What is the value of a pretest?

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What is the value of giving the Shurley English Pretest if students are not familiar with the curriculum?  As a consultant, I’ve heard this question before, and I want to urge you to listen up!  Even though the pretest may appear extraordinarily difficult, you should never avoid it!  Let me explain. 

You may be new to the curriculum, but as the classroom teacher, you must always keep the main goal of Language Arts instruction in mind.  The goal, of course, is to give students the tools they need to become competent, confident communicators!  Simply stated, you want your students to be able to speak and write with fluency.  

One way to support this goal is to allow students to see their own progress for themselves. The Shurley English Pretest can be used to compare with the Posttest at the end of the year.  You do not need to formally grade the Pretest; all you have to do is file it away in a safe place and pull it out at the end of the year.  Then, students will see the value of the Pretest and the Posttest as they compare the two assessments. They (and their parents) will be amazed at what they have learned during their first year in Shurley English.

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So, why give our Pretest? It is simply a benchmark which measures the beginning of the journey into making the grammar/writing connection. As your students grow in their skills, both you and they will be glad you took the time to mark where they began the trip.  That, my friend, is the value of our Pretest.


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Cindy Goeden

Cindy Goeden has enjoyed being involved with Shurley English for the last sixteen of her twenty-six years in the field of education.  Working with various levels of students in elementary, junior, and high schools, in both the private and public arenas, Cindy surely is thankful for the providential day that she was introduced to Shurley English, which changed forever her approach to Language Arts instruction. That has led to her current job of having the joy of sharing about Shurley with other educators.  Her love of learning has prodded her to earn over two hundred and twenty hours, which includes two bachelor degrees in education.


Cindy currently lives with her husband, Donald, in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she enjoys puttering in her flowers, changing up her décor with the seasons, and occasionally getting out and traveling with Donald to either explore a new beach or view historic sights and gardens.

How do I teach Shurley English in a multi-grade classroom?

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When I began teaching at a small private parochial school, I learned quickly that even though I was teaching two grade levels of Shurley English in the same room, there was a disparity in the way I had to instruct each level. Each group had different developmental needs and learning objectives. Along the way, I discovered a few extremely effective strategies for teaching different groups of students that I would like to share with you today.

1. Work together. First, assess which parts of the curriculum are the same and have all your students work together. To a veteran Shurley English teacher, this is a snap. (It’s the jingles and the Question and Answer Flow!) Start with Jingle Time and have all your students work together to perfect the designated jingle. Then, move on to the Question and Answer Flow. Remember, The Question and Answer Flow never changes…it simply grows in complexity as the students gain more knowledge of the parts of speech and gain greater “sentence sense.” 

2. Provide mentoring opportunities. Be sure to capitalize on the expertise of the older students to take younger students under their wings. This is especially helpful with a dynamic program like Shurley English, because the older students’ become masters of language quickly and can often impart that knowledge even easier than you can! The older groups of students can actually instruct and tutor the younger students. (Just be sure the information and training they provide is CORRECT!) Always give your older students a crash course in student-student etiquette—you know, what to say/not to say; how much help is TOO much help, etc.

3. Raise expectations. Challenge younger students to match some of the same expectations you hold for the older students. You will have to bear in mind that, developmentally, some younger kids may not be quite up to the challenge, but they will strive with a level of determination that will astound you.

Remember, when you have a unique instructional setting, it may require you to implement some out-of-the-box thinking and that is okay! Change things up. Implement the nontraditional. You and your students are more than capable of adapting and thriving!

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David Lutz

David, a former classroom teacher, administrator, and self-proclaimed grammar nut, considers the oddities of English vocabulary and grammar his playthings! He received his degrees in elementary education, teaching, and curriculum design from CMU in Fayette, MO, and the University of St. Mary, Leavenworth, KS, respectively. His career has been a colorful collage of experiences in education, ranging from Kindergarten to Adult education and parenting classes.


He and his wife, Marjorie, have been blessed with 30 years of marriage, three grown sons, a cherished daughter-in-law, and the smartest, cutest grandson on the planet! He’s worked for Shurley Instructional Materials, Inc., for over 11 years and loves to help students and their teachers learn to love language and language learning as much as he does.

Effective Strategies for Building Vocabulary

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A broad, diverse vocabulary is essential to good writing, and that’s a fact!  Since vocabulary directly affects Word Choice and Voice, two of the Traits of Effective Writing, meaningful vocabulary instruction is absolutely imperative.  As you decide how to approach vocabulary instruction in your classroom, look for effective strategies that will help students:  (a) understand and learn new words, (b) make sense of new vocabulary by incorporating it into what they already know, and (c) remember the meanings of words when they are encountered at a later date or in new material. 

Here are some effective strategies to build vocabulary:

 1. Synonyms and Antonyms: A great place to start building vocabulary is with synonyms and antonyms of words students know.  Synonyms and antonyms can help you write by giving you choices for saying things in more interesting ways. 

2. Read, read, read!: Books, magazines, and newspapers contain more words that you will ever use or hear in a conversation or on television.  Reading teaches new vocabulary, so spend time reading!

3. Context Clues: As you come across a word you don’t know when you are reading, try using the other words in the sentence to figure it out. 

  • Study the sentences before and after the sentence that contains the word you don’t know.
  • Search for clues to identify the new word’s part of speech.
  • See if a synonym or antonym is given.

4. Vocabulary Notebooks: One way to increase your vocabulary is to keep a list of words you know and add new words as you learn them.  Increase your knowledge by including the word’s definition and also write a sentence using the word.

5. Use the Thesaurus: The thesaurus is a book of words and their synonyms.  It’s a book that can help you find the best way to say something by giving you those synonyms as other options or word choices.  The thesaurus also includes antonym word choices.

6. Use a Dictionary: A dictionary helps you understand the meaning of a word.  It also teaches:

  • Spelling
  • Capital Letters
  • Syllable Division
  • Accent Marks
  • Pronunciation
  • Part of Speech
  • Etymology
  • Synonyms and Antonyms

7. Study Word Parts and Forms: You can figure out the meanings of new words by learning about prefixes, suffixes, and roots.  Study them so you can commit them to memory.  Also, look for other word forms of words you already know.


Students need a strong command of different vocabulary words so that they can express themselves using just the right words.  The more words they have in the “word-bank,” the richer their communications with others will be!  Invest in your student’s vocabulary today!

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Jamie Geneva

Jamie Geneva is the Senior National Consultant at Shurley Instructional Materials and is a seasoned subject matter expert in the realm of English Language Arts.  Her career with the company began during the days of the Shurley Method binder, which was pre-1st Edition, and has spanned across three decades.  Over the years, her various roles have included teacher, presenter, state representative, consultant, manager, and most recently, a Shurley English Digital Assistant.  You might not recognize her face, but her voice could certainly sound familar.  That’s because she’s recorded Jingles, Q&A Flow Sentences, and other Shurley English content for many, many years. 

Jamie and her husband, Garret, live in the foothills of eastern Oklahoma. She loves spending quality time with her family, traveling, reading, cooking, and staying connected on social media.

Ms. Geneva received her B.S. degree in Elementary Education and her M.Ed in Public School Administration from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK.