Tuesday, October 6, 2009

EDUDPS "Write With The Best" Volumes 1 & 2

Last, but certainly not least we come to the writing curriculum that Jill Dixon has put out:
I received the pages only versions "Write With the Best: Volume 1" and "Write With the Best: Volume 2 " to use with my 9 and 12 year olds.

I really like the concept and the format of this curriculum, in that there are included excerpts from classic works of literature, in a variety of genres. They are each read, discussed, analyzed, and finally used as models of writing, from which the student creates their own piece of work in the given genre. Imitation is not only one of the greatest forms of flattery, but one of the best modes of learning.... :)

I also appreciate that these aren't lengthy dissertations on grammar, but a more natural approach to writing. Jill teaches attention to detail, and descriptive writing, with an emphasis on descriptive nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. She keeps her "lessons" fairly short (Which I like), although the units are somewhat predictable in form (which I don't mind, but some may find wearying). She recommends writing on topics that will keep the student's interest (well.... what a concept! "What I Did On My Summer Vacation" gets old after awhile, as does any arbitrary choice of topic on the part of the teacher), but she does so keeping within the genre at hand.

One of the handiest portions of this curriculum, and one that will most certainly continue to be used, is the "How To Write" Guide with a list of steps to follow to develop a certain genre of writing. My 12 year old, in particular was impressed with, and enjoyed using this portion of the curriculum.

There were only two things I felt were confusing :
  • The "Answer keys" to the cited literary passages. The words are presented in alphabetical order rather than in the order they appear, which makes it more difficult than necessary to verify student work. The point is also made that not EVERY noun, verb, adjective, or adverb is listed in the answer key, only "the most descriptive", but that could be considered a little subjective, which was confusing to my children.... I finally figured out that I should just nod my head whenever they came up with one that was not on the list.... ;)
  • The objective to "Find an example of _______ (current genre being studied) by a well known author and use it for further study. I felt this should be an objective detailed for the upper middle-school and/or high school student, rather than being a general objective for all. Of course as students progress through the course they should become more familiar with and recognize specific styles of writing, but to expect it immediately seemed a little presumptuous. There is a list of additional Literary Passages included in the back of the manual for "Reuse" of the curriculum, but I feel that they should be noted as options for the parents to bring up for their younger students to complete these objectives.
I am enjoying hearing my children pick up on and think about and use more descriptive words in their every day conversations as well as in their writing. OK, so my 9 year old is still addicted to words like "Sick" and "Cool", but I think he'll get the hang of it... maybe he'll even rub off on his skateboarding neighborhood buddies! ;) The 12 year old... she's another story! :)

I do think that while "Write with the Best Volume 1" is listed as being for grades 3-12, it is optimal for the middle to high-school years. Jill does give recommendations for expectations for younger students, and I appreciate that. I believe that "Write With The Best" is useful for my "School of Two", and would be a benefit for those who have more and varied ages in their "classes". :)

For those concerned about high-school "Credit hours"... I think that if your student is taking a reasonable amount of time to complete the writing and perfecting objectives, then they should fairly easily hit that average of 40 minutes/day.... Some days will most certainly be lighter than others(ie... reading and "Grammar exercises"), but when they get into writing short stories and fables, and more, some of those days will be much longer than others.... it should all come out in the wash.

Alright, so now I should get down to the nitty gritty and tell you some specifics.

From the Table of Contents:
Volume 1: (3rd-12 grade)
  • Describing an Object from Jules Verne - a Place from Charles Dickens - a Character from Daniel Defoe
  • Dialogue from Kenneth Grahame
  • The Short Story from O. Henry
  • Fables from Aesop
  • Friendly Letters from Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Poetry - Rhyming Verse from William Wordsworth
  • The Ballad or Narrative Poem from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Volume 2 (6th -12th grade)
  • Poetry - Free Verse from Emily Dickinson
  • Business Letters from Helen Keller
  • Persuasive Essays from Thomas Paine
  • Expository Essays from Francis Bacon
  • Literary Critiques from Edgar Allan Poe (That's right! Poe was a superb literary critic at one point.)
  • Newspaper Articles from Ernest Hemingway (Yes, indeed! In his early career, Hemingway was a newspaper article writer.)
  • Speeches from Marcus Tullius Cicero
  • Dramatic Monologues from William Shakespeare
Volume 1
  • $19.95 ebook (Currently on sale for $14.95... 25% off)
  • $22.45 pages only (no Binder)
  • $24.95 3- ring- Binder
Volume 2
  • $24.95 ebook (Currently on sale for $18.65... 25% off)
  • $27.45 pages only (no Binder)
  • $29.95 3- ring- Binder
For more information and insight, don't forget to check out other TOS Crew member reviews!

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