"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." ~Romans 12:2 NKJV~

Friday, August 3, 2012

Create Better Writers

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Writing instruction does not need to be difficult”. These are the words you would hear from David S. Dye the creator of Create Better Writers. Mr. Dye was so generous in allowing the Schoolhouse Crew to review 3 of his books from Create Better Writers that are for students in 3rd grade and up. We received the e-book version (PDF) of all 3 books. The first one I want to tell you about is the Homeschool Writing Action Plan.

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One day at a home school convention David was selling his writing curriculum and conducting workshops. As home school parents walked past his booth he would call out, “How’s your writing program working for you?” He noticed that majority of the people were not happy with their curriculum. After probing a little more he invited these parents to come to his one-hour workshop, and made them this promise: “Give me one hour, and I’ll show you how to make strong, confident writers with just a few simple tricks. You’ll know exactly where to begin their writing instruction and how to get them to become college-level writers within a few short years. Furthermore, I may not be able to help you make your students love to write, but I will be able to show you how to make it as painless an experience as possible.”

The Homeschool Writing Action Plan will explain to parents how they can teach the basic structure of writing in a way that allows the students with natural talent to go as far as their abilities will take them. This program is designed to solve three major problems for the home school parent:

1. To eliminate the need to spend a fortune on various writing curriculums.
2. To make is easy to teach several different students in multiple grade levels using just one writing curriculum.
3. To provide a blueprint for successful writing so that teaching it is no longer a difficult task.

What makes this program so easy to teach? It “teaches you, the home school parent, right along with your kids. It will guide you step-by-step as you cover every aspect of writing. It starts by laying a simple foundation and then builds on it sequentially. Your students will learn more than just the mechanics of writing. Even the reluctant writers can thrive with this program”.

The Homeschool Writing Action Plan is broken down into 3 parts:

1. The Writing Action Plan Summary- is a summary of the core steps of the writing action plan.
2. Pacing Guide- this will help you decide how much time to spend on each activity.
3. The Road Map- points out key aspects of each section and provides sample worksheets and lesson plans for teaching them.

You can purchase The Homeschool Writing Action Plan as a soft cover for $19.95 or as an e-book for $15.95.

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The next book we received is the How to Write a Paragraph. This book show teachers how to teach the paragraph. “The paragraph is the foundation of great writing. If a student can write an intelligent, well-organized paragraph, they are well on their way to great writing”.  The first thing you will learn is how to help your children learn how to write a paragraph using one simple trick. Once they are able to write a strong paragraph, they can use that same trick to write a five-paragraph essay (will be talked about next). When they have mastered writing a strong five paragraph essay using this easy trick, they will then practice writing narrative stories, problem solution essays, and much more with ease. The book is broken up into 2 sections:    

1. The Basics- in 6 steps they will have learned what a paragraph is about, the 5 parts of a paragraph, how to set their paper up and more.
2. Improving the Parts of a Paragraph- this shows how to come up with topic and closing sentences for a paragraph. Lots of emphasis is put on practicing each step (one at a time) over and over again each day until they are mastered. There are worksheets at the end of the book for more practice.

You can purchase How to Write a Paragraph in e-book format only for $7.99. It is free if you purchase the next book I will now tell you about.

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How to Teach The Five-Paragraph Essay is geared towards students grades 4th and up. It will show you how to teach the five-paragraph essay using one simple essay format. From this basic format, you will discover that adjusting it to fit the different domains of writing is very simple.  This book will also “show your students how to add the “bells and whistles” to their five paragraph essays. Once they’ve mastered the basic format of the five-paragraph essay, they will learn important ideas such as Interesting Introductions, Smooth Transitions from paragraph to paragraph, Classy Conclusions, and much more”. The format of this book is as follows:

1. List of Steps - First you will receive a list a steps to follow when teaching the five-paragraph essay. This will serve as an overview as you get comfortable teaching this process. Also, you can use this as a guide while actually teaching the five-paragraph essay.

2. Sample Pacing Chart – From Day 1 to Day 20, what will your daily lessons look like? It will vary from grade and ability level so use this as a model to use as a starting point. By using this pacing chart you will find that speeding up or slowing down is easy. Simply take more time to complete each step or jump to the next step when you feel your students have understood each lesson.

3. Detailed Lesson Plan - Next, each step will be explained in greater detail. You will see pictures and receive a detailed explanation of each step.

4. Plan for Total Mastery - The goal is to have every student master the five-paragraph essay. This lesson plan will show you what to do with the students who have mastered the skill, and how to find time to work in small groups for those who continue to need support.

5. Bells and Whistles – Now you will learn to teach your students how to make more exciting introductions, classy conclusions, smooth transitions, and more…

6. The Next Level – Show your students how to use the basic format of the five paragraph essay to create any domain of writing. Does your district give your students a timed test on persuasive letters? Are your students required to take a state writing test on problem-solution? Not a problem. In minutes your students will know exactly what to do to create any genre of writing.

You can purchase How to Teach the Five-Paragraph Essay as a soft cover for $19.95 or as an e-book for $17.95.

To learn more on how this program is done check out this video….

I read through each of these e-books. Reading The Homeschool Action Writing Plan helped me understand the reason for the program and what to expect as we go along through the writing process. I would have been one of those parents he met at the convention because writing is not something I do well myself. Once I saw how it was all laid out from this book to the How to Write a Paragraph on the the Five-Paragraph Essay it brought more ease and confidence. I learned a lot for myself in general but I’m still working at a slower pace with my 12 year old special needs son. He was able to remember the trick as well as how to set his paper up.

I’m still working on my son being able to get his thoughts down on paper in a way that makes sense. I have to give him time to really process his thoughts and help him with the wording of his sentences. I know he knows what he wants to say but it doesn’t come out in a way someone else would understand it. For instance, once he would come up with a topic and narrowed it down I had to keep giving him ideas for a good topic sentence. It was the same thing with the closing sentence. It’s like his thoughts are all just jumbled up together. When I leave him to himself to just do some freestyle writing he would have filled up the whole page but it’s more like what a 2nd grader would have written. Because of this delay I have to work at a much slower pace with him. We haven’t been able to write an actual paragraph yet because I’m still trying to get him to understand the basics. This is as far as we got in the program but I think it’s still great and will be useful once he gets it.

Now that you have heard my thoughts head on over to the crew blog to see what other people had to say.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions in this review are entirely my own. As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I was not paid to write this but received these Create Better Writers e-books at no cost to me for review purposes, and to give my honest opinion.

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