WS - Help with teaching

Copywork, Cursive, Dictation, Grammar, Handwriting, Letter Writing, Memory Work, Narration, Read-Alouds, Spelling, Vocabulary, & Writing (many of these topics apply to other subjects such as Bible, History, and Science)
TriciaMR
Posts: 998
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WS - Help with teaching

Unread post by TriciaMR » Sat Aug 28, 2010 5:43 pm

Writing Strands/Evaluating Writing
momma2kact wrote:We are just starting Writing Strands 3 with ds 9 1/2, 4th grade(ECC). Writing Strands seems very self explanable to me, and on my own I wouldn't of ever thought about getting Evaluating Writing (until my dear friend asked me about it!). have any of you ever used Evaluating Writing to go along with Writing Strands?

Blessings,
Debbie
My only comment about Evaluating Writing is that the examples, well, seem older than the ages of the kids listed. It will say "Grade 2" and I'm thinking my 3rd grading couldn't write that well. So, do take the grade level comparisons with a grain of salt. But the examples of conversations to have with your child are really good. And he always tries to point out the good. (For us, the good is, "Great! You remembered to capitalize and use a period! sometimes.)

-Trish
Trish - Wife to Phil, Mom to Toni(18), Charlie(14), and Trent(14)
2014-2015 - AHL, CTG
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club190
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Re: Writing Strands/Evaluating Writing

Unread post by club190 » Sun Aug 29, 2010 12:39 pm

Hi Debbie,

Evaluating Writing is a nice book to have, but not necessary. It's more important that you have some kind of grading rubric that you use ... and you'll tweak that rubric as each child grows and matures in their writing. Do a search over at the Glencoe website. They have a lot of different ones, all geared for different ability groups. Making your own isn't horrible either! Just figure out the kinds of things your kids already know how to do, add in the things you're currently teaching, and assign point values. It's easiest if they all add up to 100, but you can always do the division if you prefer. Let me know if you need help putting one together.

Blessings,
Chris
Wife to Jim since '91
Mom to:
Matthew, 18, Ursinus College student
Andrew, 14, ECC 7/8 + a few extras to make it "official" for high school credit
Daniel, 5, wanting to "do school" but still not really ready

Julie in MN
Posts: 2925
Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2004 3:44 pm
Location: Minnesota

Struggling with teaching writing

Unread post by Julie in MN » Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:45 pm

my3sons wrote:We are using Writing Strands as recommended for this year (ds is in 4th grade, doing CtG). I am struggling with it and would like to hear others' experiences. I just do not feel like I am doing a good job teaching my ds to write. I am not sure how to give him feedback or more specifically what is acceptable for his age.

MFW does a great job offering affordable curriculum choices and I have found that once I figure out how to adapt them to our family, they work great.
One thing you can do is listen to the original Writing Strands author talk about teaching writing here.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLMddsrILtA

I still love his comparisons to criticizing too much (the apple pie crust fork marks aren't even) and criticizing too little (go cook in the kitchen & throw it away when done, without tasting). I also like the way he encourages language exploration.

Julie
Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
(http://www.CaringBridge.org/visit/ShaneHansell)
Reid (21) college student; used MFW 3rd-12th grades (2004-2014)
Alexandra (29) mother; hs from 10th grade (2002)
Travis (32) engineer; never hs

cbollin

Not really liking Writing Strands

Unread post by cbollin » Wed Jan 26, 2011 1:48 pm

momsflowergarden wrote:I have made peace with PLL/ILL but I am really not liking Writing Strands. Writing is a difficult subject for me to teach and it just seems as we are not making much headway with it. I have been looking at other writing programs but not sure there is a good fit for us. :~
Before changing... help us to know what's not working. maybe it's a small tweak, or a quick fix. Or maybe someone knows the better fit when we know the reason it is wrong. (did that make sense?)

Here is what MFW says on its website FAQ about this.
  • * Before you decide that Writing Strands is definitely not working for you, please assess the amount of time you spent with the program as the parent. In many cases, kids will try to get away with writing only as much as is needed. Please don't just hand the book or assignment to the child. Read it to the child and then make sure to check up on his work.

    Writing Strands is a program that can be used with all levels of writers. If your student is a struggling writer, don't expect him to catch up to "grade level" in just one year. Just like a sport or instrument, writing improvement happens through continuous, scheduled, monitored practice. If you sense that your student is behind when it comes to writing, have a tender heart with your expectations. When you see a skill being performed naturally, that is a sign to start to have higher expectations. However, it is very important not to expect too much out of a struggling writer. Even intermediate level writers need not be pushed too hard. Consistent, continual, ongoing writing projects will produce more improvement in the long run than intense, advanced-level expectations. Writing confidence is built through positive recognition, so be sure to find many ways to include that!

    As you watch your student's progress, it is not unusual to have questions on the proper way to assess his/her work. Is the student using adjectives, adverbs, verbs and nouns appropriately for his writing level? Is he or she being descriptive, clear and fluid? When looking through your student's Writing Strands book, take special notice of the hints found at or near the bottom of each page (levels 3 & 4). These are things you can look for when assessing your student's work.

