Fix It! Grammar for Internationals

Jun 26, 2017 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


     I am excited to share a new way to use Fix It! Grammar that I have discovered this year. Starting with Book 1, The Nose Tree, I am teaching international adults (and some high schoolers) living in the U.S. who are past the level of basic ESL classes but long to improve their English.

     With no experience teaching ESL, I assumed the students would learn English grammar more or less like American students. To a degree this is true, but to my surprise, teaching with Fix It! is providing huge skills in areas I had not anticipated. One Indian couple who has completed The Nose Tree and started Book 2, Robin Hood commented that it has dramatically helped their reading comprehension. In fact the husband, a seminary student, said that for the first time he has confidence to read Scripture aloud in church because he understands so much better how English sentences are put together.

     My plan was to adapt The Nose Tree to an adult level, advancing skills as rapidly as possible. Nearly all students feel overwhelmed at first, but as they settle into the routine, they relax and gain skills at an amazing pace.

     Here are some basics about the classes I’m teaching:

  • We meet twice a week for ninety-minute classes

  • There is no charge except for buying the Student Book.

  • We cover one week’s worth each meeting.

  • The homework is minimal, and all work is indicated in Student Book.

    • I have students use the cards while doing homework, which they keep in a plastic bag stapled to the cover of the book.

    • I also show them the Grammar Glossary in their text.

    • I use both the cards and the Grammar Glossary while teaching.

     In-class work is structured as follows:

  • With more than four students in a class, I have them read a whole sentence aloud but explain their work on just a half or third.

  • I spend 45–60 minutes on Fix It! teaching about parts of speech, vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar. I use the rest of class to practice reading aloud (more below).

     When I teach with Fix It!:

  • I explain concepts as they arise.

  • I identify concepts Fix It! introduces in later weeks and even in later books. Here are a few examples:

    • Pronouns– I ask if it is subjective, objective, or possessive while having students open to the chart on page G-7 and use it for reference.

    • Verbs– I ask if it is a helping, linking, or action verb.

  • As soon as possible, we start identifying subject-verb pairs and independent and dependent clauses.

    • I guide the students to write V above verbs, figure out who/what is doing that action, and write S above subjects.

    • To engage all students, I have them hold up fingers to show the number of clauses. We discuss how they can distinguish clauses apart from phrases.

    • I ask whether clauses are dependent or independent and why.

  • I teach punctuation as students are ready.

     I offer my classes at Crossroads International, a church that offers free ESL classes to the community and now English grammar and communication (i.e., Fix It!). Bible studies are also held within the framework of those classes. My students are currently reading aloud the Gospel of John, which I use to discuss and practice pronunciation, vocabulary, some grammar, and especially content. We dig at what the verses are literally saying, and I offer background information to help make the context clear as needed.

     The students are awesome. Passionate about improving their English, the adults are hardworking and a delight to teach. This week, I chatted with four young women after class, one of whom said she cannot attend next week because she will be on her honeymoon. The other three then shared that they, too, were recently married, which led to them showing pictures and conversing about their husbands. This of course also helped the students practice their English.

     The downside is I frequently have new students and students returning to their home countries for extended vacations. I’ve learned to pair new students with the more experienced ones in the class to integrate them into the program.

     On many levels, I have found this hugely rewarding and delightful. Give it a try!


Pamela White has an M.A. in English and an A.B.D. from Vanderbilt University and has taught English for more than three decades. As IEW’s Online Department Head for Level C, she is certified as an IEW® Accomplished Instructor and is the author of IEW's popular Fix It! Grammar program. Currently living outside of Nashville, Tennessee, she teaches online for IEW while enjoying ongoing writing projects.

Live Chat with IEW