Tuesday, August 7, 2012

TOS Review: Create Better Writers

A few weeks ago I mentioned how smoothly math class goes in our home, both teacher and student find it fun and easy.  Now I must be brutally honest and confess that teaching writing falls at the other end of the spectrum.  My son complains that it takes too much energy to write.  Well, the number 2 on the pencil does not refer to its weight in tons.  The friction between the lead and the paper isn't difficult to overcome.  So what makes writing so draining for him?  As for the teacher...well I've decided to compare writing to Olympic diving.  I can recognize a job well done and a terrible flop on my own, but I don't have the expertise to dissect the movements and say what it was that made the dive so good in the first place--I certainly can't teach my son how to dive that way.  In the same way I feel less than qualified to teach my son what makes a good paragraph beyond following the rules of grammar.

According to the Homeschool Writing Action Plan by Create Better Writers, I'm not alone in this situation--students hating to write and parents lacking confidence to teach.  The program is designed to help parents where to begin writing instruction and how to teach in an organized step-by-step manner. All the e-books I received were written to the teacher.  You can use this program alone or you can use its techniques to tweak a curriculum you already own.  For students, while writing may never be fun, it can certainly be less painful.  According to the author, everyone has the ability to master the basic structure.

The Action Plan contains a pacing guide whether you're starting with third graders or trying to get a high schooler up to speed.  Either way you begin with learning how to write a good paragraph.   When the paragraph structure is mastered then you can work on building vocabulary and making sentences stronger and more descriptive.  This may be all a third grader gets to in a year  ( I can tell you that we are working at this slow pace.  It will be a quality not quantity year).  Older students may progress from one paragraph to a five paragraph essay.

The key to the paragraph is a visual tool used in pre-writing to organize thoughts.  You can see it here in a conference workshop.

I have to say, writing is a lot less intimidating when you look at it in baby steps instead of a marathon (there I go with an Olympic reference again).  In some lessons we've just been deciding on main ideas--are they too broad or too narrow.  Then we move on to trying to write a topic sentence.  When I start to hear whining I can say "Look, we only need to write one sentence.  Surely you have the energy for one sentence."

How to Teach the Paragraph seems to be geared to a classroom setting (or at least multiple students) as some assignments have students critiquing each others work.  Since I only have one it's hard to accomplish that peer review--everything seems like the teacher is grading me, so Schnickelfritz needs to be his own editor.  I honestly don't know how kids reviewing other kids would work, I suppose it depends if they're mature enough to understand the concept of constructive criticism and not use the exercise to get back at Sis for what happened at lunch or some other misuse of the power.

Softcover  $19.95
e-Book     $15.95

The book is written to adults teaching kids in grades 3-12.  This is really the Course Overview, Pacing Chart, and  Road Map for implementing the other books.

e-Book  format only    $7.99

This book is written to adults teaching kids in grades 3-12.  It is included free with the purchase of How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay or The Complete Writing Program.

Softcover  $19.95
e-Book     $17.95

This book is written to adults teaching kids in grades 4-12.  It is included free with the purchase of The Complete Writing Program.

We'll be be continuing with this course.  Schnickelfritz has several essays to write for Royal Rangers merit badges this year.  I hope he'll give me permission to print a completed work here on the blog.  You'll definitely want to check out some of the other Homeschool Crew blogs on this review as we moved very slowly and never even got to the last book.

Disclaimer: I received free copies of the e-Books mentioned above for the purpose of completing this review. 


Jennifer aGlimpseOfOurLife said...

Baby steps. That advice could apply to a lot.

The Freemans said...

Stopping by from the crew to say hi and follow!

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