    Writing is a process that proceeds with regular, monitored practice and can be analyzed under six different traits: organization, structure, word choice, clarity, style and mechanics. Remember that grammar (mechanics) is just one of the keys to good writing, so don't let that be the only area where you give your analysis. If you know of someone in your community who is a writing teacher or writing professional, seeking expert analysis of your student's work can be very beneficial to fostering improvement.
momsflowergarden wrote:Well, I wish I really knew what it is that I don't like. I think very precisely. My oldest son told me that writing is many times abstract. I simply don't know how to do that. We haven't been using WS very long, so maybe I just need to keep plowing for a time. Neither of my two have had much for definite instruction with writing but both of them can come up with amazing stories.
I’ll talk about my journey of learning to teach writing. My first thought in learning how to teach writing was “well, she can talk. Therefore she can write.”

Oh boy. That was a disaster! Yes, she knew how to talk and had fantastic ideas, but I never showed her how to take it from her brain to paper. Thud. She'd stare at the paper and say "what do I do!"

So, we started with Writing Strands. I pulled out my hair and thought, it says do it, so do it. My child has forgiven me.

Then, I tossed WS aside for a while. I learned some cool stuff from articles: viewtopic.php?f=19&t=5113&p=47327&hilit=articles#p47327 Then, I saw this really nice couple at a convention once and tried their program.

Then, I learned how to help my child get ideas from her brain to a piece of paper.
Basically, we learned to work together on assignments.
She would say it out loud
I would write her answer on dry erase board
Sometimes, she’d say, “let me change that”.
She would copy her own words
If she got stuck, I would offer 2 good choices and let her decide.
Then, we’d edit for mechanics and issued like that.
We would use some of the checklist that other do and are common in several of the programs I’ve mentioned.
Are you using a variety of sentence types and lengths so it isnt’ all Dick and Jane writing?
Are you using more “bigger sounding” words that show your own vocabulary is growing?

So, why did I go back to WS? Well, mostly I really like the wider variety of types of writing in the series. I liked the gentle intro to literature analysis by having the student write a simple plot, and develop some characters, and show them talking and acting.

You're in level 3, right? in the archives in language arts, there are some helps and hints for specific lessons in WS. I like hearing Julie's ideas on writing as well and other people too. so be encouraged to ask about specific lessons so others will cool ideas can chime in or say "oh yeah, that lesson.. I remember that...."

-crystal

TriciaMR
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Re: Not really liking Writing Strand

Unread post by TriciaMR » Wed Jan 26, 2011 8:45 pm

A couple of things...

In Writing Strands 3, I think at the beginning I had to "plow on through" for a few assignments. Then, as I got the hang of it - helping, guiding, double dictation, etc. it started to "click."

If my dd doesn't like an exact assignment, then I'll modify and let her choose the topic (sometimes), as long as we're accomplishing the goals listed at the beginning of each assignment.

I think that is one of the things I wasn't doing in WS 3 that I really look at every time I pull out WS 4, now. I go back each time and look at the goals for that lesson. Does she already know how to do some of this? What doesn't she know? What does she need to work on? Guide and help your child through it.

-Trish
Trish - Wife to Phil, Mom to Toni(18), Charlie(14), and Trent(14)
2014-2015 - AHL, CTG
2015-2016 - WHL, RTR
2016-2017 - EXP1850, US1877
2017-2018 - DE, 1850MOD
2018-2019 - College, AHL
My blog

momsflowergarden
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Re: Not really liking Writing Strand

Unread post by momsflowergarden » Wed Jan 26, 2011 8:52 pm

Thanks, EVERYONE. I think I will simply let it go this week and try to get a handle on it all over the week end. I think I am a bit stressed with all that has been happening and maybe it is catching up with me. I am really going to try to relax with it and give it another go around.

Ok, I am off to find all the papers I need to get my drivers lic. renewed tomorrow. Do you know in SD you have to take your life history in documentation before they give you a new license? Boy am I ever glad I have only been married once!
Be Blessed
Sandy
Mom of 5
Homeschooler of 2, ds 10 and dd 11
Using CLE Math, Calculadders, PLL/ILL, Rod and Staff spelling, AND MFW ECC for History, Science and Bible.

Merry
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Feb 04, 2010 7:50 pm

Re: Not really liking Writing Strand

Unread post by Merry » Wed Jan 26, 2011 10:21 pm

momsflowergarden wrote:We haven't been using WS very long, so maybe I just need to keep plowing for a time. Neither of my two have had much for definite instruction with writing but both of them can come up with amazing stories.
Honestly, this is very age appropriate for 10 & 11 yo's. I think sometimes we underestimate just how many skills go into writing. It's a lot of work to think up ideas, decide how to organize them, be creative, think about audience, remember grammar, punctuation, spelling, handwriting, neatness, capitalization--kids who worry about all that don't want to write anything, and kids who just want to get their ideas out will have tons of mistakes. So will professional writers, on a rough draft. I actually consider it a very good sign that your kids can write a good story line--I think that is much harder to coach than mechanics errors. Although we moms tend to get up in arms about the mechanics errors, LOL!

