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.