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Shurley Grammar

An Interview with Brenda Shurley and Vonda Stepp

July 9, 1998

This discussion was conducted live on a chat program hosted by Mary Leggewie. The guests were Brenda Shurley and Vonda Stepp of Shurley Instructional Materials.

Can you tell us what the Shurley Method is?

Shurley Grammar: Sure. The Shurley Method is a dynamic English program that incorporates all learning styles and helps kids learn in a fun, effective way. (In other words, it works.)

How did you start the program?

Shurley Grammar: Well, Brenda was very frustrated with the results of traditional English programs. She was unable to find a program to meet the needs of students and decided to develop her own.

How long have you been in business?

Shurley Grammar: We have been marketing the program since 1989, and each year has shown increased interest from schools and home educators. I started teaching in 1970 and started developing the program in 1971.

Do you have any idea how many schools are using the program now?

Shurley Grammar: We are being used in schools in over 45 states. Many home educators are finding their way to us now too.

Can you tell us what grades are covered?

Shurley Grammar: Currently our home school materials cover grades 1-7.

What makes this program different from other English programs "out there?"

Shurley Grammar: Jingles, chants, rhymes, repetition, Question-Answer Flow, teaching parts within the whole, and FUN! Our program is also very skill based. By this I mean that the parts of speech, how to analyze sentences, mechanics and usage, and writing.

Are there any religious themes, or is it something that can be used by both Christian and public schools?

Shurley Grammar: The program can be used by both groups. In fact, there are many private Christian schools currently using us.

What are the jingles you mentioned, and what is the question-answer flow that I've read about?

Shurley Grammar: The jingles are rhythmic English definitions that are chanted or sung by students to help them initially remember the role of each part of speech. In the Question-Answer Flow, an oral series of questions and answers determines the role each word plays in the sentence being analyzed. Oral diagramming.

How long does it take the student to learn these question-answer flow "thingies"?

Shurley Grammar: It varies, depending upon the grade and the student. Still, even first graders will be taught about prepositional phrases.

What happens if you've got a child going in 4th grade who has never used your method? Where would you start?

Shurley Grammar: Within two weeks of beginning, students will be able to use the flow on a simple sentence. Each level of the program begins with the most basic concepts and builds from there, so a student who is new to the program can still start at his/her regular grade level and not be expected to already know everything taught in previous levels.

I suppose it would have to be designed that way for children who are new to a school. Can children learn the jingles that quickly?

Shurley Grammar: Yes, the jingles are learned extremely quickly by children, but not so quickly by adults! Yes, sometimes a "study buddy" is needed in a school classroom to help out a new student.

Do children new to the program hesitate at all, or do they dive right in and enjoy it?

Shurley Grammar: The students certainly dive right on in after only a slight hesitation at first.

Can you explain how the program covers different learning styles?

Shurley Grammar: Students are constantly exposed to "see it, hear it, say it, do it" activities. The Question-Answer Flow requires the students to watch, listen, and speak.

Audience question: Are these equally effective with high school students?

Shurley Grammar: If the high school student is weak in grammar, they will learn quickly and effectively. For strong students, it provides reinforcement.

Do you have a placement test?

Shurley Grammar: We do not have a placement test. Unless the student's reading level is low, we recommend that he/she start on level.

Is this program effective with kids who have special learning needs or disabilities?

Shurley Grammar: Very much so. We have had excellent reports from schools with large Native American student enrollment as well as from many bilingual classes. Resource and special education students in particular seem to respond well to the auditory portion of the program as well as to the repetition of concepts.

How much time does the program take each day?

Shurley Grammar: The program should be given the same amount of time as is usually given to a particular subject area. For levels 1-2, 15 to 25 minutes is typical. For Levels 3-7, 30 to 45 minutes will be needed.

Would brighter students take less time?

Shurley Grammar: Yes, these students will not need as much time to work on the grammar. However, they can then spend the remainder of the class on their writing activities.

Can the kids teach themselves, or is parent assistance needed?

Shurley Grammar: The Shurley Method is designed around student-teacher interaction. The teacher models each new step in the Shurley Method for the students. Then the students actively participate with the teacher as the steps are practiced.

Can I teach several kids of different age levels at the same time?

Shurley Grammar: Children who are close in ability can use the same level, if the parent feels it is advantageous to do so. Normally, we suggest that each child work on level.

You mention that the concepts are not taught in isolation. What do you mean by that?

Shurley Grammar: In our program, parts of the sentence are learned within the context of the whole sentence. Students are taught how all the parts of a sentence fit together, and once a concept or skill is introduced, it is used throughout the year.

Do you find the repetition to be a problem for some students?

Shurley Grammar: Once again, the solution to any boredom is to give the student a new challenge - applying their knowledge to writing. We cover many types of writing, both creative and formal. Students will learn persuasive, expository, descriptive, narrative, and creative writing, as well as journals and letters.

What comes in a kit, and can I use it for all my kids as they move up?

Shurley Grammar: The kit contains a teacher's manual, student workbook, and audio cassette tape. The tape is a resource to let the teacher hear how the jingles and Question-Answer Flow should sound. A kit can be reused in a later year, although a new workbook would need to be purchased.

Are these original tunes or jingles set to known music?

Shurley Grammar: Most jingles are chanted, not actually sung. However, you can be as creative as you are musically inclined to be! The chants are rhythmic, but not harshly rap-like.

Will your program be able to help take the fear out of diagramming difficult complex adverbs and adjectives?

Shurley Grammar: Yes, finally something for people who don't learn by looking at words on a page. The higher level skills are learned seamlessly by continuing to apply the earlier concepts. Remember, first graders are doing prepositional phrases. This helps their writing abilities, by the way.

Many thanks to Brenda Shurley and Vonda Stepp for sharing their thoughts with us here at!

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