Gideon Grammar One with Videos

Gideon Grammar One with Videos

Grammar knowledge is the foundation to good writing and speaking. Poor grammar can lead to confusion.

Poor grammar skills are not well received by employers and college professors.  It is important to have proper grammar to get your point across properly in a speech, essay, or simple email.

This is why Gideon takes a direct approach to grammar to teach concepts using a separate curriculum from the reading comprehension and vocabulary.  While we have always had a grammar program, we have recently updated our Level One to include better explanation pages at the front of the booklets AND videos explaining the concepts covered.

The video form of these explanations can be easily accessed through the QR code on the cover or by using the given link shown there as well. All the Grammar One videos are in a playlist on our youtube channel.

After reading through the concepts, the students then practice these throughout the booklet to gain mastery. Practice makes perfect!
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As with all Gideon booklets (except math drill), all pages are graded by an instructor and corrected by the student.  If the student made too many mistakes, the booklet will be repeated at some point in the future.  The instructor can always offer more help if needed, but be sure to use these resources if the student needs extra help at home.

Many times the only thing the student needs to do is to reread the instructions and go a bit slower.

What are you biggest questions with grammar?  Leave a comment below!

Handwriting Matters

Handwriting Matters

With typing on keyboards becoming the norm and cursive seemingly becoming a lost art, does handwriting matter? Does it help us in any way? The article, How Handwriting Trains the Brain, at highlights new research which proves it be beneficial in cognitive skills for young and old alike.

The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development. It’s not just children who benefit. Adults studying new symbols, such as Chinese characters, might enhance recognition by writing the characters by hand, researchers say.

We apply this at Gideon in our curriculum. Students who are in our beginning reading level of learning letter names and sounds practice tracing the letters over and over. While mastery at that level isn’t determined by the writing abilities, we know it only aids their memory formation.

Letter TracingWord Tracing

Older students must write out vocabulary words five times to ensure each word’s spelling is solid in their minds.  Math students write the answers to addition facts over and over for memorization.

Adding Three - Commutative Property

Vocabulary Definition

Studies suggest there’s real value in learning and maintaining this ancient skill, even as we increasingly communicate electronically via keyboards big and small.

MRI scans were done on young students after varying instruction on letters.

In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and “adult-like” than in those who had simply looked at letters.
“It seems there is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two-dimensional things we see all the time,” says Karin Harman James, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Indiana University who led the study.

Another study had adults practice learning new symbols by hand or by keyboard. The results were similar to the children showing that everyone can benefit from pen and paper writing.

For those writing by hand, there was stronger and longer-lasting recognition of the characters’ proper orientation, suggesting that the specific movements memorized when learning how to write aided the visual identification of graphic shapes.

Handwriting has a different relationship with the brain as it is a more sophisticated skill and uses multiple steps to write a single letter instead of pressing a button for an entire letter to be formed instantly.

She says pictures of the brain have illustrated that sequential finger movements activated massive regions involved in thinking, language and working memory—the system for temporarily storing and managing information.

It seems creativity and thought processing may benefit from the hand movements as well.

And one recent study of hers demonstrated that in grades two, four and six, children wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.

Good handwriting can also affect the grading of an essay answer in a positive way. Several studies have shown bias for and against ideas based on how well it is written.

What to do if your child hates handwriting? Try getting the best of both worlds.  An app called abc PocketPhonics can help students learn to write with their finger or a stylus while keeping the appeal and convenience of technology. Apparently, there is even a cursive option as well. There’s hope for it yet!

Read the rest of this article here.

3 Methods to get kids to WANT to read and write

3 Methods to get kids to WANT to read and write

The Washington Post blog, Answer Sheet, ran an article about developing self-driven learning in students from a new book by veteran educator Larry Ferlazzo.  Daniel Pink describes in his book, Drive, that the development of intrinsic motivation needs autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Autonomy means “acting with choice” (p. 90). In the area of reading and writing, it could mean having options of books to read, topics to write about, and partners to work with in class.

Mastery of skills that require higher-order thinking is defined by Pink as “the desire to get better and better at something that matters” (p.111), and it is promoted through engagement (coming from the French root word meaning “attract the attention of”), not compliance. Students need to see what reading and writing well can do for them now and in the future.

Purpose is Pink’s final element for developing intrinsic motivation—the desire for some “greater objective . . . a cause greater than themselves” (p. 133). The one-sentence project, where students are asked to come up with a sentence about how they want their life described and remembered years from now, speaks to this point, and we can explore with students how reading and writing well might help them achieve their sentence.

Ferlazzo then lists ways to create these elements for reading and writing within students.

1)  Free Voluntary Reading or Sustained Silent Reading

In order for students to motivate themselves to read, multiple studies have shown that they need access to high-interest reading material, ideally in a well-stocked classroom library.  In addition to access, students need choice in what they will read. By providing access and choice, students gain a sense of power, and once students feel empowered they are more motivated to read.

