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LinguaPhile, Special Issue January 2006

An e-mail newsletter nurturing the development and enjoyment of English language arts at home and at school.

This Special Issue of LinguaPhile has two purposes:

Next month you will receive another issue of LinguaPhile with its regular features.

January 31 Deadline for Submitting Stories to The Grannie Annie

The Grannie Annie -- A Family Story Celebration, cosponsored by Portico Books and Thumbprint Press (publishers of books for children), provides an opportunity for students in U.S. grades 4-8 (homeschool and international students age 9-14) to interview someone from an older generation of your family and write a 250- to 500-word story about an event from your family's history.

All of the details about the contest -- including the guidelines and the required entry form -- are available at . But don't delay! Stories must be submitted by January 31.

At least five stories in each of two age categories will be selected for publication in Grannie Annie, Vol. I, a paperback book. Your children have the opportunity to become published authors! Orders for Grannie Annie, Vol. I will be taken through April 2006, and books will be shipped the following month.

There are many benefits of participating in The Grannie Annie -- even for those whose stories are not selected for publication:
1. Students will learn more about their own family history and, therefore, their own identity.
2. They will strengthen intergenerational ties -- with their own family members and with others.
3. They will hone their writing skills.
4. They will produce a story that they can share with people in their own family and with others in their community.
5. They will forge bonds with people around the world as they discover similarities of experience that transcend time and place.

To hear radio interviews featuring Fran Hamilton of Portico Books and Connie McIntyre of Thumbprint Press discussing The Grannie Annie (and preserving and sharing family stories), visit these websites: (Access the archive of St. Louis on the Air for December 19.) (Access the archive for the week of January 9.)

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Help with Your Curriculum Decisions

The following article will appear in the January 2006 issue of Christian School Products. To learn more about this publication -- and to receive a free subscription if you are an administrator at a Christian school -- visit (Subscription link is in the upper right-hand corner of the page.)


by Fran Santoro Hamilton

Selection of instructional materials is a major decision affecting the academic success of students at your school. Your only decisions likely to have a greater impact on students' academic achievement are the determination of educational policy and the hiring of faculty.

Selection of the materials that will help implement curriculum often looms as an overwhelming task, however. The conscientious administrator recognizes that an informed decision may require countless hours examining a myriad of products -- attempting to discern the significant differences between them and to predict which ones will work best in his or her academic setting.

The following suggestions will help to make curriculum selection a more manageable task -- perhaps even with more satisfying results.

Involve Your Faculty in Curriculum Selection
Many administrators already do this. Some may delegate the job to individual teachers; others may call for periodic curriculum reviews by a committee. Whatever process is chosen, involving faculty in the task has several advantages:
 1. It frees administrators to tend to other responsibilities.
 2. It empowers teachers. They like to have a voice in selecting the materials they will use in their classrooms. When teachers are directed to use a particular product, they might resist it -- even though they would have embraced that same product had they had a voice in its selection.
 3. Teachers are the experts on their own classrooms. They know better than anyone else what will work with their own teaching style, with their students' learning styles, and with their daily routine.

Involving faculty in the selection of curriculum does not mean that administrators will relinquish control and invite academic chaos. On the contrary, they will establish the parameters for curriculum selection. They will make sure that teachers understand the fundamental criteria that curriculum must meet. Where continuity across levels is desired, they will direct the teachers involved to work together in curriculum selection.

Determine Your Needs
Any search is more difficult when people don't know what they're seeking. Taking time to establish criteria for your curriculum will help to ensure that you recognize that curriculum when you find it. Knowing what you're looking for will also make it easier for you to rule out materials that don't meet your needs.

You may want to involve faculty in this early phase of the selection process. Not only is their input valuable, teachers are likely to be more enthusiastic when they have a voice.

Needs will vary from one school to another. The following items will start you thinking about what is important at your school:
 1. List characteristics that would describe a curriculum consistent with your school's educational philosophy and academic objectives.
 2. Clarify the relationship between an instructional product and your academic objectives. Will the product dictate your curriculum (for example, will the topics in a science textbook determine which topics will be taught?), or are you looking for a textbook that addresses a predetermined set of topics?
 3. Should the product reflect the current direction of education? For example, should math materials meet standards of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)?
 4. Should the product be aligned with the achievement objectives on the particular standardized test that your school has chosen?
 5. Do you want parents to feel comfortable with the materials so that they can contribute their vital support to the student–teacher–parent triad?
Reexamine your list to see if you consider each item essential to your curriculum. If not, distinguish between needs and wants. You will rule out products that don’t meet your needs.