I like to remember, if professional writers need editors, it's ok that my kids do too!

I don't remember if this was in Evaluating Writing or if it was in the front matter in WS, or on the WS website--maybe all three. Anyway, they suggest focusing on what your child did well, and praising that. Then find one thing to improve--not a bunch, one thing. Let your child learn something new, but let it be something they could change and really accomplish success with. Then praise again for something. Let writing be a positive experience, something they want to do again.

I liken it to babies--they say something like "bakie?" and we say, "Do you want your blankie?" And we get all excited and go write it down in their baby book and call Grandma and tell our friends etc... Think about that same excitement and that same gentle correction that's full of encouragement when you think about coaching your young writers.

I've used part of Jump In, and it has some good qualities. I actually moved to Writing Strands because I felt it had more step by step instruction--it's broken down into smaller "bits," which I felt my kids needed. Also, some of the topics in Jump In are more suited to Jr. High than 5th-6th grade. But you can see a whole sample chapter up on Apologia's Website & that can help you get a good idea of what that's like.

4 weeks isn't a long time, so I wouldn't switch just yet, personally, unless your kids are really complaining, hate it, etc... It doesn't sound like that's the case, so I'd just enjoy their stories, praise them, give gentle correction & more praise, keep reading to them etc... Merry :-)

Julie in MN
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Re: Not really liking Writing Strand

Unread post by Julie in MN » Thu Jan 27, 2011 8:50 am

I think the thing is that "teaching writing is hard" rather than "teaching Writing Strands is hard." It's a huge topic and there are a million things that need improvement and each kid is different. What I learned about teaching writing to my older dd doesn't apply to my youngest ds at all, because he has totally different writing strengths & weaknesses. In fact, if writing class is going along smoothly and parents don't need to intervene very much, then I am suspect 8]

What I tell kids when I tutor is that they already know how to speak properly, so all they need to learn is how to pay attention to writing down what they already know. I mean, there are a few things that kids don't say properly, but it encourages them to know that they are at least halfway there :)

Here's a post I wrote out about how we approached Writing Strands lessons:
http://board.mfwbooks.com/viewtopic.php ... 088#p52230
And some of the things I like about Writing Strands in particular:
http://board.mfwbooks.com/viewtopic.php ... 1088#p5151

Julie
Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
(http://www.CaringBridge.org/visit/ShaneHansell)
Reid (21) college student; used MFW 3rd-12th grades (2004-2014)
Alexandra (29) mother; hs from 10th grade (2002)
Travis (32) engineer; never hs

cbollin

Re: Not really liking Writing Strand

Unread post by cbollin » Thu Jan 27, 2011 9:52 am

my3sons wrote:I am struggling with WS as well, though I know it is completely my issue and not WS. I have looked around a little bit at other curriculums, but have not seen anything that I think would really be a better fit. I would love something like All About Spelling that has the script of how to teach the mechanics. I have Evaluating Writing and I like that it reminds me to be positive and only pick one thing to improve at a time. The quote about giving grace to our kids because it took time for us as parents to become perfect cracks me up. :)

Lesson 6: This is what my 10 year old 4th grader turned in for the assignment about the most exciting thing that happened. We have not yet edited it or improved on it.
  • "The most exiting thing that happened was when we read Narnia. It made time fly. The best part was when a god named Tash [he was bad] grabbed a man named Rishda. Narnia is like The Big God Story. Narnia has helped me to understand God a little more."
In terms of the mechanics teaching: are you using Language Lessons? if so, the mechanics are taught in there with those bolded notes in lessons such as #8, then reviewed in the lessons such as 51,100, 150,195, 248,301. additionally, check the boxes at the bottom of the pages in WS. Some of those are mechanics to look for. Approach them as needed.

definitely agreeing that it isn't necessarily that WS is hard, but learning how to teach writing is a skill that we have to learn as teachers. But, how do we as writing coaches know what to look for when sometimes we’re dealing with life and children and trying to cook supper at the same time?

If I were making a crash course..... I'd start with the wisdom that Julie shares about small steps and working together. I'd add in some humor. I'd show the back cover of Writing Strands books and make everyone see the analogy on the back cover with the bird cage. I'd start with saying "if you are beginning to teach writing, then expect the student to be a beginning level writer and it's OK!"

Then..... I'd go here with that workshop.

Let’s try to break it down a bit to help with the small steps to see what it means to be a beginning writer.

I’d like to suggest starting with links to just help a bit with checklist for elementary level writers.
Six Traits: Ideas, Organization, Voice, Sentence Fluency, Word Choice, Conventions
at concord.edina.k12.mn.us , they offer poster versions https://www.edinaschools.org/Page/2343
and even simple activities on line to say this is what we mean. Very low time needed for that.

