Writing, the Bane of my Existence

That title might be a slight exaggeration.  Except, what did I do with my week off while Mushroom and BalletBoy were in summer camp?  Well, other than have a lovely lunch date with the Husband and catch up on all those episodes of True Blood I missed while I was traveling?  I wrote a writing workbook for the kids to use this year.

This is me, hitting my head against a wall.  I don’t even know if it’s out of frustration with writing and grammar curricula options or with my own pickiness with writing curricula.  Either way, I feel like a dope.  Surely, what I wanted isn’t that strange and I’ve wasted my time.  Yet, after looking, and looking, and looking, I just didn’t find it.  You’re probably feeling compelled to suggest something for me to consider now.  Let me assure you that I’ve already seen it so you needn’t bother.

There’s two pieces to this.  First, is our personal requirements.  I know what works for me as a teacher and the kids as learners.  They need structure and step by step approaches.  I need something that isn’t scripted and doesn’t require daily prep that I know I won’t do.  There’s nothing I like less than a long, two page description of how to do an activity that takes less than ten minutes.

The second piece is my own beliefs about writing.  Most curricula focus on one of two approaches.  First, there’s the classical approach, which has copywork as the basis for understanding how to imitate good sentences as a foundation for learning to write well.  Second is what I might call the organizational approach, which focuses on generating ideas, outlining, and types of writing.  I believe in the oral part of the classical approach, the narration piece, which we’re planning to get more serious about for second grade.  I was very inspired by Melissa’s two narration posts a little while back to renew our narration push.  However, I don’t believe in copywork.  Nor do I believe all kids this age need to write well is a little organizational help.  It’s a lot to ask kids to compose on paper when they’re still working on spelling, phonics and handwriting fluency.  I think kids need grammar instruction as a part of writing, but I’m not gung ho to spend a huge amount of time on grammar worksheets or lessons.  What I want is something fun and interesting but that uses words and sentences as the foundation for good writing.

There are some fun, interesting resources out there.  I’m especially fond of Peggy Kaye’s Games for Writing.  The kids got this little book from our 826 down the street and it’s fun.  I also am excited to try out Tin Man Press’s Just Write, which is filled with irreverent worksheets for writing.  But none of these include grammar or are especially structured.  The blog based curriculum Wordsmithery focuses on simple ways to teach thinking about using good words across a wide age range.  It’s a great little program, but it’s not open and go enough for me.  I need more of a form for us to really follow something through and not be spotty about it.  There’s a few good grammar and writing curricula that are worktext based like I want.  Scott Foresman even has a free writing and grammar workbook online, but it’s dull.  I almost went ahead and bought Growing with Grammar and Winning with Writing half a dozen times.  The problem is that they’re too long for what I want and not especially fun.

So, here I find myself with a nearly finished writing curriculum that’s appropriate for first and second graders.  We’re going to try it.  If it works at all for us, I promise to .pdf it and make it available to the masses, for anyone else feeling dissatisfied.

9 thoughts on “Writing, the Bane of my Existence

  1. Oh, you know we’d feel compelled to recommend something anyway. 😉 We switched to MCT last year and we’re thrilled. 🙂 The first level is just wonderful. It focuses on basic grammar and nice sentences, as well as the beauty of a well-written sentence. The poetry book is lovely. It isn’t all about writing, there’s no copying (unless you decide to). No script, just a fun text. It IS expensive. But with two other kids (including a baby), I couldn’t write my own. All the books work together and really involve just helping kids develop a love of language.

  2. When my kids were younger, we did dictation and narration and copywork and not so much of the organizational skills type writing lessons. For my son, this turned out to be a terrible mistake. He could write beautiful papers as a Freshman in high school, but it took him forever and stressed him out terribly. He’s entering his Junior year of high school (he does online high school these days) and now he’s fine with writing papers, but wow, at first it was a terrible struggle for him.

    I decided to learn from my mistakes. My soon to be 14 year old daughter has been working with “Strategies for Writers” from Zaner Bloser for the last two years. She’s not thrilled with it, but it’s the best organizational style writing books I’ve been able to find so far and it is very helpful for her, even if it’s not “fun”. If I had to do it all over again, I’d still do the narration, dictation, copywork, and book reports by increasingly complex forms, but I’d add in a bunch more essay writing and maybe journaling, starting at about age 10, depending on the level of the kid.

  3. What I’ve seen of MCT is the closest to what I would like to do for my kids, but I think they’re just too young for it now. His programs begin at grade 3 and are considered by some people to be for “gifted” students. My boys are young second graders – in many other districts, they would be older first graders instead. I just couldn’t think they would really be ready for MCT yet. Plus, the price tag. Boo.

    Resa, the organizational piece was what I always felt most comfortable teaching when I was a middle school teacher. I’m less worried about that… at least not yet.

  4. I’m planning to use Evan-Moor’s Daily Six-Trait Writing this year (the second grade book). I’ll let you know how it goes!

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