Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Write With the Best, Volume 2

A few years ago I determined I would not rest until I had taught my then 6th grade son something about writing. He had such a fear of the subject that I had let it slide for many years, but enough was enough. I read in a catalog a description of a unique curriculum designed to teach writing fundamentals by having students’ model writing of famous authors and great works of literature. So unique was this approach compared to any other curriculum I had encountered that I knew we had to give it a try. I had read art students usually spend hours copying the works of the great master artists, so it made sense to me that children should learn the art of writing by modeling the works of great authors.

The curriculum was Write With the Best, Volume 1 written by Jill J. Dixon, B.S. Ed., M.Ed. and published by Diagnostic Prescriptive Services. It was so successful in our home, allowing my son to conquer his fear and my then 4th grade daughter discover a new passion for the written word, that I couldn’t wait to use Write With the Best, Volume 2 the following year. For some reason I lost focus on this goal and we never did pick up a copy of Write With The Best, Volume 2 until it arrived in my inbox as an e-book this fall for me to review.

My now 7th grade daughter, Micah remembered instantly the joy she had experienced from our previous year. As we opened the curriculum and began to use it I remembered the beauty of its set up and ease of use. The curriculum is divided into 8 different units designed to be used over 16 weeks of time. Each unit is supplied with lesson plans and instruction for 10 days. Topics studied in Write with the Best, Volume 2 include:

How to write a poem in Free Verse

How to write a business letter

How to take notes

How to write an outline

How to write a summary

How to write a persuasive essay

How to write an expository essay

How to write a literary critique and book review

How to write a newspaper article

How to write a speech

How to write a dramatic monologue

A separate “How to Write Guide” with step by step instruction is included which gently guides the student through the creative or fundamental process of writing their original work after studying the famous work for one week. Answer keys for grammar questions asked within the text are included for the teacher for quick grading. Write With The Best easily contains all the necessary elements for a complete language arts course including grammar and writing instruction. If the student is so inspired to read the complete work of the author rather than just the excerpt studied you could check off a literature component as well.

A typical day with Write with the Best, Volume 2 begins with brief instruction/ discussion time between the teacher and student. We usually spent anywhere from 15-30 minutes. All of the instruction and discussion topics are scripted for the teacher along with a list of objectives to be accomplished during this time. A small assignment is listed for homework or independent study allowing the student to reinforce the learned objectives of the day.

I especially like that Dixon has listed the number of objectives to be accomplished each day. As a teacher this helped me break down the important elements of the lesson and not get overwhelmed or bogged down in details too quickly.

Write with the Best, Volume 2 is appropriate for use for grades 6-12. It is a non-consumable product, although I recommend making copies of the included “great works” selections for each student to use and study. Diagnostic Prescriptive Services offers Write With the Best, Volume 2 on their website in e-book format for $24.95 (for a limited time $18.65, 25% off), soft cover format without binding for $27.45 plus shipping, or soft-cover in three ringed binder for $29.95 plus shipping. Payments can be made on the website through PayPal.

If you have a student living in fear of the monstrous task of learning to write encourage greatness with Write with the Best. They will have Emily Dickinson, Thomas Paine, Helen Keller, Francis Bacon, Edgar Allen Poe, Ernest Hemmingway, Cicero and Shakespeare guiding them through the process. You can’t ask for better language arts teachers than that!

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