So, those are beginning stages of a student learning to write.

Perhaps you’d like something to use as a rubric with the 6 traits. Those are easy to find on the internet.
(p.s. I like one that shows a flow of skills over time and development. So if you have a 4th grader who is at beginning level, that’s exactly where they should be!)

So, if we go back to the FAQ on WS that MFW has. They name their six traits a little bit differently. That’s ok. It’s all the same stuff, just named a little differently. It’s all the same stuff.
  • MFW says to evaluate on:
    organization, structure, word choice, clarity, style, and mechanics.
Let’s make sure we know what we are looking for in those words when using WS.

Organization: simple here for elementary. Does it tell it in an order than makes sense? Is there a conclusion of something that matches their age and overall development?

Structure: Does it seem to be set up according to the instructions and follows similar organization in the example shown in WS. Is Paragraph is on one topic? Are the sentences complete?

Word Choice: The specific words that you choose create images, capture a reader's attention and make your writing grow with you. You might ask the student to look at the paper with you and think about these questions:
Have I used some strong verbs, or adjectives or phrases? if not, how about changing one or two?
Have I chosen the most precise word? (in example of my3sons’s student, I think he did select a very precise word by talking about a specific book.) Did I repeat common words too many times?

Clarity: Are sentences to the point? Do they engage the reader and make the reader understand the author? Read it out loud and find out. Does something read in 2 ways to potentially confuse a reader? Also, I personally think that the Ideas/Content section of the above rubrics will fall in the “clarity” category, so look at those when looking for clarity.

Style: Are the sentences different lengths?
Am I trying not to do all Dick N Jane sentences? (how could I start it differently)
Can I add a word in a sentence?
Additionally, look at the rubrics for hints on “voice” and fluency..

Mechanics or Conventions: These include spelling, punctuation, grammar, capitalization and paragraphing.
Use what has been taught in ILL and WS to the timing of the lesson.
If you see consistently something wrong, work on that.
Introduce new mechanics as needed for the student’s writing.


And remember, they are beginners. Encourage as such. Not everything will be worked on in one year. Some things will naturally develop as they do copywork and dictations and English lessons. That's why we do those things in MFW for several years prior to starting WS.

Some of the word choices will come from doing read alouds that are above their current level. Never be afraid to give your student 2 quality options from which to select if they are struggling to write something. Work with them.

We can do this.
-crystal

momsflowergarden
Posts: 26
Joined: Sun Nov 21, 2010 5:56 pm

Starting to believe I might be able to like Writing Strands'

Unread post by momsflowergarden » Thu Jan 27, 2011 10:33 am

You guys have been great! I am going to print this whole thread and re read, underline, highlight, etc. Thanks for all the encouragement.

Crystal, you said that the copywork/dictation was a big part. One of the problems is I have not been doing MFW, and have not been doing copywork/dictation with either of them. I have them both doing quit a bit of copy work now and will start doing dictation, honest, I will. Don't know why this is another one of those road blocks for me. I am beginning to see the connection with these two and good writing. I think I just never could see that before.

Oh, can I change the title of this thread to 'Starting to believe I might be able to like Writing Strands'? ;)
Be Blessed
Sandy
Mom of 5
Homeschooler of 2, ds 10 and dd 11
Using CLE Math, Calculadders, PLL/ILL, Rod and Staff spelling, AND MFW ECC for History, Science and Bible.

tiffany
Posts: 160
Joined: Thu Mar 10, 2005 9:56 am

Re: Not really liking Writing Strand

Unread post by tiffany » Thu Jan 27, 2011 11:32 am

I haven't read all posts, but I will. I can always use suggestions on teaching writing.

As far as Writing Strands goes, after deciding that the "grass isn't greener" really applied to this particular school subject for me, we have stuck with Writing Strands these past 5-6 years. I do believe that WS works best when used as a script, with teacher involvement. That has been true for my 3 oldest kids. So far, no one in my family has been able to use it independently.

Also, I have made a discovery that I don't like teaching writing/composition- not my fav. So I recognize that for what it is and work with the materials I have. There are some programs that would make me spend even more time teaching a subject I pretty much don't like to teach. So why would I want to switch?

I guess after all these years we have been using it, I have learned how to best use it in my family. I think it gets results without being a core part of the curriculum. I definitely wouldn't want a time stealer in this one subject, taking time away from the MFW core. So I guess to sum it up, I have learned to appreciate WS for what it offers me- a script to teach with in a time efficient way, plus, a proven curriculum that gets results. Also, my children have never complained about WS either. Some of them (okay, one of them) complains about writing, but that is not the fault of WS.
Tiffany
Wife to Tim ('88)
Mother to Sophie 16, Jonathan 14, Joey 12, Noah 10, Matthew 8, Eli 4
Have completed MFWK, MFW 1st grade, ECC, CTG, RTR, Exp.-1850,1850-Mod., HS Ancients, HS World
Fall of '11 ECC,HS Ancients, HS U.S. History to 1877

Merry
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Re: Not really liking Writing Strand

Unread post by Merry » Thu Jan 27, 2011 2:44 pm

Julie in MN wrote:Here's a post I wrote out about how we approached Writing Strands lessons:
viewtopic.php?f=19&t=1088#p52230
I didn't realize the author had passed away! I'm all sad now!

