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Throughout our years of using Rod and Staff’s grammar books here at Excelsior Classes, we’ve fielded questions and complaints regarding our selection of the curriculum for use in our middle-grade courses. We hear you! We acknowledge that Rod and Staff language is antiquated in places, that diagramming can be tedious and scares students, and that the curriculum is totally cheesy at times. Would you believe us if we said that these are some of the reasons we keep Rod and Staff at Excelsior? Don’t throw tomatoes at me yet. At least listen to the rationale first.

Antiquated Language

It’s true that Rod and Staff contains antiquated language and scenarios. Your student will encounter KJV language, sentences about farming, eradicated diseases, and names prefaced with “Brother” or “Sister.” While this may seem like a deterrent, encountering unfamiliar language and scenarios actually challenges students and allows them to thoroughly apply the concepts they are learning. Such exposure forces students to think about the sentence and how the language functions within it. Apart from that, even minimal exposure to KJV language prepares students for Shakespeare and other difficult texts they will encounter in high school and beyond. For example, students coming into English I who have already had some experience with King James language have an easier time making sense of and grasping the cadence of Romeo and Juliet or Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. (For further reading on the value of Shakespeare, check out this blog). If antiquated language is still a con for you, don’t fret; much of Rod and Staff is written in modern vernacular.

Zero Errors

Our teachers have experience with various grammar curriculums, and all of our teachers are firm in the quality of Rod and Staff. While other grammar curriculums contain many errors, Rod and Staff is error-free, which is both impressive and needed as errors cause unnecessary confusion for grammar students.

Scaffolding Structure

Beginning with nouns and working its way through the parts of speech, Rod and Staff grammar ensures students have a solid understanding of the building blocks of grammar. Rod and Staff teaches concepts as needed and circles back to them to solidify mastery. The curriculum is also consistent in presentation and approach so that new concepts are easier to learn. Finally, while the content builds each year, the sequence found in Rod and Staff books from year to year is parallel. For instance, if you have students in Intro to Language Arts and Language Arts II, they will follow the same progression and will likely be working on the same concepts (at different levels) at the same time. This parallel structure makes homework help easier. Finally, the scaffolding nature of Rod and Staff makes grammar instruction approachable across the board as it is well-balanced, appropriately challenging, and easily applied to writing.

Diagramming

Diagramming sentences gets its very own header. Yes, diagramming can feel daunting and tedious for students. Rod and Staff does a great job of easing students into diagramming, building upon diagrams gradually, and challenging students to think through the purpose of each word within a sentence. Though some people think that diagramming is pointless, it is scientifically proven that visuals help concepts stick, create connections, and even promote creativity. Diagramming sentences is no exception. Diagramming is both a practice and a visual map. It will help students become stronger writers as their interaction with language strengthens.

Ample Practice

Rod and Staff includes a plethora of practice. Teachers assign only a small portion of practice exercises to complete outside of class. If a student is struggling and needs more encounters with a concept, students may go back to their text, read through rules and countless examples, and complete additional practice. These resources are readily available and easy to access.

Cost

Since parents must purchase books for our classes, we try to be conscious of the amount of money our families have to spend. Rod and Staff remains cost-effective. Another important consideration is that it is accessible to our families, including those who live overseas.

Content

Yep. It’s cheesy sometimes. There’s no question about it. BUT, there is absolutely no questionable content for our young learners.

Foreign Language Acquisition

Grammar knowledge is a transferable skill. If a student has limited grammar knowledge coming into learning a new language, they are at a disadvantage. Rod and Staff sets students up for success in regards to foreign language learning. An acute understanding of the building blocks of the English language helps students acquire other languages easier than students who do not have a foundation in grammar. True, there are some variations in structure across languages, but a noun is a noun in every language. As an example, knowledge of the English use of gerunds will help Spanish-learning students remember when to add an -ando or -iendo to certain words functioning as gerunds in Spanish. Excelsior Classes’ very own Spanish teacher, Martha Phillips, adds, “Knowing what an infinitive is in English is also quite helpful in Spanish, as well as the difference between subject and object pronouns.” Rod and Staff effectively prepares students to encounter these concepts in other languages and use them accordingly.

Proven

Saving the best reason for last, Rod and Staff is proven. It just works. Our English teachers at Excelsior Classes have taught thousands of students from diverse backgrounds and abilities, and time and time again we have seen the effectiveness of Rod and Staff grammar. Students who enter from a public-school setting are able to grab hold of concepts and shore up their writing skills even without prior grammar instruction. Our teachers report that students coming from different grammar curriculums suddenly have an aha! moment, and grammar just clicks for them. Students who have continued into college have communicated the success of our grammar and composition programs. With patience and practice, we have seen the efficacy of Rod and Staff for our students, and we stand by it.

If you’d like to read more about grammar instruction, check out these blogs:

Do We Really Need to Study Grammar

Grammar Matters: The Far-Reaching Impact of Grammar Instruction

Selecting a Grammar Program