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Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Write Foundation, another look

While we’re on the topic of writing instruction, I was asked to take another gander at a writing curriculum I reviewed last year. This seems an opportune moment for it, what with everybody finalizing their curricula for next year.

The Write Foundation is an incremental approach to writing instruction with 3 different levels:

  1. Sentence to Paragraph Writing (suggested ages 11-14)
  2. Paragraph Writing (suggested ages 12-16)
  3. Essay Writing (suggested ages 14-18)

Each level consists of 30 lessons that can be taught one lesson a week (to go through the entire level in a year) or one lesson over two weeks (completing lessons 1-15 in one year and then lessons 16-30 the next year). The curriculum comes 2 spiral-bound teacher’s manuals (one for lessons 1-15 and one for lessons 1-16), loose student pages, and a download with additional teacher resources. Each complete level sells for $70 (plus s&h), or buy all 3 levels at once for $180 (plus s&h). For additional info, please see my original review of The Write Foundation Sentence to Paragraph Writing.

Now, in light of the random writing thoughts that have been floating around this blog lately, what do I think of The Write Foundation, now? Is it the right foundation for writing?

Let me just say first that there’s no such thing as the perfect writing curriculum, but this one has some big positives.

Why should you take a look at The Write Foundation?

  • It’s written by a homeschool mom, Rebecca Celsor, who wasn’t impressed with the other writing curricula out there. I’ve mentioned some of the weaknesses I’ve seen in some writing curricula, while this wouldn’t sell me on a curriculum, it certainly got my attention.
  • It incorporates LOGIC into the curriculum. I haven’t talked about this in my writing series, but one huge weakness my husband sees in college papers is they are simply illogical. The Write Foundation incorporates logic through the use of Mind Benders puzzles. It may seem like an extra, but I think Logic is a crucial component in the writing puzzle. Just as writing needs to communicate, it needs to be logical.
  • The Write Foundation acknowledges the reading and writing link and promotes it. The curriculum includes a book list and students are expected to read books from the list as part of their writing requirement.
  • It’s truly incremental. So many writing programs have your child trying their hand at this genre or that genre and jumping into writing paragraphs and whole stories from thin air. Level 1 of The Write Foundation begins with sentences and learning how to improve them by giving more detail.
  • The lessons use color-coding (highlighting) to establish visual links between the different parts of, for example, an outline with the corresponding parts of the finished paragraph. These cues can help visual learners with the very abstract process of organizing their writing.
  • Lessons are taught by you, you work together with your child, and then they continue to take what they have learned and use it on their own. This is not an independent curriculum where you give your kiddo an assignment and then they present it to you and you mark it up with red pen. Writing definitely benefits from feedback and discussion. I would even recommend doing the assignments yourself alongside your child and treating it like a workshop.
  • There’s an emphasis on poetry, in fact every lesson has a poetry element. Speaking from personal experience, working on poetry absolutely can improve your writing in other areas. If nothing else, it will give you a better ear for language. It will also encourage your kiddos to not be afraid of poetry.
  • There are plenty of teacher helps, you won’t be left trying to figure out on your own how to grade your child’s assignments, and you’ll know what you are looking for.
  • While the suggested time per lesson is a bit long and wouldn’t ordinarily fit into a Charlotte Mason approach (about an hour or so a day, depending on the level), we’ve found that in a one-on-one setting, less time is needed and if you went with the two weeks per lesson schedule, the lesson length would be very manageable.
  • It’s affordable. Especially if you choose to use one level over two years (and there’s definitely enough material to do that). $35 a year for a re-usable resource is downright cheap.

Now here’s the big question: Is content king or is this another writing curriculum that trips over form?

To some extent, this will depend on how you use this curriculum, but that’s true of any curriculum.

Generally speaking, Level 1 does not require your child to come up with content out of thin air or make the assumption that she has tons of ideas she can’t wait to get on paper. One example: Lesson 20 will have your child rewriting fables by taking well-known fables and changing aspects about them to make new stories. (Imitation is a worthwhile way of improving one’s own writing, by the way.) The student is not left to come up with a whole story out of their own brain, but has the opportunity to add details they may have easily picked up in their own reading.

More open-ended assignments can be paired with content from your other studies. Here, the burden will rest with you to give your child worthwhile things to write about that you know he’s capable of writing about, but this is really something you’ll need to do with any formal writing program.

But, no, you won’t find any assignments here that totally disregard content for the sake of form. At least, I didn’t find any in level 1. In fact, the author, Rebecca Celsor, seems to have a keen appreciation for the fact that writing is intended to communicate. The aim of The Write Foundation seems to genuinely be to give students the skills to be better communicators.

But, one caveat:

I was seriously considering using Sentence to Paragraph with my soon to be 6th grader this coming year, but I’ve decided to wait on it. He’s at the lower end of the suggested age range for this curriculum and I think it’s just a little too formal for him at this point. I would highly recommend not rushing it. You can safely wait until 7th, 8th, or even 9th grade before starting formal writing instruction. One thing you don’t want to do is make them hate it before they’re really ready for it.

So, if a writing curriculum is still on your list for next year, check out the samples at The Write Foundation.

You’ll find ordering info for The Write Foundation here.

Disclosure: As a reviewer, I received Level 1 of The Write Foundation for free. I received no other compensation. The opinions reflected in this post are my own.

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