With its gradual teaching style, multisensory approach to sentence analysis and affordable price, Winston Grammar can make the process of learning grammar easier and more approachable for all involved.
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What Is Winston Grammar?
Created by educator and author Paul R. Erwin, Winston Grammar is a curriculum that aims to help students learn the essentials of English grammar without the need for a lot of diagramming or writing.
Across its two main levels, Basic and Advanced, the program relies on a combination of incremental instruction, focused worksheet exercises and color-coded card work to help students master parts of speech, propositional phases, gerunds and more.
What Ages Or Grades Is Winston Grammar Intended For?
Winston Grammar is intended for students in grades 4-12, covering everything from introducing basic nouns, verbs and adjectives to identifying possessive adjectives, reflexives, present/past participles and more.
The program is largely split into two curricula, Basic Level and Advanced Level Winston Grammar.
|Level||Approximate Level of Instruction||Topics Covered|
|Basic||Elementary||Noun functions, parts of speech, prepositional phrases, modifiers, coordinating conjunctions, appositives, interjections|
|Advanced||Middle School and Up||Possessive adjectives, possessive nouns and pronouns, reflexives, interrogative pronouns, past & present participles, correlative conjunctions, infinitives, gerunds, relative pronouns, compound & complex sentences, embedded noun clauses|
In addition to these two levels, Winston Grammar also offers Word Works.
Although not the focus of this particular review, generally speaking Word Works is a more practically-oriented, workbook-like program that fits somewhere between Basic and Advanced and aims to help students with common errors in grammar, such as subject-verb agreement, personal pronoun functions, who/whom, comparatives and superlatives and more.
Although Winston Grammar is roughly aimed at students in grades 4+, it is important to keep in mind that it is a skill-based program that concerns itself with the mastery of certain grammar skills rather than focusing on any particular grade or age standards.
Consequently, its materials can be used by students of practically any age who are ready, willing and able to dive into a formal understanding of grammar and mechanics.
So long as they can understand and absorb some of the more abstract concepts that English grammar can involve, we feel Winston Grammar can be effectively used by precocious younger students as well as seniors or even post-high school students looking to brush up on the fundamentals.
That said, the company does not recommend beginning the Advanced course much before grade 7 or 8 as it mostly deals with high school level grammar topics, assumes students are already secure on their fundamentals and tends to be a longer (2 year) study.
It is also important to note that Winston Grammar is an incremental grammar program where lessons slowly build on one another.
Although the Advanced Level does offer a general review of important topics from the Basic Level, students will need to either take Basic first or otherwise be familiar with its content before proceeding.
This can be an issue for older students shifting into the program from another homeschool ELA program, as their scope and sequences may not exactly align.
Helpfully, Winston Grammar does offer a couple downloadable placement tests that can help parents determine if a student is ready to begin Basic or even skip Basic and continue to Advanced.
These placement tests are pretty straightforward downloadable PDF documents that are hosted on the company’s website, in addition to being printed in the materials themselves.
They consist of several examples of sentences that students use to identify and write out certain grammatical elements, as well as an answer key for parents.
One thing to note is that there is no real hard and fast rubric for scoring these tests and parents will have to use their best judgment as to how many and what types of mistakes are critical or limiting, which can be a bit tougher for those who have little experience in homeschooling and who may need to err on the side of caution.
What’s Included In Winston Grammar?
As far as English Language Arts and grammar curricula go, Winston Grammar is pretty compact and easy to manage.
In general, it consists of a Teacher’s Manual, a Student Workbook and a set of color coded clue cards that are used in the lessons.
There are also some supplemental workbooks available for the Basic and Advanced levels, should a student want or need some extra practice.
While Winston Grammar doesn’t feature quite as much of a selection of tools, crafts, CDs, charts and other learning materials compared to some other programs, it does make the program a little more easy to manage as there are fewer items for parents to buy, organize and keep track of throughout the year.
The Winston Grammar Teacher’s Manual, for both the Basic or Advanced Levels, contains pretty much everything a parent needs to conduct a lesson.
These soft cover, black and white books contain lesson plans, information about how to use the course materials, the reasoning behind its methodology, tips for teaching, brief explanations of concepts, in-lesson practice exercises, answers to worksheets and tests and more.
The first lesson is generally pretty well-scripted, providing parents with fairly detailed instructions on what to do during lessons, specific dialogues to use when explaining concepts or activities and, importantly, a sample or model lesson that can serve as the basis for the following lessons.
Subsequent lesson plans tend to be a bit less detailed and more to the point, expecting parents to be able to follow roughly the same procedure when helping students through their worksheets.