Make Curriculum Selection an Ongoing Process
At first you may wonder why you'd choose to work continually at a job you'd prefer to postpone. Think about tidying your home or office: If you do a little each day to keep things in order, the task never becomes overwhelming. The following activities invite faculty involvement in the ongoing process of curriculum selection:
 1. Continually, informally evaluate your current curriculum: Does it meet your school's identified needs? Does it work well in its particular setting (with the teaching style, learning styles, daily routine)? It is likely that parts of the curriculum -- even in one subject area -- work well and others don't. Identify what you want to keep, what you want to eliminate, and what you want to add.
 2. Always be on the lookout for something new -- especially for products that will meet your identified needs. Administrators and teachers can talk with colleagues at other schools, check out exhibits at conferences, browse bookstores and websites.
 3. Pinpoint what you'd like to have -- even if you aren't sure it exists. This helps you focus your search.
 4. Keep an open mind. You may find a product that meets some of your needs very well even though it doesn't address all aspects of that subject. Perhaps your needs can best be met by using two products instead of one.   
 5. Look beyond the major publishers. Small publishers -- although they may have limited product lines -- may fill their niche very effectively. They may offer innovative products designed by teachers in the "trenches" of the classroom.
 6. Create a system for keeping track of the products you've evaluated. This could be a notebook or a set of file cards, organized by product name or by subject matter. The most important information is how to get products you like. Record product name, company name, phone number, URL, etc. Note the product's strengths and weaknesses. You'll even want to make brief notes about products you don't like -- so that you won't have to spend valuable time reexamining them.
 7. Obtain products you like so that you can try them out on a small scale (perhaps as a supplement to your current curriculum) before you invest substantial funds to implement the products throughout a class or school. Many publishers provide complimentary copies to educators considering adoption of their products. Some publishers instead offer products for a limited trial period.

Compare Various Materials
Considering the following points will help you determine which materials will work best in your school.
 1. Does the product meet your identified needs?
 2. Will the product work well in its particular setting (with the teaching style, learning styles, daily routine)?
 3. Does the product present accurate information?
 4. Does the product present information clearly?
 5. Is the product's level of depth and difficulty appropriate for your students?
 6. Does the product have the flexibility to meet the needs of students with differing backgrounds, abilities, and learning styles? Is the product conducive to both enrichment and remediation?
 7. Does a textbook have grade-appropriate study aids (such as new words, preview questions, and check-up questions) to facilitate learning? Does it have end-of-book aids, such as glossary, index, and atlas?
 8. Are companion products, such as workbooks, tests, visual aids, and software available? Does the publisher offer support beyond the sale with school inservices, online resources, etc.?
 9. Do the materials invite student involvement?
10. Are the materials straightforward and easy for students and teachers to use?
11. Are the products economical? Consider both price and durability to calculate cost per year.

Curriculum selection can have a profound impact on your students' academic success. It need not be a burdensome task, however. By involving faculty in the process, by clarifying your needs, and by making curriculum selection an ongoing process, you will make the task more manageable -- and perhaps make the results more satisfying for everyone associated with your school.

Fran Santoro Hamilton is a former English teacher and author of Hands-0n English, a language arts curriculum based on an English handbook that makes grammar visual. She provides a number of free resources at

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Thank you for reading. If you find LinguaPhile helpful and interesting, don't keep it a secret! Consider which of your friends would also enjoy it, and send them information about subscribing. Those receiving this forwarded message can subscribe at . People who have e-mail but do not have Internet access can subscribe by clicking on this link and requesting to subscribe: .

We welcome your comments and suggestions:
The index to LinguaPhile, which is updated regularly, is now available on the GrammarAndMore website:
This makes the information from previous issues readily accessible. You are encouraged to print the index for your convenience or to share it with friends. Why not send them the URL?

LinguaPhile is a gift you can give, yet still have for yourself!

2006 Fran Santoro Hamilton


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