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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Review: Write with the Best Volumes 1 & 2


Jill Dixon has put her 21 years of experience in teaching writing and 16 years homeschooling her own children into a curriculum that will have your child reading great literature and really exercising those writing muscles. Write with the Best: Modeling Writing after Great Authors of World Literature Vol. 1 & 2 is a program designed to teach grades 3-12 how to truly excel in written communication.

Volume 1 is directed to grades 3-12 and covers descriptive writing, from writing a descriptive paragraph, to writing a short story, to writing poetry. The program is divided into 9 units, with each unit divided into 10 daily lessons that can be covered in 2 weeks, or stretch the lessons out a bit, giving you a full year’s curriculum covering 9 months. You begin each unit by reading an excerpt from a famous author and learning about what makes that selection “great” writing. You’ll read excerpts from Jules Verne, Aesop, Wordsworth, and many more. The remainder of the unit will take you through the step-by-step process of completing that unit’s ultimate goal, whether it be writing a paragraph describing a person or writing a narrative poem. Grammar, proofreading and thesaurus skills are all covered along the way.

Volume 2 is a continuation, of sorts, in that it covers more technical writing and is aimed at grades 6-12. Its 8 units cover topics such as writing a business letter, writing a persuasive essay, and writing a dramatic monologue. Some of the authors highlighted are Francis Bacon, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and William Shakespeare.

WWTB does rely on the student to have at least a rudimentary understanding of grammar (i.e., what makes a sentence, what are nouns, verbs, and adjectives, etc.) and some of the reading selections can be challenging. Some of the lessons can be a bit daunting for 3rd-4th graders, such as identifying all of the specific nouns, descriptive verbs, adjectives and adverbs in a 250 word selection from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I found it more productive to review the parts of speech by taking a few sentences and identifying all of the nouns, then all of the verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Then, once the parts of speech are identified, it was a matter of making judgments as to what is a "descriptive” word and what is not. Now, these sort of judgments are highly subjective. There often isn’t a right answer and there doesn’t need to be. The real point of the exercise is to understand how these descriptive words are woven together into the final piece. To that end, the answer key provided in the back of the book is a little lacking and difficult to use:

  1. The specific nouns and descriptive verbs, adjectives and adverbs are given in alphabetical order, rather than in the order in which they appear, so it can be difficult to see what you missed.
  2. Only specific and descriptive words are given, which, as I said, are highly subjective. For example, in Volume 2, the word “pile” is identified as a specific noun but “mountains” is not. I don’t see how “pile” is more specific than “mountains,” but who am I to judge?
  3. The answers are given as lists of words rather than any attempt being made to show how they fit together. An adjective is only an adjective because it modifies a noun. A word that is normally a verb can be an adjective.

But, these are minor issues that can be overcome easily with a little tweaking and advanced preparation.

While clearly written as a curriculum to be taught by you, the teacher, to your students, an enterprising high schooler could certainly handle this as an independent study.

An altogether highly useable curriculum that I don’t mind tweaking to achieve its full benefit. Definitely worth a look if you want to get out of a workbook funk and good value for your money as it can be repeated over again using different literary examples as your children mature in their writing abilities. Download the table of contents, introduction and first unit of WWTB 1 and WWTB 2 for free here.

Note: WWTB is available as loose pages to be inserted into a binderor already in the binder) or as an e-book. Since there are some pages that need to be copied for the student’s use, I would normally advocate the purchase of the e-book so you could just print those copies as you need them. However, the e-books are delivered wrapped in a robust security program that will only allow 2 printings from the file. You can still read the file as often as you like on your computer.

Write with the Best Volumes 1 & 2 are both available separately from Educational Diagnostic Prescriptive Services (EDUDPS):

Volume 1

  • E-book on SALE $14.95 (regularly $19.95)
  • Pages only $22.45
  • 3-ring binder with pages $24.95

Volume 2

  • E-book SALE $18.65 (regularly $24.95)
  • Pages only $27.45
  • 3-ring binder with pages $29.95

For more reviews of this product and others available from EDUDPS, visit the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog.

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