Thank you for submitting your conference tape. I listened to that this past fall, and wondered why they had a recording from so long ago! but I enjoyed it. (It was kinda funny because I used to be in the "no formal grammar" camp myself and had altered my view and just purchased Easy Grammar a couple of months prior to listening to this, LOL! My kids really needed direct, incremental instruction in a few areas because they were not getting some things from more natural means--so that whole part kinda cracked me up because of my own journey!).

mamacastle2
Posts: 54
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Re: Not really liking Writing Strand

Unread post by mamacastle2 » Thu Jan 27, 2011 2:50 pm

I did a lot of soul searching with WS about 2-3 weeks ago. I spent all day looking at IEW stuff. However, it's too expensive for me. It just is. And I don't really like the "fill in the formula" kind of writing (or maybe I'm just telling myself that to make it easier on me since I can't afford it anyway ;) ).

WS can be harder because there is some amount of "What should I be looking for? What should be corrected here? Is this age-appropriate?" etc. Writing teachers tend to like WS because they already know some of the answers to those questions, so that part of it doesn't upset them. They can evaluate the program for what it really is and not for the difficulty in evaluating writing. Even Susan Wise Bauer used the program and really liked it. (Now she has her own that she recommends.)

Anyway, I'm just agreeing with all who said that WS isn't necessarily hard, but that teaching writing is the hard part.
Jeanne
Wife to Brody
Mother to DD 10, DS 7, DD 5, DS 3, DD 1
MFW User Since 2007: MFW 1st, Adv., ECC, CTG
2011-2012 - RTR & MFWK

asheslawson
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Re: Not really liking Writing Strand

Unread post by asheslawson » Sat Jan 29, 2011 1:00 am

I don't know if I can be of much help because I feel often like I can't keep up at all. I work from home for my church, plus I babysit. I also have a senior in public school and we are filling out tons of scholarship apps and everything of that nature. I serve on the school board for our school district. I teach a children's class on Sunday evenings at church. Oh - and I almost forgot - I lost my sanity & decided that my children could not continue in public school this year (my son completed 3rd grade in PS). I was so tired of him watching movies all day so she could teach the kids who were behind, and then bringing him home everyday to teach him what he wasn't getting at school - while he SHOULD have been being a kid & playing outside! ANYWAYS...back to topic...

I hated writing strands at first (or he did), so I set it to the side. Sure enough - a day came when I thought we'd tackle it again, but with a less 'must do' approach and I tried to relax it. he ended up writing a story that was fun to read. I had him write it once, then re-write it into a storybook. I just made this by folding several pieces of construction and manilla paper in 1/2 and stapling. He illustrated and wrote the story into the pages. I told him he was an author and an illustrator and his book could proudly assume it's place on our family bookshelf (where my older son has written some of his own stories that we read to them occasionally). He was proud to publish his own book for our family library and seems to approach it with less tension. (Even though not everything is going to work in a 'storybook' - this at least got him willing to write again!)

Don't know if it helps...but maybe just putting it down awhile helped me come back to it fresh and ready to try again - or maybe tweaking it was the trick...maybe both!?!? I just do not know! I'm way too inexperienced at this HS thing!!!

Thanks for all who share - you all keep me going when I just think I'm losing it completely - and I love the ideas!
"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him" Colossians 2:6
dd-28, ds-25, ds-24, ds-22, ds-14, dd-10, student 13, granddaughter 3
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momsflowergarden
Posts: 26
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Re: Not really liking Writing Strand

Unread post by momsflowergarden » Sat Jan 29, 2011 7:25 am

cbollin wrote:
my3sons wrote:Thanks for all the resources. Lots of great ideas and information to sort through. I guess now the teacher has homework to do! :)
I understand. That was my biggest hurdle to overcome. I realized when my oldest was in 4th grade, that I needed to take an "in service weekend" and learn.

small bites at a time. ((hugs)))
Oh, what I would do for a week end that I could dedicate to really learning this stuff. I wonder if my family would mind if no one had clean clothes to wear, food to eat, or a house cleaned up next week? Someone would probably notice that none of that had been done and wonder if I was taking a luxurious vacation. :-)


Thanks again to everyone that posted. Sharing your ideas and stories really has given me hope. Just to hear that others struggle but not necessarily with WS but with teaching writing in general. I think that is my problem. Not sure there is a program out there that would be a fit for me as it is something that I so struggle with myself.

I have printed this thread out along with many of the links and will be taking a bit of time before we start WS up again to put together a plan that will work for us.

