completed high school*. This lady had kids making it through calculus, I kid you not!! So don't sell yourself short. Keep going, get through the sequence, see where you get. You'll learn along with them and it will be great.

3 hours ago, JumpyTheFrog said:

What did you like better about Abeka?

It wasn't R&S? :biggrin: Seriously, we just didn't like R&S. We live near amish country btw. I guess the whole charm of it is lost on us. Abeka was fine. I'm not saying switch. I'm saying if you pick one thing and STICK WITH IT, you're probably going to be happy you did. And it's fine to keep including grammar as part of their english for high school. They did when I was in school, mercy. The work you're doing is improving their reading level, their critical thinking, and likely their test scores. They'll thank you later. :smile:

Edited by PeterPan
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On 9/22/2020 at 7:09 PM, JumpyTheFrog said:

I am strongly considering dropping the diagramming to focus on writing until the spring, since writing well is a higher priority. 

How much time are your dc spending diagramming and doing the R&S exercises? What if you trimmed them and only diagrammed 1-3 of the sentences from the section instead of all of them? We did diagramming together on a whiteboard.

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On 9/22/2020 at 7:24 AM, Momto6inIN said:

We have found diagramming terrifically helpful. Oldest D'S used the skills he learned in sentence analysis to voluntarily diagram a sentence from his Scripture reading in order to better tease out it's meaning (the apostle Paul used a LOT of clauses! 😉) and seeing him do that made me a firm believer in its importance and effectiveness.

The Naked Bible Podcast had an episode about the usefulness of studying grammar for understanding the Bible. I don't remember the details, just that the guest made a convincing case.

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On 9/26/2020 at 10:26 AM, PeterPan said:

I would rather *decrease the work* than to drop it. Diagram *1* of the 3 three exercises he does for the section. 

I think the problem is that about most of the lessons have about 8-10 sentences to diagram together plus an equal number to diagram alone. This is  in addition to all the questions we answer orally. Since one lesson can easily take 30-45 minutes, I wind up cutting it in half so we still have time for literature and/or writing. This is one reason why we have been working on the grade 6 book for two years. I am pleased with his retention, which was not great with other grammar programs, but it just takes too long. (The grade 5 book with my 6th grader isn't as bad.) Maybe I will cut the diagramming in half.

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2 hours ago, .;.;.;.; said:

You could always just reduce it to a couple of 15-minute review sessions a couple of times a week instead of dropping it altogether.  

I am trying to figure out if there is a way to combine my 9th and 6th graders for grammar, using Rod and Staff or something similar. Any ideas?

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1 hour ago, JumpyTheFrog said:

The Naked Bible Podcast had an episode about the usefulness of studying grammar for understanding the Bible. I don't remember the details, just that the guest made a convincing case.

Diagramming in *greek* would do that, yes. Diagramming in english would be odd. I mean, knock yourself out, but no. It's not even legit, because english doesn't carry over the case endings that let you know what the relationships in the words are. You could be diagramming something in english that wasn't actually written that way AT ALL.

So yes, students in Bible college diagram their greek, very important. But I think only diagram the english of the text if it floats your boat. And just to make it easier to diagram the greek, haha, here's software that will do it for you. You just select your text and boom you get to see the outlines. MAGIC. https://www.accordancebible.com/store/details/?pid=GNT-T.diagram

Wow, it has been a while, but I think when dh was doing some classes I helped him with this. I don't remember everything. Oh I remember. The idiot instructor (newbie, later acknowledged he goofed) of the class thought he was making it "easy" by telling them to diagram a passage in *english* to help exegesis. I pointed out he couldn't POSSIBLY diagram that passage properly in english because the translation didn't reflect the greek. So he got it done, but let's just say he had a very hard time, hahaha. And the diagram he ended up with (which was spot on accurate btw, because I rock) did NOT match what he would have done with initial impressions. You have to read the greek for it to be accurate. Or hack the greek and use interlinears, haha. And that's not a middle/high school project. 

But that said, someone who knows their greek (which I don't, I'm hack) could read it and pick verses where it would work and be instructive, sure. 

How did we end up on this rabbit trail??? LOLOLOL

1 hour ago, JumpyTheFrog said:

I know there are other ways to parse sentences instead of diagramming. Are any of them more efficient (time-wise) to use?

