Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Writing Strands

Up until now I've used Spectrum workbooks to teach language arts topics. I've been very please with the results so far. However, I noticed that towards the end of her recently finished writing workbook (grade 2) , that my daughter was able to technically complete the assignments correctly without applying herself or bettering her writing. I decided it was time for a change.

After some research and thought, I ended up chosing Writing Strands Level 3. We just started it last week and I'm please already. I can see that it is going to develop her writing significantly.

The book is set up in fourteen exercises, each covered over several days. It is written to the student in corny conversational style. It guess that makes it more enjoyable for them. My daughter certainly thinks the authors were weird (that's a good thing). As the student reads through the lesson, they are instructed on what to do and how to do it. Examples are given to show them what to do. Every so often, the student is instructed to show their parent their completed work. I've been sitting with her and helping her out more than the book requires.

I'd like to give you an example of an early exercise. My daughter was given the sentence, "The boy found the dog." and instructed to improve the sentence by adding bits of information to it step by step. She was given questions to help her come up with ideas of what to add. After all the steps were completed she ended up with this sentence:

The nine year old boy used his rope to tie up the white boxer he found in the park.

As you can see, that sentence definitely has more information and is more complicated than the beginning sentence. I thinks it is a pretty good sentence for an 8 year old. It's not the way I would write out that information; I'd write a whole paragraph detailing the setting and other details but they only wanted a sentence at this point. Paragraphs come later.

Now I have found a flaw in the book. In exercise 1, the student was instructed to write a two-word sentence and then to add just one word to it, making a three word sentence. Then the student was to add one more word to make a four word sentence. Then again and again. The problem we ran into was that her starting sentence could not be added to just one word at a time and still make sense. I ended up changing the directions to have her add one piece of information (like she was required to do in exercise 2) rather than just one word. That worked out fine. However, the goal was for the student to make a more complicated sentence while following directions exactly. Those two goals could not be completed simultaneously with her chosen starting sentence.

So what is my initial impression? I think this curriculum is going to improve my daughter's writing. However, I think she's going to need to me sit by her side and help her out until she is used to following the book's directions and has a little more experience. Older children with more writing experience will probably do fine with the self-directed nature of the assignments unless there are more like exercise 1. I also think that exercise 1 needs to be rewritten and will be writing the publishers shortly.

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Michelle Olsen Sasak said...

It sounds like a good curriculum change for her. Miss J's Language Arts doesn't challenge her but she enjoys that we get to read and discuss the 20 or so books that they send out. I imagine she'll be more challenged in second grade. I think the only negative I've found with k12 curriculum is that it's hard to go to what challenges the kids. Miss J will not be challenged the rest of the year in math, since she already can do the entire course, but we can't move on to something else because skipping up is not allowed unless we do extra lessons every day (and the days are already 5 hours long).

Manders said...

I looked at the sample. I really liked it. As you mentioned in your post, it starts at the beginning and has the child add more. I call it adding color to the sentence.

This is something that my son (and his whole school) needs to work on. Yet another reason why to homeschool.

I appreciate that you are blogging this. It just seems so daunting on this side of the homeschooling fence.