Have a great wk end all.
Be Blessed
Sandy
Mom of 5
Homeschooler of 2, ds 10 and dd 11
Using CLE Math, Calculadders, PLL/ILL, Rod and Staff spelling, AND MFW ECC for History, Science and Bible.

RachelT
Posts: 352
Joined: Thu Aug 03, 2006 2:45 pm

Re: Not really liking Writing Strand

Unread post by RachelT » Sat Jan 29, 2011 2:38 pm

Hi! I am just checking on here on the board after being away for a little while.

Another thing to think about is the use of typing in written work. We practice handwriting each day with copywork, but for most other work where we are working on spelling or the whole process of writing and editing we type. I want my son to focus on thinking and getting his thoughts down on paper in a way that is understandable. He can really think about what to say and not have to concentrate so hard on the mechanics of writing with a pencil. We can also edit and make changes quickly or even go back and edit the next day.

"Slow and steady wins the race!"

Hang in there!
Rachel
Rachel, wife to Doug ~ 1995, mom to J (17) and B (15)
MFW K (twice), 1st (twice), Adv., ECC, & CtG 2006-2010,
Classical Conversations 2010-2016,
ECC/AHL 2016-17, eclectic 2017-18, WHL & US1 2018-19

http://rachelsreflections-rachelt.blogspot.com/

Julie in MN
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Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2004 3:44 pm
Location: Minnesota

Any good writing tips?

Unread post by Julie in MN » Thu Mar 31, 2011 9:06 pm

Jamie wrote:My 11 yo son is just about ready to finish up Writing Strands 4. I feel like we've done really well with being diligent with it this year, and making it a priority, but I'm hoping that we're where we need to be with the actual writing. Writing isn't a huge love of mine, but I know that it is so important. What do you expect from your children that are using the Writing Strands program? I just found a number of different Writing Strands posts under the Language Arts archive, so I guess I'll be hanging out there for a bit, too!
Hi Jamie,
I hope the archives are giving you some good ideas.
Jamie wrote: It seems like that same author has a book out that would supplement his Writing Strands books, that would possibly help me know what to be looking for as I look over his writing? Any ideas out there on how to encourage a love for good, creative writing when it isn't a natural gifting of my own?
I think the Evaluating Writing book can be helpful. I didn't use mine much, but when I was getting stressed about writing, it was a go-to book.

As for creative writing, I guess I'd decide first whether "creative" writing is something your child would really benefit from. I know lots of schools and lots of programs tell you to "write 5oo words about X," and maybe there's some benefit to that in terms of prepping for a college freshman comp class or possibly nurture a future novelist. But I don't consider those types of assignments to teach anything about composition, and they apply to very little that the student will encounter in college or in the working world.

Writing Strands assignments are much more streamlined, and actually sneak up on you in terms of teaching kids to look at their writing (and even their reading) with more depth. Just one perspective.
Jamie wrote:Thank you for that perspective, Julie. When I say "creative," I'm thinking more of interesting & fun to read because of good usage of words, sentences that are well put together, etc. Does that make sense? I just want to make sure that as we're moving through these Writing Strands books, that I am giving my kiddos the correct help & input so that they can become better writers than myself. :)
Have you listened to the Writing Strands author talk about writing? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLMddsrILtA

Personally, I think you're the best gift you can give your son in the development of his writing -- if you set aside a little time to read and discuss his writing on a regular basis. Whether in WS or in his history notebook or whatever, you as a reader can give him the piece he doesn't have. Tell him how it sounds to "you" as the reader. Tell him what you enjoy, tell him if you notice he used the word "good" 30 times, tell him if you're confused. Or, find another teen or adult to give feedback. And as the WS author says in his message, only tell him a little at a time :)

WS gives you material to work with, lists of goals to check over, and new ways for your child to try. And you add the piece that no program can do -- reader feedback on his particular writing, a little at a time, over the years :)
Julie
Jamie wrote:Thanks, Julie. I need to go listen to that! I also appreciate the encouragement. What a blessing it is to have this board to bounce all these ideas & thoughts off of all of you!
Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
(http://www.CaringBridge.org/visit/ShaneHansell)
Reid (21) college student; used MFW 3rd-12th grades (2004-2014)
Alexandra (29) mother; hs from 10th grade (2002)
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Julie in MN
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Ok to pitch Writing Strands?

Unread post by Julie in MN » Mon May 07, 2012 12:46 am

HeyChelle wrote:My daughter (4th grade, just turned 10, ECC) typically writes at least one story and a letter or two every week. She reads more than I can keep up with and shares the stories with me (narration). She does well on her science notebook, generally writing plenty more than the minimum.

Writing Strands and spelling are the only topics she grumbles about. Spelling - she rarely ever misses a word, so it seems like a waste of time to her. WS - she just doesn't care for. I'm considering putting WS aside in place of the narration and writing she does in her fun time. Is there anything i might not be considering here?
I didn't do spelling with my son, other than to compare a pre- and post-test every year to make sure he was advancing. I think one of the Hazell kids was like that, too. So I would be comfortable skipping the spelling.

