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Caught 'ya!

Grammar with a Giggle

By Kim in Quebec

Have you heard of "Caught 'ya! Grammar with a Giggle" by Jane Bell Kiester? We've just started it, and love it. It takes only 10 minutes per day and covers more than just grammar. The best part is that after only a few days the kids are already correcting their writing in other areas!

Here's how it works:
Each day I write a sentence on our patio doors (we use window markers, but of course you can use a chalk or white board). The sentence is full of grammar mistakes. The kids' job is to catch my mistakes, my job is to catch the kids *not* catching my mistakes. They copy the sentence into their notebooks, but they correct all the errors they can find. I egg them on saying, "Today, you're mine! I'm gonna get you this time." etc.

I then walk around looking at their work and say "Caught 'ya!" if I see an error they missed. I can give them hints as to where it is or not, depending on the situation. Then when they think they've got them all, we go over the sentence together. The kids correct their own work immediately (in a different colour) but they do not grade it, as these mistakes don’t count against them. After they've seen me write the corrections on the patio door, they make sure they've got them all fixed. Then I collect their books, and correct them myself. If I find any mistakes that they missed (all they had to do was copy it, so it's not a lot to ask), I subtract 10 points for each error. This means that even kids who stink at grammar have a chance to get 100% every day because they just have to copy the corrected sentence accurately. My kids have made a few copying errors and it really ticks them off when they get points taken off, because it should be really easy to get 100 every time. Each day the kids get a new vocabulary word and learn to spell the days of the week and months of the year, because the date is always included.

Every sentence is part of a story, so each day they get more and more curious about what the next day's sentence will be about. Both of my kids have been begging to do grammar because they can’t wait to find out what happens in the story. They’ve even asked if we could do two days in one so they could see "just one more sentence"! My friend who highly recommended it said his eight year old daughter begs for it too, even though she fought tooth and nail over reading and writing.

Also, if you have a hard time getting your kids to settle down to start doing "school" work, begin your day with "Caught 'ya!" You just have the sentence written up on the board ahead of time and kids will eventually sit down and start working without you necessarily telling them to. This may be truer for school settings, as we have yet to experience that. However, we’ve only been doing it for about a week.

Unfortunately, the book itself is written for public and private school teachers, with the word "homeschoolers" thrown in once or twice as what seemed like an afterthought. The beginning of the book explains why her program works so well, which is very helpful. However, much of the book is about how to manage a class of 30 kids. She does give 3 stories to start you off with (one for each elementary, middle & high school), which I think is the most useful part of the book. I’m personally not interested in creating my own stories. I’m more interested in a quick, painless way to teach grammar that doesn’t require a lot of prep work. I think this program fills that need for us. The stories contain both the errors and corrected versions, plus which skills are practised each day. She also explains how to make up your own stories so that you're not working for nothing, while including all the things that your students need to master.

I’m really happy with this program. My daughter (8) is already remembering to capitalize the beginning of every sentence and not forgetting periods at the end. I've been trying to drill this into her forever, but to no avail. She also is not using capitols in the middle of her sentences nearly as much as she did only a week ago. After day 5 with this book, she brought me a Captain Underpants book and showed me where they had used "there" instead of "their"!

My son (10) doesn't write a lot on his own, so I haven't had the chance to see much improvement in his writing yet. However, he is catching many "Caught 'ya!" errors from previous days that he had missed the first time around. That’s a good sign, in my book. Both kids have been asking me how to spell words more often lately, although this early in the program, that could just be a coincidence.

I was also thinking this could be used to learn a foreign language as well!

Hope that helps,
Kim in Quebec

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