The easiest thing is just to do less. You'd spend more time relearning another system. Shurley has a marking system, but it doesn't go high enough for your needs. MCT has a system, but again why bother? Just diagram less. We did ours on a 17X20 whiteboard together. Nuts, I even did it with a russian speaker I was tutoring in english. She'd have trouble understanding relationships without the inflections so we would diagram. Do less sentences with more engagement. One a day. That's it. That's like 2 minutes.

But if you want something else, MCT would be it. More of a pain that anything to learn that and tack it onto R&S, but whatever.

Is it not going well? Is he not *understanding* what he's doing? 

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1 hour ago, JumpyTheFrog said:

I am trying to figure out if there is a way to combine my 9th and 6th graders for grammar, using Rod and Staff or something similar. Any ideas?

If both are doing the 6th grade book and the 6th grader is doing ok, there's no issue. If there are social reasons, put one in Abeka the other in R&S.

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My son hated doing things just to do them.  If there were ten sentences to diagram, I had him show me 2 or 3 (probably #s 5 and 9 of the 10).  If he got them correct, we were done for that lesson.  If not, he did one or two more to show me that he had learned what he needed to learn.

My particular son remembers lessons really well, so doing the same thing over and over just because someone randomly decided on "10" was irksome to him.  I decided that "irk my son by requiring pointless seat work" was not part of my educational goals so I tried not to do it.

I did *annoy* and *irritate* him when I made him sit down and do some schoolwork--but there is a difference between doing nothing and doing something over and over again just because someone decided that ten was the right number of sentences. 

 

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We did do diagramming.  DS1 kept up with latin after that and the grammar was helpful for translation, which was difficult.  DD really didn't have any apparent need for it, but now in college is studying education and focusing on English LA.  She's in an upper level grammar class and is earning top scores, so I think it paid off that we diagrammed for those years.  

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On 9/28/2020 at 7:39 PM, PeterPan said:

Diagramming in *greek* would do that, yes. Diagramming in english would be odd. I mean, knock yourself out, but no. It's not even legit, because english doesn't carry over the case endings that let you know what the relationships in the words are. You could be diagramming something in english that wasn't actually written that way AT ALL.

I don't remember if the episode mentioned diagramming (in any language) or not. The general idea what that having more grammar knowledge in English makes it go better.

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On 9/28/2020 at 6:35 PM, JumpyTheFrog said:

I know there are other ways to parse sentences instead of diagramming. Are any of them more efficient (time-wise) to use?

I big puffy heart love MCT's 4-level analysis, but I didn't teach diagramming.  You'd have to figure out if learning a new system would end up taking more time than what you'd save...  

That's kind of where I stand with diagramming. I'm a huge grammar geek, just the kind of person who should love diagramming, but I have no interest in spending the time to figure it out when I already have a system that works. I find the 4-level analysis elegant.  Diagramming looks messy to me, lol.

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Piping up from Well-Trained Mind Press because I haven't seen our grammar curriculum mentioned.  

We offer elementary and intermediate grammar curriculum, and a couple of resource books for instructor support.  FAQs here.  The two resource books can be used with any vendor's grammar / writing curriculum--

The Grammar Guidebook

The Diagramming Dictionary which also has an FAQ that tells you more about the book

You can read the descriptions if you go to these links, and on each page, you can see a sample of the book by clicking the purple Sample button. The FAQs in this section have even more information for those who are interested.  

First Language Lessons levels 3 and 4 include sentence diagramming in the instruction.  Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind has even more practice sentences, which you can use to suit your time-available and preferences.  

 

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1 hour ago, Matryoshka said:

I big puffy heart love MCT's 4-level analysis, but I didn't teach diagramming.  You'd have to figure out if learning a new system would end up taking more time than what you'd save...  

That's kind of where I stand with diagramming. I'm a huge grammar geek, just the kind of person who should love diagramming, but I have no interest in spending the time to figure it out when I already have a system that works. I find the 4-level analysis elegant.  Diagramming looks messy to me, lol.

Hear, hear!

Funny story: When I started homeschooling, I started researching grammar programs.  DH asked me to please not make our son diagram sentences.  He hated that in school. I said sure, honey, no problem.  And placed my order for MCT. 🤣

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