As for Writing Strands, in my early homeschooling days I heard about just having them write, or journal, or things like that. I tried it. I have some concerns about just letting them write. I mean, I do wish my youngest would pick up a pencil more, but that's another story :)

The bits and pieces that Writing Strands adds are not necessarily things kids will pick up on their own. Maybe. A very intuitive gal who's a good reader might. But I still think it would be worth at least discussing some of the points in WS. Things like writing in different tenses, even within the same story (or essay). Or making clear whose points of view you are writing from, because everyone doesn't see the same things, or feel the same way about the things they do see. Then there's voice, as in an omniscient narrator versus a limited view versus the view of a single character. I think you could probably read through the WS lessons and pick up a few books around the house and just chat about things, and maybe ask your dd to try the technique some time?

For my son, I felt the lessons also helped him as a reader, to see how the author was leading him along to a certain conclusion by choosing the voice, the tense, the viewpoint. Not that he retained every lesson or didn't need review later on, but I had been a part of the lessons so it was easy for me to review later when the topic would come up.

Just one view,
Julie
Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
(http://www.CaringBridge.org/visit/ShaneHansell)
Reid (21) college student; used MFW 3rd-12th grades (2004-2014)
Alexandra (29) mother; hs from 10th grade (2002)
Travis (32) engineer; never hs

Poohbee
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Re: Ok to pitch Writing Strands?

Unread post by Poohbee » Mon May 07, 2012 9:33 am

Agreeing. My 5th grade dd writes stories all the time. She is currently working on writing a book, and she has written several books already. She fills notebooks with her stories. So, yes, she gets plenty of writing, and I am overjoyed that she loves to write so much!

She does not enjoy Writing Strands. However, we stick with it because, as Julie pointed out, it teaches her the skills of writing, things she would not pick up on her own but needs to know in order to write well.

My dd is very artistic, also, and she usually does not enjoy God and the History of Art. I think that some kids who have a natural talent in a particular area will probably not enjoy structured lessons in that area. At least, I've found that to be true for my dd. Because my dd does love art and does enjoy writing, I allow her some freedom within the confines of the assignment in Writing Strands or GHA. She must stick to the point of the assignment, but if some of the details are a bit different, that is okay with me. Perhaps giving a bit of freedom within the assignment will help.

In any case, I would recommend sticking with some sort of writing program to help teach the skills of writing. It will serve your student well in the future. And, for the record, I think that Writing Strands is a great program because it teaches writing by breaking it down into manageable chunks. I love how my dd has been learning (in Writing Strands 4) to write a rough draft, wait for my edits and input, and then rewrite...paragraph by paragraph. To me, that is better than writing a rough draft, editing, and rewriting the whole paper at once. It is more manageable for my dd at this stage of learning to write. I also like the variety of assignments in Writing Strands.

I hope you find something that works for you and your dd!
Jen
happily married to Vince (19 yrs)
blessed by MFW since 2006
have used every year K-1850MOD
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HeyChelle
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Re: Ok to pitch Writing Strands?

Unread post by HeyChelle » Mon May 07, 2012 9:54 am

Thank you for the input. I wasn't planning to replace WS with anything at this point. My plan was to lean more towards Charlotte Mason style of composition for the rest of fourth grade.

I think what I will do for the rest of this school year, is read through WS and use that as a guide to give her direction for her writing. Without the book in her hand and mind, perhaps it will seem more fun.
Chelle - Christian, wife, and mommy of 4
My family/homeschooling blog

cbollin

Re: Ok to pitch Writing Strands?

Unread post by cbollin » Mon May 07, 2012 12:17 pm

Cyndi (AZ) wrote:
Mon May 07, 2012 11:56 am
wow!!! I could have written your question! So, would you say that WS 4 is a nice step up from WS 3? The way that WS 3 is written is very simple compared to her ability. I'm having a hard time seeing how she's learning anything from it, other than having writing practice. My dd writes All.The.Time. I cannot express how much she writes.

So, I guess my tag along question to this post is -- is she truly learning something from these WS lessons that I'm not seeing? When we finished MFW1 and I realized, "Oh wow -- she totally learned how to spell from doing all those phonics lessons even though she could already read!" I was happy. Am I going to have a moment like that from Writing Strands?

I spoke with David Hazell a couple of years ago and he said, "Quit teaching Spelling. You're wasting your time. She doesn't need it." But spelling isn't really a skill that is improved over time like writing is -- writing can get better your whole life; once you can spell, you can spell (or use spell check). :-)

Today is the day my dh said to order next year's curriculum . . . . to buy WS 4 or not to buy . . . . I appreciate all the helpful answers!
so, just making sure here... I can understand it if your daughter says that (in respectful ways) about some of the early lessons on sentence basics and paragraph.

