We build vocabulary by asking our students to read, and to read a very specific way: slowly, carefully, looking up all the words they do not know. The first book every student reads, Animal Farm, is challenging enough for almost any age, and it sets the tone for all readings to follow. Reading makes growth in vocabulary permanent.
The Tutoring Underground teaches grammar through the TAG system, created by Yury Getsin in 2003. For the TAG system, students are taught to circle the verbs, underline the subjects, and put a triangle on the transitions. Through this method, students are able to identify subject-verb agreement, to separate the core of the sentence from all the descriptions, and to find the transitions, like "because" and "however", that create the connections between all the sentences that create the text.
We divide reading into two distinct categories: essays and stories. Essays often have a structure of point, reason, example, with an introduction at the front and a conclusion at the end. Stories are one giant example. so it is up to the reader to figure out the lesson, the moral, the theme, the thesis, the main idea, by asking themselves about the good and bad decisions in the story. Whatever the good decisions were, the lesson is to do that, and whatever the bad decisions were, the lesson is to not do that.
Logic is the bridge between language and mathematics, so students will work on puzzles, games, sequences, and the contrapositive rule. There are some tests that have actual logic sections, and teaching logic strengthens students for all entrance exams and standardized tests.
Students begin their reading at The Tutoring Underground with Animal Farm, by George Orwell. For their first writing assignment, students are asked to write an essay showing how memory is an important part of Animal Farm. The process of writing this essay, from reading to outline to final product, serves as the template for all future assignments, writings, and texts.