We are always most motivated to learn about things that interest us.  What is your student into?  Animals? Rockets? Non-fiction? Fiction?  Encourage your children to pick out the books they are interested in reading — even if it seems too hard for their reading level.  You can look over it and discuss difficult vocabulary or topics with them.

Give your child time to read on their own and get lost in a book.  I know I can read for hours when interested – even if it’s for work and not for pleasure.  I believe this desire was fed when I was a pre-teen reading all The Babysitter’s Club books for hours which no one would likely say have classical literature value.  The love of reading though was developed and has stayed with me into adulthood.

 2) Read a Book to a Younger Child

Having students read a book to a younger child can achieve two results—helping students develop a sense of purpose (discussed earlier in this chapter) connected to reading and strengthening prosody—rhythm, intonation, and fluency.

3) Writing Frames

Sometimes when students are faced with a blank page, they freeze. Giving students structures for writing can be motivational. However, when taken too far, or when taught as the only way to write, writing formulas can be detrimental to students’ growth as writers. When used correctly, formulas and strategies can help students to find their voices and motivate them to write..  Research has shown that one of the key elements necessary for intrinsic motivation is a sense of self-efficacy, or competence. Our students will be more likely to want to write if they feel confident in their ability to do so competently.

There are a variety of acronyms for structured paragraph writing to help students: ABC, PQC, PEA, SSE, PEE. We have found ABC and PQC to be effective in helping students to start their writings. Using the ABC format, students Answer the question; Back it up with a quote or other evidence; make a Connection to an experience or another text. If the teacher is working on quote integration or using quotations from text as evidence, then PQC is a good start: Make a Point, Quote from the text supporting your point., Make a Comment or a Connection to your personal experience, another text, or some other knowledge.

You can develop their writing at home with the books they have picked out to read for pleasure.  Skim through the book to find a dilemma or decision that relates to the topic.  Ask students what their response would be and why.  Remind them the ‘why’ should include evidence from the book – maybe a quote or paraphrasing of facts and a connection to something in their own lives or another book they’ve read or even a movie they have seen.

Don’t require these to be very long at first.  Build up to longer paragraphs and reports as they continue to do it.  With our Gideon reading curriculum, our first creative writing prompt is a cartoon picture.  The students are asked to write one sentence describing the picture.  Just one!  In the next level, we ask them to write two.  Later, they are given three vocabulary words and asked to write a three sentence story using those words.  Structure plus a slow build-up goes a long way to developing creative writing.


Write 1 sentence.
Write 2 sentences.

Read the rest of this article for additional methods or get his book.

Need to help a struggling reader build his vocabulary?  Read this.

Let's get started.

Contact us today to receive more information about your selected center. That’s one step closer to mastery!

Real Life 101: How Do We Make Students Aware of the Working World?

Real Life 101: How Do We Make Students Aware of the Working World?

In this blog post at, Illina Garon discusses how her many of her 10th grade students don’t believe they will need math or English for their future jobs.

I was incredulous. “You want to be astronauts, and you think you’re not going to need math?” I turned to the actress. “Or English?”


No, they told me. They were certain that most of what they were learning in high school was totally irrelevant to their future career choices. Except for a few kids who muttered “Yo, these naive people are making me tight!” and rolled their eyes, my 10th graders seemed confident in their position.

I was asked many times while teaching Algebra I when this would used in the ‘real world’.  While I wished I had researched more about what certain careers require to give them more reasons, I used the argument that I didn’t want to limit them in whatever they wanted to do.  Mastering Algebra I would open up many more opportunities.  It is difficult to know what you want to do at age 15.  How much harder and longer is the road to become an engineer with a weak math background?  I believe it can still be done, but many would be discouraged and go down a different, easier path.  Engineering is not better than the career not needing math, but I don’t want it blocked off to those would want it due to lack of foresight.

Beyond the inherent frustration, this conversation showed me something I hadn’t realized before. I’ve long advocated for alternatives to the traditional “college for all” academic path, such as trade and career-tech programs (welding, auto mechanics, carpentry, cosmetics, etc.) But I’ve realized the students also need a crash course in career awareness–specifically, letting them know what careers are even out there (many careers such as IT, accounting, engineering, or hospitality management, because of their lack of intrinsic visibility in the kids’ daily lives or in TV, are often off their radar), and what these careers require, both in skills and in day-to-day activities. The fact that my 10th graders do not realize that being an astronaut requires math is, I think, almost as serious a problem as whatever deficits they may have in the subject to begin with.

Read the rest of this blog post here.


10 Steps Toward Better Writing

While at Gideon we don’t focus on writing long essays, we do recognize the need for this skill.  In high school and college, you’ll need to be able to write two to ten (TEN?!) page papers.  Don’t think being a STEM based major will allow you to avoid them either.  While you can side step philosophy if you want, one of your required elective classes will likely have you writing.  Since I was a math major, most of my classes didn’t require the lengthier ones; however, with an education minor, I still had a pull out a five pager every now and then.  My law school friend describes the requirement to easily whip out a paper of twelve pages overnight with much longer ones such as 30+ in a week.