However, are you seeing any improvement in depth of character development in creative writing?
When she writes "reports"... how much detail is she including?
when she writes dialogue -- are you getting all the subtleties of where to put commas and quotes? are the conversations sounding more sophisticated?

maybe she was doing all of that as a 5 year old. if so, that's great.
My guess is that anything you're using WS, PLL/ILL, etc... will be helping to make those tiny changes in ways that even if you don't have lightbulb moment, it's not overwhelming. You might be giving her tiny bits she needs to improve, or have a check point. Or you might have the gifted writer who doesn't need it. kinda hard to tell on a forum....

Some parts of WS 4 will still have some "basics" and essentials. Those might not be a huge step up in her skill level.

Also, begin to use the section on common problems in writing (the appendix pages) to begin to look for those things in her writing.
Also, it is perfectly ok for Parent to Teach from the book even if the child never sees the book. You might look at the objectives in each lesson and have a session together to say "ok.. this week, I want to see the following things in some writing samples. Show me where you are intentionally using XYZ skill"

It may not be about the exercises in your case, but about the lesson objectives.

is WS 4 a nice step up? hmm.. the whole premise with WS is to make it slope up, not necessarily step....

-crystal

MelissaB
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Re: Ok to pitch Writing Strands?

Unread post by MelissaB » Mon May 07, 2012 8:42 pm

I can identify. WS is not a favorite subject with our dd, and, like your daughter, she likes to read and write. So, thanks for posting that question. Jen's, Crystal's, Julie's and others' responses helped reinforce why we're doing it. I needed that. ;)

Melissa B.
Melissa B. (Arkansas)
Girls ages 16 & 13
Completed K, 1st, and Investigate {ECC; CTG; RTR; Expl.-1850; and 1850-Mod. Times}
"That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,.." Titus 2:4

cbollin

Writing help

Unread post by cbollin » Wed Aug 01, 2012 11:16 am

bujah4 wrote:I have a 6th grade boy. He doesn't like writing. We are using writing strands and ILL for the first time this year. I like them pretty well and like the variety of work they do in Language Lessons instead of just filling out a workbook and I like how WS breaks the writing down in steps.

However, my ds still seems to have trouble organizing his thoughts to go about writing things down. So I was wondering if anyone had any ideas or recommendations of ways to help him choose his information and organize it. Thanks for the help :)
He may enjoy using some kind of graphic organizer to help organize his thoughts before writing.

look on here, with the "word web" options
http://www.eduplace.com/graphicorganizer/

or look here for different kinds of organizers and which one fits with different kinds of assignments.
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/graphicorganizers/

then he can brainstorm... select. then go with conventional format with paragraphs

-crystal

Julie in MN
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Re: Writing help

Unread post by Julie in MN » Wed Aug 01, 2012 11:28 am

A 6th grade boy organizing his thoughts -- good for you in starting that training early :) My son is heading into 11th grade and we still work on that one continually.

Each child's writing challenges are unique -- even within the same family my kids are very different. If your son is like my youngest, he would rather start over with new ideas than rework his ideas into a semblance of organization, he dislikes it that much. Here are a couple of things I've done with him.

1. Start with the sentence first. Make sure that's in good order before moving on. If his sentences are incomplete or change tenses or number (pleural/singular), then work on that whenever he is writing, and don't worry about the larger structure yet.
2. Then work on the paragraph. You might not get beyond the paragraph until 8th or 9th grade, but keep your focus there as long as needed. Try to make the paragraph be about "one thing." I personally don't think the "one thing" should be decided until the paragraph is written, after the ideas have emerged and you can talk about what he's trying to say in his paragraph -- his topic. Then once the topic is realized, you can figure out whether all the sentences relate to that topic, or not. If they don't, you may want to take them out and put them somewhere else, or rework your topic to include them. Once you've reworked the topic until he is happy, then you need to see if all of the sentences "about" that topic are enough, too much, or just right. Is it clear? Are there gaps? Finish the one paragraph and, like the Writing Strands guy says, tell him it's the most wonderful paragraph you've ever read ;)
3. [I see Crystal's posted and this is the same idea.] Sometimes I've used an outline format in order to discuss my son's writing with him (i.e. 1. Topic; A. B. C. supporting ideas; etc.). I don't make him do it, because he doesn't like to write, and because I actually think outlines can get in the way of generating ideas sometimes. But I do it as the reader, after he has provided me with something to read. I'll use something erasable like pencil or a marker board. I try to figure out what the topic is, and bounce my ideas off of him until I get it right. Then I try to figure out what the supporting ideas are, doing the same bouncing off until we both think it makes sense, reworking what he has said along the way so that it "says what he wants it to say."
4. My son types, which makes editing less painful.

Does that help?
Julie
Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
(http://www.CaringBridge.org/visit/ShaneHansell)
Reid (21) college student; used MFW 3rd-12th grades (2004-2014)
Alexandra (29) mother; hs from 10th grade (2002)
Travis (32) engineer; never hs

bujah4
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Re: Writing help

Unread post by bujah4 » Wed Aug 01, 2012 7:27 pm

Thanks for all of the ideas :). It was helpful and I will give them a try :)
Thanks!

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