Program Details – Skill Builders


Nouns : What are nouns? Common nouns, proper nouns and those difficult to remember irregular plurals are covered. (491 words) (Flesch grade level: 4.0)

Pronouns: Why do we need pronouns? Subject pronouns (eg I), object pronouns (eg me), possessive pronouns (eg yours) and emphatic pronouns (eg myself) are described, as well as common confusions with pronouns. (888 words) (Flesch grade level: 3.9)

Verbs: What are verbs? The differences between finite verbs (eg ran), infinitives (eg to run), auxiliary verbs (eg have) and participles (eg running). Also explained are the three main tenses. (638 words) (Flesch grade level: 3.4)

Adverbs: How do adverbs act to enhance verbs? The differences between adverbs of manner (eg angrily), time (eg now) and place (eg here) are explained, as well as how to make comparisons with adverbs. (460 words) (Flesch grade level: 3.8)

Adjectives: What are adjectives? Common adjectives (eg beautiful) featured, as well as adjectives of quantity (eg whole), distinction (eg this) and question adjectives (eg which), and the two main ways of making comparisons. (598 words) (Flesch grade level: 4.2)

Prepositions: What use are prepositions? The differences between prepositions of time, place, direction and other variations are explained, together with common mistakes (to avoid). (706 words) (Flesch grade level: 3.7)

Sentences: What are the basics of a proper sentence? What is a predicate? How do you make a ‘simple’ sentence into a ‘complex’ sentence (conjunctions are other devices). The differences between phrases and clauses are explained, as well as commonplace errors with sentences. (1000 words) (Flesch grade level: 4.2)


Capital letters: Why do we need capitals? The history of writing is visited briefly to show why they were invented, and what purpose they serve: beginning sentences, marking proper nouns (and that concept is explained clearly) and the special case of ‘I’. Common mistakes are reviewed. (810 words) (Flesch grade level: 4.9)

Full stops: Everyone knows that all sentences must end in a full stop. But why? And then there are the even more complicated ‘other' uses of full stops — in abbreviations etc. The special stops (question mark, exclamation mark and ellipsis) are also reviewed. (556 words) (Flesch grade level: 3.6)

Commas: Why do we need commas? The special uses of commas are explained, one by one: for lists, adjectives, clauses, to separate out a name and for quotations. Common problems with commas are covered as well. (413 words) (Flesch grade level: 4.8)

Quotation marks: Quotations are common in writing. Also known as ‘talking marks’, these special symbols mark peopIe’s direct speech. The opening and closing marks, and how they are dealt with inside sentences are all surveyed in detail. (872 words) (Flesch grade level: 4.2)

Apostrophes: Apostrophes are a common area of difficulty. This unit teaches both apostrophes of contraction (eg don’t) and of possession (eg Jane’s), as well as surveying the irregular uses of the symbol, and covering the most common mistakes. (750 words) (Flesch grade level 5.7)


Factual comprehension: This unit deals with picking up on the main ideas in a recount or report- using the six common questions as a way of sifting the key facts out of all the detail. (1500 words) (Flesch grade level: 5)

Narrative comprehension: Telling stories is a popular form of writing. But how to break narratives down into the basics? This unit explains how, with two complex examples. (1600 words) (Flesch grade level: 5)

Argument comprehension: One of the most challenging forms of writing is the argument. This unit breaks argument down into its essentials, and offers clues for analysing what a writer or speaker is saying. (1500 words) (Flesch grade level: 5-6)

Visual literacy: How do we decode diagrams, tables and cartoons? This unit visits the essentials of visual communication. (1000+ words) (Flesch grade level: 5)


1 Why is English so hard to spell?: This introductory unit looks at the long and complex history of English, tracing its dependence on two major languages (German and French), as well as innumerable lesser influences, and explaining why it has so many irregularities. (740 words)

2 Short and sweet (short vowels): English has many short vowel one syllable words – cat, bet, pot, fun etc. (146 words)

3 The magic ‘e’: When a short vowel (like hat) becomes a long vowel (like hate) a mysterious fine ‘e’ is usually involved. What is the rule? (280 words)

