Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Crew Review: Writing with World

I am so excited to be reviewing this new middle school writing program from World Magazine.  I think it has great potential (for my son and for others), and I'm really looking forward to getting into it more!

There are several things that I think are really unique about Write with World.  You can read about World's purpose in developing it, but here are my thoughts:

1.  This first year's course builds from the foundation up:  ideas, words, sentences, paragraphs.  I think that beginning with the thinking component of writing is distinctive.  Here's a quote from the teacher's guide:
"...We want [the students] to understand from the very beginning that good writing begins with the thoughtful arrangement of details, ideas, and words.  We want your young writers to become comparative readers:  students who can not only see but also explain why one sentence is better than another, why one paragraph works and another paragraph fails, and why one essay  captures a reader's interest while another essay loses the readers interest."
2.  The program begins with images!  What a great way to catch this generation's attention!  We are surrounded by a million images begging for our attention. Why not use them as a teaching tool?
3.  I like that there is a critical reading component to this program. Although we haven't gotten far into this course, at each step of the writing process, students are asked to engage in critical reading to help them be better writers.
4.  Some grammar and vocabulary is included in this course!  It's functional grammar, such as distinguishing the correct usage of its and it's. There is one grammar concept presented in each of the lessons.   Looking up vocabulary and discerning meanings is included in nearly every capsule.

So what is in this program?  I received a beta copy of their year 1 program:  a parent/teacher guide and a student book.  The teacher guide (TG) is one of those extra wide books:

The size of the book reminds me of the teacher's planners that I often see on sale at Staples and other office supply stores at the beginning of the school year.   The TG is a complete reproduction of the student book, but it has extra room on the outside to write notes.  It also includes comments and suggestions for eliciting responses from your children.   I'm not really sure what size the final version will be in.

I often have moms ask me, "Is it worth it to purchase the teacher's version?"  And in this case, I would definitely say yes!  You will want the extra tips, the suggestions, the grading suggestions.  Trust me.

The price for each year is $95 or you can buy the entire two year curriculum for middle school writing for $165.  IT comes with a teacher's book (full student book imprint plus teaching notes) as well as student book  and online access (there is no online portal right now, so I cannot comment on this).

You can view a sample lesson.

The only other thing you will need to provide is some sort of notebook or journal.  They call it "Conversations: Your Writer's Journal" or CWJ.  They encourage students to write down good ideas, bad ideas....any ideas about their assignments.  And, they encourage me as the teacher to read through and make written you are having a written dialog with your student.  I've read somewhere else that providing written feedback in a conversational journal is a good thing for developing writing -- but have never seen it in practice before.

Oh, I should also mention that assignments will occasionally suggest you pull out a World Magazine or God's World News publication.  For example, in one lesson, the student it to evaluate distinctive characteristics of an essay using one of their publications.  I'm sure you could use another publication with a similar opinion style essay (or even an online publication).  But I just discovered I can download a single issue of World Magazine for $2.99 on my kindle.  They have a variety of digital and print subscriptions if you would prefer to use a Christian publication for writing examples.

Scope and Sequence: This first year is divided into 4 units.  Each unit has 4 lessons, and each lesson has 5 capsules.  Each capsule is a lesson and assignment (you can see the entire table of contents/ scope and sequence for two year program):


Lesson 1: Reading Images and Advertisements
Lesson 2: Comparative Reading: Sentences
Lesson 3: Comparative and Critical Reading: Paragraphs
Lesson 4: Critical Reading: Essays


Lesson 1: The Paragraph
Lesson 2: Composing and Linking Sentences
Lesson 3: Creating Focus and Arranging Ideas
Lesson 4: Linking Paragraphs: Transitions and Logic


Lesson 1: Reporting Facts
Lesson 2: Creating Character
Lesson 3: Developing Ideas with Specificity
Lesson 4: Writing Autobiography


Lesson 1: Developing a Point of View
Lesson 2: Showing vs. Telling
Lesson 3: Narrative with a Purpose
Lesson 4: Writing a Fictional Narrative
{I have to admit that I'm not in love with the Unit/Lesson/Capsule system, but this is a picky point. There is   an assignment  to "re-write a sentence in 2.2.2" ~ which is the stuff that makes my eyes roll into the back of my head.  This numeric code means Unit 2, Lesson 2, Capsule 2.  One can hope that in the final version they will just use page numbers!}

My beta copy does not have suggestions for how to plan out the use of this course over the school year.  The beginning capsules are definitely one-a-day sort of lessons.  However, as the book progresses, I would definitely want to give Ben more time for the thinking/ writing process. 

How it works for us.  Like I mentioned, we are only at the beginning of this program, but I think it holds promise.  As I've looked ahead, it is all the way in Unit 3 that the student gets a full-scale writing assignment.  Up to this point, the student has been engaged in a lot of pre-writing and critical thinking and analyzing of writing.  They've written sentences, thought about word choices, and crafted paragraphs.

But in the parts we've, done so far, I haven't gotten the usual oh-I-have-to-do-writing-now? groan. And that says something.

I will continue using Write with World through the end of this school year.  We should be able to make it through about 1/2 of this course when 7th grade ends for the summer.  I'm sure I'll have more thoughts on this program as we fold it into our studies, but for now, if you are looking for a writing program that is a a little different and that might grab your reluctant writer's attention, I'd suggest you consider this program.

If you'd like to hear what other homeschoolers think about this please head over to The Crew's website.

Disclaimer:  In exchange for the complementary copy of the product I described above, I was asked to give my honest, frank opinion of the product -- pluses and minuses.  These opinions are my own.

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