That said, the manuals almost always lay out key grammar ideas and concepts in a fairly simple and easy to understand way, usually in text boxes marked “Important Information For Students.”
Additionally, and when necessary, the Teacher’s Manual does periodically offer additional scripting and/or information to help parents explain or introduce particularly tricky concepts, which can be helpful.
While this structuring can make teaching a little more challenging for new homeschoolers, who may prefer a more completely scripted guide, it does allow parents a good deal of room to teach more naturally and put their own spin on things.
Because card-based activity plays a critical role in Winston Grammar lessons, the books are also illustrated.
In addition to sentence analysis, they frequently contain diagrams specifying the final arrangement of a lesson’s clue cards, which can be very useful as a check in making sure that no mistakes are made during a lessons’ instruction, as well as examples of how to introduce each new card.
One thing homeschooling parents should note is that the series is written somewhat like a traditional classroom resource.
As a result, it can make references to “teachers” and “students,” the use of chalkboards, overhead projectors and so on.
While certainly not a critical issue, this formatting can sometimes be an issue for some families who got into homeschooling to escape the traditional schooling mindset.
The core of the curriculum’s work, and where students will spend most of their time getting practice, are the student workbooks.
These black and white softcovers are pretty straightforward and contain about a year’s worth of weekly worksheets/
These worksheets contain various sentences with particular grammar elements that students analyze and break down using, first, their cards and, ultimately, various markers (such as underlines, checks, abbreviations and so on).
Consequently, the workbooks are noticeably less writing-intensive than most other grammar books that we’ve seen.
There are also a pre-test and a post-test at the beginning and end of each book, which can help to gauge student readiness and/or development over time.
One thing that parents should note is that, beyond giving students an idea of what to look for in each worksheet and how to mark them, there isn’t much in the way of direct grammatical instruction or guidance in these workbooks and so they will need to be used alongside the Teacher’s Manual.
Consequently, unless a student is capable of teaching themselves from the Teacher’s Manual (which is written to parents/teachers), doing the card work exercises and then directing themselves to their own worksheet, we would say that Winston Grammar can’t really be said to be a self-study program.
They’re also not the most exciting to look at, being heavily focused on the learning rather than using a lot of colorful illustrations or cartoons as some others, such as First Language Lessons or The Good and The Beautiful’s Language Arts Series.
While they aren’t the most exciting to look at, their relative simplicity does make it easier to keep students on track and there really isn’t much that can cause them to get lost or distracted during lessons, something that parents of wigglier students can certainly appreciate.
Finally, an important feature in Winston Grammar is its use of hands-on card work as part of its grammar instruction.
Each level of Winston Grammar comes with its own set of flashcard-like “clue cards,” which are used extensively during lessons to help students learn to identify parts of speech in sentences.
Some cards are larger (4″x6″) cards, being almost like little charts that provide guidance and generally help students figure out what to do when analyzing a sentence.
For example, the first card may get a student to identify the subject of a sentence.
The bottom of that card would then tell them to go to the second card, which would then ask them if the verb in the sentence is an action or linking verb.
Depending on the answer, the student would then be directed to one of two other cards, which would then have them look for either the object of the sentence or a predicate or nominative case.
Those cards would then direct them, based on their answers, to another set of cards and so on until a sentence’s parts of speech have been analyzed in a systematic way.
The majority, however, are index card-sized “clue cards,” which are double sided.
On one side, the cards have some visual icons or pictures that hint at the purpose of certain parts of speech (articles, prepositions, nouns etc), such as a drawing of a person, tree, a cube or a person with an idea to represent a noun (person, place, thing, idea).
On the reverse, the cards have the concept’s proper grammatical name, as well as any different types that might exist (action vs linking verbs, for example), and the program’s mark up styling for each element that students will use when translating their analysis to paper (double underlines for verbs, adv. with an arrow for adverbs, single underline for noun and so on)
Both sets of cards are colored coded (yellow for preposition, gray for personal pronouns, blue for verbs, green for adverbs, white for nouns, orange for adjectives and so on), which helps make using them to identify parts of speech a little easier, a little more organized and can help make concepts stand out a little more in a student’s mind.
Interestingly, the program also includes all-black cards as well, which are generally used to mark any parts of speech that students haven’t yet learned, which can be helpful in keeping lessons moving along when dealing with more complex sentences.
The cards themselves are printed on cardboard and feel fairly sturdy to hold.
In general, we feel that they should stand up to most casual handling pretty well, although we would recommend that parents keep an eye on things with younger students to prevent any undue tearing or bending.
They also come in their own little clear plastic casing, which is thoughtful as it can go a long way in preventing the cards from getting wet or damaged when being stored.