4 Magic endings: Why do we just add ‘er’ or ‘ing’ to a word like ‘work’, but in the case of ‘love’ have to grapple with removing a vowel (love+ing becomes loving)? Hard and soft ‘c’s and ‘g’s are also examined. (282 words)

5 Double trouble: Many words end in a double consonant (ball, bill, etc). Then there are those words that need to double for an ending (eg mad becomes madder). Why, and what is the pattern? (296 words)

6 Double headers: Lots of English words have double consonants in the middle of the word (eg accident or innocent). What is the pattern here? (260 words)

7 At the double: A few words double the consonant at the end (eg pedal becomes pedalling). Why and what do we need to know? (128 words)

8 The problem of c and g: Some words use a ‘soft’ ‘c’ (cereal) and some have a ‘hard’ ‘c’ (cage). The same applies to the letter ‘g’ (giant and gold). How do we master the rules? (280 words)

9 Predictable plurals: One girl and two girls, but one bus and two buses. What are the patterns of ‘regular’ plurals? (218 words)

10 Weird plurals: What about the difference between ladies and birthdays, or between radios and heroes? Common rules and exceptions explained. (222 words)

11 Time travel – tense endings: While many English verbs have a simple way of indicating the past tense (play – played), there are a number of old words which always cause problems (begin, began). (550 words)

12 What goes before – prefixes: An introduction to the fascinating world of Greek and Latin prefixes – words like antibiotic and microscope. (318 words)

13 What goes after – suffixes: Those letters at the ends of words that mean so much: action, artist, assistant, contentment – and all their friends. (430 words)

14 The problem of ‘y’ endings: The word ‘ice’ becomes ‘icy’ but the word ‘luck’ becomes ‘lucky’ – why? (290 words)

15 The twins able and ible: Why should we write acceptable, but legible? These mysteries are explained. (225 words)

16 The famous case of ‘i’ before ‘e’: Why should we have ‘believe’ but ‘ceiling’, when both really make the same sound? (170 words)

17 Disappearing letters: Why does ‘glamour’ become ‘glamorous’ and why should all become ‘al’ in always? (250 words)

18 Problem consonants ph and gh: Words like phobia and cough always cause problems for students. The mysteries of the clusters are examined in detail. (304 words)

19 Problem consonants – wh and th: Why is whale pronounced without the ‘h’ being sounded? And what sort of rules surround the ‘th’ cluster? (320 words)

20 Problem consonants ch and tch: While most ch sounds behave like the word ‘cheese’, there are also words like chalet and chrome. How to sort out the difference? (200 words)

21 Awkward endings – tion and sial, tial and cial: Take the words ‘action’ and ‘explosion’ – the same sound at the end, but two different spellings. Why? (340 words)

22 Problem vowels – ee, ea, ai and ay: Why do ‘been’ and ‘bean’ have the same sound but different spelling, or ‘snail’ and ‘play’? (476 words)

23 Tricky clusters – au, aw, or, oa, our and oor: The words ‘sore’, ‘paw’, ‘caught’ and ‘door’ all have the same vowel sound – but four different spellings. Why? (340 words)

24 Tricky clusters – air, are and ear: The words ‘fairies’, ‘bear’ and ‘scare’ all have the same vowel sound – but three different spellings. Why? (280 words)

25 Tricky clusters – ou, ow, ue and ew: The words ‘crowd’ and ‘found’ have the same vowel sounds – as do the words ‘true’ and ‘blew’. Why? (340 words)

26 Silent initial letters – kn, gn, wr and wh: The words ‘which’, ‘gnomes’, ‘knit’ and ‘wrongly’ all have silent first letters. How do we master them? (266 words)

27 Silent letters – b, d, g, h, l, p, u and w: The words ‘dumb’, ‘foreigner’, ‘talk’, ‘salmon’, ‘eight’ and ‘dinghies’ all have silent letters. How do we master them? (340 words)

28 Homophones: The words ‘where’, ‘wearing’ and ‘hardware’ all feature the same vowel sound, with different spellings. The list of these sorts of words is lengthy. (964 words)

29 Really odd spellings: Why does English have words like ‘cough’, ‘women’ and ‘nation’ in it? And how do we master them? (486 words)

30 The fearful fifty: A final list of famously difficult words like acknowledgement and definitely – and how to handle them. (334 words)