Friday, April 22, 2016

Apologia Educational Ministries Writers in Residence

Apologia Educational Ministries has become a favorite curriculum provider of mine over the years, and I'm sure you're familiar with their highly regarded Science courses and their more recent Worldview Courses. Well, now they are offering a Writing Course from a Christian Worldview for Grades 4-8. As a member of the TOS Review Crew, I was blessed to receive Writers in Residence , a new curriculum by Debra Bell.

Writers In Residence is a HUGE resource, with the main student book being an "All-In-One" text and workbook. Just to give you an idea~ the preface/introduction/how-to-use-this-book section is 47 pages. The rest of the book, the actual text and instruction, including appendices and index is 576 pages! WOW! See the photo below next to a juvenile fiction chapter book to get an idea of the size.

Some highlights from the layout of the book itself:
Spotlight on Christian Writers
Each of the Six Units highlights a different Christian Author, and starts with a Q&A interview with the author. Included are:
Bill Myers (best known for the  McGee and Me series)
Amy Gree (author of Christian Juvenile fantasy series the Amarias Adventures)
Irene Howat (Prolific author of almost 50 books including Ten Boys Who Changed the World and Ten Girls Who Made History.)
Jason Lethcoe (Author, Director, Animator, and Storyboard Artist who worked on movies including Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and The Little Mermaid.)
Amy Parker (Author of 20+ books including Thank You, God, For Mommy and Thank You, God, For Daddy.)
Phil Vischer (Most commonly known as co-creator of the ever-popular Veggie-Tales series.)

I really like that they included a variety of authors, not just Novel and Picture Book, but authors that work in Film as well. Very cool!

The six Units in Writers in Residence focus on ways authors come up with stories

  • I Remember ~ Favorite Childhood Memories, using Cynthia Rylant's When I Was Young In the Mountains
  • I Imagine ~ Using Imagination to write letters, using Patricia MacLachlan's Sarah Plain and Tall as an example
  • I Investigate ~ Research, in this unit, that means uncovering your family history, using Roald Dahl's collection of true stories Boy: Tales of Childhood
  • I Think ~ The Personal Essay... oh boy! Expressing your opinion about your favorite author
  • I Remember ~ Again... this time writing a personal narrative, using excerpts from popular children's fiction authors autobiographies, Beverly Cleary, Sid Fleischman and Mary Pope Osborne
  • and I Image ~ Again, but this time to write a piece of totally wild Superhero fiction, not related to something one could imagine might *really* happen. 

I really like the variety of tools Writers in Residence uses to come up with ideas~ a great help to kids who can't think when faced with a blank piece of paper!

I also appreciate that for each unit and module there really isn't a lot of that blank paper space to intimidate young writers. The pages of the manual are presented in such a way that they draw out information from your budding author one bit at a time.

One of the first activities, the Memory Chart, was to come up with a favorite place with lots of memories, and then to brainstorm those memories. There are sections for 5 different people (Or groups of people), the favorite things done with them, and descriptive details to help flesh out the memories. This chart could easily be a one day assignment depending on the age, but we took a couple of days, trying to come up with a bunch of activities and great words to help describe them.

The next step was to translate those memories into a pattern that followed Cynthia Rylant's pattern of "When I was young in the mountains I..." Because Youngest chose to write about our annual camping trip, his was more along the lines of "When I was young in Dathforth Bay..." This also took a couple of days for him to complete~ but if your kids love to write they might zip through it. ;)

After the rough draft, there is a little focus on choosing and using words, which lets the child take a break from writing their own material, and instead filling out something more worksheet-like.

The rest of the Unit follows a similar pattern, encouraging original writing interspersed with fill in the blank sorts of exercises to increase word power.

I really appreciate how Debra Bell has broken the process down and made space for creativity while still teaching form and function: How to come up with ideas, organize those ideas, create sentences that are interesting to read, using word choices that clearly convey the idea, with proper voice and writing conventions.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 

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