Winston Grammar Approach To Teaching
Winston Grammar generally teaches in a very incremental way.
In other words, new concepts and cards in the program are introduced one at a time (with any unknown parts of speech being given a black card as a placeholder) and students are given the opportunity to really work on a concept in depth before moving on.
More than that, lessons build on one another, gradually introducing new information while still making active use of the parts of speech that students already understand.
For example, students would first learn about nouns and articles, then about proper nouns and common nouns, personal pronouns and so on.
Through gradual learning, Winston Grammar can make the process of learning grammar a lot less stressful for students, as they aren’t being bombarded with lots of different pieces of information.
It also means that there tends to be a lot of built-in review for students, as they will use the cards and concepts they are familiar with over and over again during future lessons, which can help solidify knowledge and develop skill mastery over time.
In fact, every couple lessons Winston Grammar even includes specific review lessons where no new information is taught.
This gives students more focused practice, which in turn can hone their mastery of grammar concepts before moving forward, and prevents students from forgetting things over time.
On the downside, it does mean that learning with Winston Grammar is a bit of a slow and steady process, which not every student necessarily enjoys or prefers.
Some students, for example, pick up grammar very quickly and may prefer a quicker pace, becoming frustrated by the inclusion of these reviews
A key component of Winston Grammar are its cards, which we mentioned previously.
Before a student begins marking up their worksheets with stylized parts of speech symbols and abbreviations, they first analyze the sentence using their color coded cards.
Students go through a sentence word by word, assigning each one a specific card, depending on its function (noun, adjective, predicate), until they’ve eventually laid out a colorful, horizontal sequence of clue cards in front of them.
They can then sequentially turn over the cards, which provide the parts of speech markings that they’ll use to properly break down the sentence in their workbook.
The integration of card work into Winston Grammar’s lessons provides a strong kinesthetic component to the program that, combined with the pictures and icons on the cards and the discussions had with parents during lessons, make it fairly multisensory as far as grammar curricula go.
This multisensory approach can have a number of benefits for students.
Hands-on learning has been demonstrated to help students better retain and recall information over time, particularly when compared to rote memorization or lecture-style learning.
It also tends to make lessons more engaging and interesting for students, as they spend their time actively involved in selecting and arranging color-coded cards rather than sitting, listening and then diagramming out sentences as instructed.
Parents should note, however, that (as with the inclusion of more review) the use of hands-on card work can be something of an extra step that can make lessons and practice a little more time intensive.
How It Works
The Basic level of Winston Grammar contains about 30 lessons (worksheets 1-30), which means it should take about a year or so at a lesson a week pace, while the Advanced contains a further 55 lessons (worksheets 31-85) and takes about two years to get through at a lesson a week pace.
Rather than engaging in a top-down formal lecture or instruction in grammar rules, Winston Grammar’s lessons generally start out with parents and students working through a sample sentence together.
Generally speaking, this sentence will be written out on a whiteboard, chalkboard, projector or even just a piece of paper so that it can be more easily examined and analyzed in real time.
Parents and students then go through the sentence word by word, discussing their function in order to determine which clue best fits.
A student, for example, might ask themselves if the word represents a person, place, thing or idea, or whether it is a an or the, whether it is I me or you, whether it indicates some kind of action and so on.
Whenever they come to something that doesn’t really fit into any of the clues that they have learned so far they lay down a black card.
Once they have gone the whole sentence, the student will have created a horizontal chain (or two) of clue cards.
Following this, students turn over each card in turn to reveal the actual part of speech.
As they do so, they can then discuss why the word fits a particular part of speech, reinforcing and formalizing their understanding.
For example, the student may state that throw is a verb because it describes an action, state or occurrence and is affected by tense- I throw, I threw, I will throw.
They may also recognize that it is an action verb as it describes something that can be done rather than a state of being.
Once all the cards have been reviewed and the formal parts of speech revealed, students and parents can then transfer the symbols and abbreviations located on each card to the sample sentence (double underlining any verb, for example) for analysis.
From here, students turn to the relevant worksheet in their workbook, where they can be assigned sentences to work on over the remainder of the week, perhaps initially with a little supervision but eventually on their own.
Finally, there are four optional quizzes sprinkled throughout each level that parents can assign, usually after every few lessons,
These are basically cumulative parsing exercises that have students identify the different parts of speech they have learned to date in different sentences using the correct symbols and abbreviations.
There is also a post-test located at the end of each book, which is designed to assess a student’s absorption and retention of information over the course of the year and to determine if they are ready to move on.