If you don’t have your own personal writing tutor, check out this article by Dustin Wax with tips for better writing. I wish I had these tips when I was in high school during AP English.  I had my father proofread my papers, and they were generally a red hot mess after he handed back his marked revisions.  Oh the revisions!  As the years pass though, all those tweaks for better writing have served me well.

Writing well is easily one of the most sought-after and useful skills in the business world. Ironically, it is one of the rarest and most undervalued skills among students, and few professors have the time, resources, or skills to teach writing skills effectively.  What follows are a handful of tips and general principles to help you develop your writing skills, which will not only improve your grades (the most worthless indicator of academic progress) but will help develop your ability to think and explain the most difficult topics. Although directed at students, most of this advice applies equally well to any sort of writing; in the end, good writing is not limited to one context or another.

Some things he mentions that you may not have thought of are:

3. Start in the middle. One of the biggest problems facing writers of all kinds is figuring out how to start. Rather than staring at a blank screen until it’s burned into your retinas trying to think of something awe-inspiring and profound to open your paper with, skip the introduction and jump in at paragraph two. You can always come back and write another paragraph at the top when you’re done — but then again, you might find you don’t need to. As it turns out, the first paragraph or so are usually the weakest, as we use them to warm up to our topic rather than to do any useful work.


8. Focus on communicating your purpose. Revise your paper at least once, focusing on how well each line directs your readers towards the understanding you’ve set out to instill in them. Every sentence should direct your reader towards your conclusion. Ask yourself, “Does this sentence add to my argument or just take up space? Does it follow from the sentence before, and lead into the following sentence? Is the topic of each paragraph clear? Does each sentence in the paragraph contribute to a deeper understanding of the paragraph’s topic?” Revising your paper is where the magic happens — when you’re done with your first draft, your understanding of your subject will be much greater than it was when you started writing; use that deeper knowledge to clarify and enrich your writing. Revision should take about the same time as writing — say 15 – 30 minutes a page.


10. Conclude something. Don’t confuse a “conclusion” with a “summary”. The last paragraph or two should be the culmination of your argument, not a rehash of it. Explain the findings of your research, propose an explanation for the data presented, point out avenues for future research, or point out the significance of the facts you’ve laid out in your paper. The conclusion should be a strong resolution to the paper, not a weak recapitulation tacked on to pad out the page count.

Check out the rest of his 10 tips HERE.

Why Students Should Learn Cursive (and Math Facts and Word Roots)

Yes, Yes, and Yes.  I could not agree more!

In this article from TIME, an English teacher describes her negativity towards being required to have her students memorize word roots only to discover how beneficial it was.  And that they didn’t hate it!  Fancy that!

In an account of her experience in English Journal, she wrote, “asking students to do rote memorization was the antithesis of what I believed in most.” Still, her department head insisted on it, so Kail went forward with the attitude, “I’ll do it, but I won’t like it.” She was sure her students wouldn’t like it, either.

Suzanne Kail’s experience is instructive. As soon as she began teaching her students the Greek and Latin origins of many English terms — that the root sta means “put in place or stand,” for example, and that cess means “to move or withdraw” — they eagerly began identifying familiar words that incorporated the roots, like “statue” and “recess.”

Kail’s students started using these terms in their writing, and many of them told her that their study of word roots helped them answer questions on the SAT and on Ohio’s state graduation exam. (Research confirms that instruction in word roots allows students to learn new vocabulary and figure out the meaning of words in context more easily.) For her part, Kail reports that she no longer sees rote memorization as “inherently evil.” Although committing the word roots to memory was a necessary first step, she notes, “the key was taking that old-school method and encouraging students to use their knowledge to practice higher-level thinking skills.”
Why memorization has gotten such a bad rap, I’ll never know as we all hear about how Michael Jordan got to legendary status doing thousands of free throws (muscle memorization).  Your brain is no different.  Want to get better?  Practice, practice, practice.  You don’t need to analyze the logic behind why 5 x 6 = 30 each and every time. After learning the concept initially, you need to just know it.  30.  No finger counting.  30.
The articles continues with how memorization of math facts is crucial to higher math.

That’s also true of another old-fashioned method: drilling math facts, like the multiplication table. Although many progressive educators decry what they call “drill and kill” (kill students’ love of learning, that is), rapid mental retrieval of basic facts is a prerequisite for doing more complex, and more interesting, kinds of math. The only way to achieve this “automaticity,” so far as anyone has been able to determine, is to practice. And practice. Indeed, many experts who have observed the wide gap between the math scores of American and Chinese students on international tests attribute the Asian students’ advantage to their schools‘ relentless focus on memorizing math facts. Failure to do so can effectively close off the higher realms of mathematics: A study published in the journal Math Cognition found that most errors made by students working on complex math problems were due to a lack of automaticity in basic math facts.

If you want to see an example all the skills needed to solve complex fractions and algebra equations, click HERE to download Gideon’s: Why Master Lower Levels.


Read the rest of the article with other effective old school methods such as handwriting, argumentation, and reading aloud to students.:


Also for more articles like this, check out who lead me to it initially.