Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Create Better Writers

While *I* enjoy writing, teaching writing is not something with which I am extremely comfortable. My children don't particularly enjoy writing, so I'm always interested in trying a different approach, to see if something different will "Click" with them.

The latest offerings for The Schoolhouse Review Crew are from Create Better Writers.  The books we were sent are part of a complete writing system, although they certainly can be used on their own. *Note: We were sent the ebook versions to use, but they are also available as soft-covers.

A path for teaching is set with The Homeschool Writing Action Plan , which walks the instructor through each of the resources that are offered. It starts with a pacing guide (Implementing the Action Plan at the 3rd, 6th, or high school level, depending on your circumstances), and then moves right into the road map, starting with How To Teach the Paragraph (Yes, the cover says "How to Write a Paragraph" but it's the same book). The Action Plan summarizes the key concepts taught in the book, and includes Follow-Up activities for when the student has mastered writing a properly constructed paragraph.

How To Teach the Paragraph is a 22 page book that offers a method of teaching the paragraph in 11 steps, from the basic "Five Parts of a Paragraph" to "Paragraph Assessment" to "The Perfect Paragraph." I liked the simplicity of the method, and the way that it was presented. Although my children still groan when I tell them it's time to write a paragraph, they now have an idea of what is expected from them, and at least the Eldest is becoming more proficient(as I expect Middlest will with more practice this fall....).

From here the Action Plan moves on to  Sentence Building, focusing on books that were not included in the review~ Writing Tricks Plus, and 2 chapters from The Complete Writing Program. The Action Plan includes a number of examples of Writing Tricks and the basic process of the Writing Tricks/Show-Not-Tell System, which are further fleshed out in the books mentioned(The system can also be used with your current LA program).

Next, Vocabulary Practice is covered, (The Complete Writing Program has a chapter with more strategies and worksheets) with various vocabulary building activities that can be used with your own LA program, if so desired.

The Action Plan then discusses Writing Assessment, with some guidance on developing your own assessment rubrics. If you prefer not come up with your own lessons and rubrics, I understand that The Complete Writing Program has lesson plans ready to be taught.

The Action Plan  moves back to the books we received for review as it covers the Research Report. The basic idea is to Teach the Paragraph(if it isn't yet solid), and then move on to How To Teach the Five Paragraph Essay, applying it to a Mini-Research Report. When this is solid the students will use the skills they have learned to write a Research Report.

Because of our limited time to use the program, we did not move into How To Teach the Five-Paragraph Essay, but in skimming through the book I came up with an analogy. How To Teach the Five-Paragraph Essay is kind of like a basic cookie dough or bread dough. Once you learn the basic recipe, it is easy to make adaptations to the recipe (or to "tweak" it), to create something that is just a little bit different.  Create Better Writers does the same thing with the Five-Paragraph Essay~ giving a regular vanilla flavored structure to start with, and then teaching adaptations to create persuasive, cause/effect, narrative, and problem/solution essays. I am looking forward to continuing this as we start up our official school-year this fall.

Continuing through the Action Plan (Nope.. it isn't done yet.. ;D) Narrative Writing is summarized, with examples of elements and literary devices, and the final portion talks about SAT/ACT College Exam Practice, drawing on the skills learned in How To Teach the Five-Paragraph Essay.

What I liked:
Simplicity~ one basic idea is carried throughout
Cost~ very reasonable for the product
Organization~ easy to use, with all of the tools right at your fingertips
Efficiency~ I'm a huge fan of learn and adapt~ Very efficient! :) 

What I didn't like:
Kind of drawing a blank on this one. For a basic "Learn-to-write-creative-paragraphs-and essays" program, I think the Create Better Writers has a simple but winning recipe.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty
Company: Create Better Writers
  • The Homeschool Writing Action Plan $15.95 ebook, or $19.95 softcover
  • How To Teach the Paragraph   $7.99 eBook Only  (Free with the purchase of How To Teach the Five Paragraph Essay or The Complete Writing Program)
  •  How To Teach the Five Paragraph Essay eBook $17.95 (free with the purchase of The Complete Writing Program) / Soft Cover $22.95   
  •  The Complete Writing Program (Not reviewed, but mentioned enough that I figured I should add the price in for you all) currently on sale for $54.80 eBook, or $59 softcover. 
  • Please check the site, as there are many bundles offered that may be more cost efficient for you, depending on your purchase choices.  
Ages: 3rd grade and up

As always, I hope that this review is helpful to you as you choose where to best spend your homeschool budget. Be sure to click on the banner below to read more reviews.

Disclaimer: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the TOS Review Crew Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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