Overall, we found Winston Grammar to be a fairly straightforward, engaging and consistent way of learning essential grammar.
Its lessons are very practically oriented in our opinion, with not a lot of time spent on formal, explicit lectures of grammar rules and mechanics and a lot more time spent identifying parts of speech and doing sentence analysis.
The lesson’s kinesthetic card work also makes it highly engaging.
With students being forced to take an active, rather than passive, role in their own learning, they are less likely to tune out and more likely to absorb and retain the information they are presented with.
In contrast to most other grammar programs, Winston Grammar doesn’t really require students to do a lot of rote memorization.
Instead, students use intuitive clues to figure out a particular word’s purpose or place within a sentence and then reveal the relevant part of speech before transferring it to written form, allowing students to gradually and steadily connect their intuitive understanding to a formal definition.
In this way, Winston Grammar can make learning grammar rules a little more approachable.
Similarly, there isn’t a lot of writing to be done in Winston Grammar, especially when compared to other workbook-based courses, as most of the initial analysis and debate is done either with the clue cards or through discussion with parents.
The only real writing that a student has to do is in transferring a card’s grammar symbols and/or abbreviations to paper.
As a result, it can be a very good option for those who get frustrated by diagramming and writing heavy workbook grammar exercises, such as can be found in more traditional programs like Growing With Grammar and others, as well as those who simply have difficulties or challenges when it comes to writing.
One thing we really liked is how flexible the program is.
In general there aren’t a lot of hard and fast rules when it comes to teaching lessons and parents have a good deal of flexibility when it comes to deciding how to explain topics, pacing, whether to include tests or quizzes or even how many sentences to assign a student each week.
On the downside, Winston Grammar isn’t really a complete grammar solution.
It really focuses on grammar, particularly on sentence parsing, and doesn’t really cover much in the way of usage and mechanics (capitalization, punctuation, spelling, etc).
Parents should also be aware that it can be a little parent intensive, with parents spending a considerable amount of time going over sample sentences, providing guidance and discussing a student’s reasoning.
While the lessons aren’t necessarily all that long, this does mean that they can be a little harder for really busy homeschooling parents to fit into their schedules, at least compared to more self-study/workbook-style options.
How Easy Is Winston Grammar To Teach?
On the whole, we’d say that Winston Grammar is fairly easy to teach.
While the teaching manuals only really fully model the first lesson, the program’s overall worksheet-centric approach and methodology is remarkably consistent, with parents going over a model sentence with their student, helping them arrange their cards, transfer the grammatical markings to paper and then giving them sample exercises to try on their own.
Further, where necessary or when new information presents itself, the teaching manual will offer new scripting, tips and information to parents, so that they never really feel lost.
The only things parents should note is that the use of clue cards to figure out the functions of individual words (and subsequent discussions over them) before using grammatical markings can make lessons take a little longer than more top-down instructional/memorization-heavy methods.
In addition, parents will have to, of course, organize, keep track of and store the 50 or so cards each level offers.
Pros and Cons
Generally speaking, a full year’s worth of Winston Grammar (or two in the case of Advanced) with everything included can be picked up for less than $50, so it should be able to fit most homeschool budgets without causing too much strain.
Lessons in Winston Grammar often include discussions, visual examples and, of course, hands-on card work, making it a far more engaging and multisensory curriculum compared to most of its rivals.
Doesn’t require a lot of writing, rote memorization
Beyond transferring the markings from the back of each clue card to a sentence (either in the workbook or on a blackboard), there isn’t a whole lot of writing involved with Winston Grammar, which can be of great benefit for those who struggle with the process or have specific difficulties.
Further, as the cards gradually introduce parts of speech through intuitive clues and as the lessons offer quite a bit of in-built review of previous concepts (as well as dedicated review sessions), the program really doesn’t rely quite as much on rote memorization, either.
Lessons can be very active and engaging
The use of cards, clue-based reasoning and, often, back-and-forth discussions between parents and students makes Winston Grammar a lot more of an interactive and engaging curriculum to work with.
As students are active, rather than passive, participants in their own learning, learning tends to be a little deeper and they are less likely to zone out, which is always a plus.
Incremental curriculum, makes learning grammar more approachable
Winston Grammar’s lessons tend to slowly build on previous information, an incremental approach that avoids flooding students with tons of facts, which can make learning grammar a lot less stressful and intimidating.
Plenty of Review
This incremental approach also means that students get a lot of review with this program.
Each lesson will, in addition to introducing a new part of speech, have students work with previously learned concepts, consistently reinforcing their understanding over time.
Further, the curriculum offers a number of dedicated review sessions that allow students to specifically practice the parts of speech they’ve learned to date without worrying about learning anything new.
