Q: I am looking for a good comprehensive ESL series that I could use for several years as they advance. The Singapore ESL series look good but I am not sure where to start – the levels weren’t entirely clear to me from the website description. Plus, would I have to buy different series (like English Grammar and Word Study) as study them simultaneously or sequentially?
AK: Some options from Singapore textbooks you could try are the texts published by Learners Publishing (i.e., First English Grammar, Grammar Practice 1-6, Sentences to Paragraphs 1-4, English Grammar for Students, English Grammar for Students Workbook).
However, this is the ESL program I use with my two kids:
Elementary School gr 1- 6:
Learning Grammar series by (Publisher) Singapore Asian Publications. The Educational Consultant for the series is Dr Lana Israel who has won multiple intl awards with a doctorate and degree from Oxford and Harvard U and has her own company Brain Power for Kids, Inc.
You can purchase from Popular Bookstore in Singapore – they will ship. Their books are cheap to reasonable – I have heard from many homeschoolers in the US that it is cheaper to have them ship than to buy
I did not go with Singaporemath’s recommended options because I found the Learning Grammar series to be a real breeze for my kids, the thing I liked was the clear examples, instructions before a grammar exercise, and more importantly, the use of simple language and vocabulary that only increased incrementally in difficulty. This solved the trouble I had with all the earlier books I’d used – I’d tried UK Key Curriculum books which to me were really crazy with no stepped skills that I could see, the number of difficult words used from Book One would make most kids cry, I think. Scholastics materials were uneven – usually required too much cut and pasting and too much reading and prep from a parent. And to buy a complete range to cover all language skills … well would clean out our precious piggybank. Language materials made for the Japan market are either way too easy, or similarly suffer the same mindboggling problems of being incomplete. With the Singapore texts, I think any series would do the same scope – build grammar, language structure, vocabulary, build step-by-step writing from sentence to paragraph to essays and variety of types of writings – plus critical comprehension and composition skills – understanding of cloze reading passages and essay writing.
In addition, I also use the Creative Writing series
which is interesting because it begins each unit by teaching a set of contextual vocabulary, then proceeds to have kids use the words in paragraphing writing exercises or sentence-building exercises, and also has cloze passages for enhancing reading comprehension. I use this only with my daughter, because she is less well-read than my son, actually she resists my selection of readers, being of a stubborn character and always wanting to be in control of everything, including choice of books.
In your shoes, I would probably go with one general English language skill book from Singaporemath.com paired with either the grammar series I am now using or the one from Singaporemath.com. I wouldn’t do word study or other sorts of vocabulary books … except maybe during a break, say during summer or winter. Creative writing books are harder to do … require a bit more attention on your part … so I’d say don’t start on those until the kids get used to the routine of doing the grammar and language books, and gain some confidence after doing those. I’d also say use the paragraphing books from Singaporemath.com first, before going on to Creative Writing since the latter are more challenging and teach harder vocabulary words…it makes more sense since learning to write paragraphs comes before learning to longer pieces, although Creative Writing at the very bottom grade does start at the very beginning – rearranging sentences, making sentences. Personally, I think if your kids are doing a lot of reading practice or are being read aloud to, there’d be no need for vocabulary books or word study. What we do, is that with every “reader” they do, I circle all the words they stumble over or don’t know, and by the second reading, they and I know whether they’ve learnt to recognize them or not. (I don’t really do this so much with the older one anymore because middle school & juku test and reinforce spelling all the time – just random books – once in a blue moon – pegged to TOEFL comprehension goals). We also have a word treasure box where we place little cards with words learnt – or for difficult words – this is for spelling recognition really. The younger one takes pride in having word cards accumulate, so she can see how many new words she has learnt over time. This system started earlier when we were doing phonics, it just carried over, and is now used for spelling and vocabulary goals.
M: My three children (ages 12, 9, and 5) have used a number of materials (Scholastic, School Zone, School Specialty Publishing (Brighter Child), Essential Learning Products, Frank Schaffer (Spectrum), Kumon, etc.) over the years–some have worked well, and some, well, haven’t–and I remain on the lookout for well-graded, mostly self-study workbooks that allow learning to remain enjoyable. What particularly grabbed my attention was AK’s comment about the Grammar Practice texts: “clear examples, instructions before a grammar exercise, and more importantly, the use of simple language and vocabulary that only increased incrementally in difficulty.”
Having come across so many materials that do not follow this common sense, I was hooked.
I had trouble finding these books on the mentioned Popular Bookstore website, and the slowness of it was rather frustrating, so I was ecstatic when J. then mentioned that we can get these texts through RIC Publications here in Japan. RIC’s website (www.ricpublications.com) has a few sample pages from each text that can be examined.
Finally, the other day I stopped by Maruzen (at Oazo in front of Tokyo Station) and was delighted to find that they had a few books in the Grammar Practice series in stock. AK was absolutely right–very student-friendly. I had printed out the RIC webpages for the other books that I wanted, and the Maruzen staff was then able to process the order.