There aren’t a lot of rules for teaching Winston Grammar.
Parents can choose to use the provided script, or not, choose to add tests or quizzes, or not, choose to allow students to work on practice alone, or not, and ultimately have the freedom to assign as many practice questions as they feel a student can handle.
Consequently, it is a program that can suit many different homeschooling philosophies.
Not a complete program
Winston Grammar mainly focuses itself with grammar and parts of speech and doesn’t really teach much usage and mechanics, meaning it can’t really be considered a complete grammar solution.
Can be a little parent intensive
Winston Grammar student materials contain no real instruction or directions and the program relies pretty heavily on interactions, demonstrations and dialogues between parent and student during the instructional component.
Although in a pinch some older students might be able to work alone with the teacher’s manual, student worksheets and cards spread before them, it’s not really a program that seems designed around self-study.
Who Is Winston Grammar Ideal For?
Students who have a hard time with lecture-style or diagramming-based lessons
Some students have a hard time sitting through grammar lectures or diagramming exercises.
They may zone out or become distracted, which can impact how much information they retain and ultimately cause knowledge gaps to develop.
Winston Grammar lessons and exercises are far more hands-on and engaging, keeping students active and busy throughout the process of learning, which can both reduce frustration and improve outcomes.
Fans of hands-on learning
Some students can sit for hours doing tons of written, workbook exercises.
Others roll their eyes at the mere prospect and do far better if allowed to physically engage with the material somehow.
These more kinesthetic and tactile learners will have much to enjoy with the program’s card-based approach to sentence parsing.
Those looking for a strong, focused grammar skills program
Winston Grammar focuses very strongly on helping students master the different parts of speech and getting them comfortable with breaking down and analyzing sentences.
It can therefore be a great option for those looking to hone these skills in particular.
Those who want a more gradual, approachable way to study grammar
Winston Grammar takes a very gradual and incremental approach to teaching, introducing concepts one at a time and encouraging parents to only move on when students have become proficient.
Consequently, students likely won’t feel quite as rushed or bombarded with information with this program compared to some others.
Homeschools on a budget
As mentioned, a full year’s (or two) learning with Winston Grammar, including teaching materials and a set of cards, costs less than $50, making it easier to budget for than some others.
Who Is It Not Ideal For?
Those looking for more explicit, lecture-style instruction
While some students thrive by using clue cards and sentence examples to learn parts of speech, others may do better if their rules are more explicitly introduced and taught at length in a lecture-style format.
Those looking for a complete program
As mentioned, Winston Grammar largely focuses on parts of speech and sentence parsing, and doesn’t cover things like mechanics, usage and more that those looking for a complete grammar program might want.
Those looking for a complete self-study solution
Winston Grammar is really designed to be used by a parent and student working together and likely isn’t the best solution for a parent looking for something their child can learn and practice on their own.
Note: Prices correct as of writing. All prices in USD.
As we’ve mentioned, there are generally three components to Winston Grammar (either Basic or Advanced)- a Teacher’s Manual, a Student Workbook and a set of clue cards.
For either level, a complete set costs roughly around $42.00, which given the fact that the teacher’s manual is usually not sold on its own (new, anyway) is probably the best bet for most parents.
Those looking to teach additional students at the same time can pick up certain components on their own, such as:
Clue cards – $7.50
Student workbook – $12
Complete student package – $18.50
Supplementary Workbook (extra practice exercises)- $12
As always, parents should check for the latest prices for this program, as well as for any deals or specials that may be being offered.
Is It Worth The Price?
Overall, we feel that Winston Grammar can be a very valuable resource for the right homeschooling families.
Its incremental approach to learning parts of speech turns learning into a more gradual process with a lot of good built-in review, which in turn can make learning grammar a lot more less stressful and memorization-heavy.
Meanwhile, its hands-on, card-based approach and subsequent discussions make lessons far more multisensory and interactive, which can keep kids a lot more engaged and active with their learning compared to typical diagramming exercises and workbook activities.
Finally, its sentence analysis approach sees students reason and assess their way through words based on clues, rather than solely relying on a set of memorized rules, which is an approach that we feel can help strengthen retention in the long run and help build stronger logical thinking skills.
With its gradual teaching style, multisensory approach to sentence analysis and affordable price, Winston Grammar can make the process of learning grammar easier and more approachable for all involved.
About the Author
Anne Miller is the editor of The Smarter Learning Guide and is a passionate advocate for education and educational technology. A mom of two, she majored in English Language and Literature and worked as a substitute teacher and tutor for several years. When not writing she continues to root for the Yankees and the Giants.