Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Review of Writing Tales

I was recently quite blessed to receive Writing Tales 1 and 2, along with teacher guides, free in exchange for my review.  Given that I was already familiar with Writing Tales, and the Greek writing program on which it is based, I was thrilled! Writing Tales is the "little brother", if you will, of Classical Writing, a writing program based on the Greek progymnasmata appropriate for middle and high school students.  Classical Writing called to me from the moment I began homeschooling, but my children were far too young at the time.  When I discovered a program based on the progymnasmata for younger children, I was anxious to try it.

Although Writing Tales is based on an ancient program with an intimidating sounding name, the program itself is unbelievably user friendly.  Given that teaching writing is something that many homeschooling parents fear, having a program with thousands of years of proven results that holds your hand every step of the way is nothing short of a Godsend.

The format of Writing Tales, whether volume 1 or 2, is the same very lesson.  The creator of Writing Tales explains on the website:
    The curriculum for both levels is built on a 30 lesson structure.  One story is studied for two lessons; each lesson is about one week long.  In the first lesson, the story is introduced.  The structure of the story is studied - who wrote it?  Who are the main characters?  What is their problem and how do they resolve it?  The student practices copywork using a passage of the story, and defines vocabulary words from the story.  A specific grammar concept is learned using examples from the story.  In Level Two, the student practices outlining the story, and finding synonyms for certain words.  Finally, the student re-writes the story in his own words.
    In the second lesson, the student practices spelling with words that were mis-spelled in her first written story.  More grammar practice is included.  Finally, instructions are given for re-writing the story a second time.
The consistency of the program from week to week and from year to year is one of its many strengths.  Most children seem to thrive when they know what to expect on a given school day.  Getting into the groove of writing is much easier when the progression of each lesson never varies.  Further, knowing how to "do" the program increases a student's sense of accomplishment.  Finally, if you happen to fall in love with the methodology of Writing Tales, you are assured of a continued writing curriculum with Classical Writing.

Given that Writing Tales is based on classical methodology, some parents might have the preconceived notion that it will be too hard for their children.  Nothing could be further from the truth! In our experience, each lesson takes about 20 minutes.  My son, who has ADHD and is highly gifted - a very difficult combination, loves this program and often does a whole week's lesson in one day.  The stories used are often familiar, and are such that younger children will enjoy listening to the story reading part of the program.  

One of the first questions I ask when considering a program is, "Do I need the teacher's guide?" In this case, I need to point out that the creator of the program maintains that without the teacher's guide, you are really only doing about half of the program.  Since I was provided with the teacher's guide, I have used it and found it to be incredibly thorough and complete.  Lesson plans for both individual students and co-ops are included, as is a large amount of supplemental material.  In all honesty, though, when I used Writing Tales with my older daughter, I didn't purchase the teacher's guide, and I never noticed that I was missing anything.  The upshot: if you can afford the teacher's guide, it is worth the money.  If you are comfortable with this method of teaching, though, and don't need help with lesson planning, you can use the program effectively without it.  

Finally, Book 1 is not a prerequisite for Book 2.  The scope and sequence of each book is as follows:

Our family loves Writing Tales.  I have now used it with two children, both completely different in learning style (and gender!), with great success.  I plan to use it also with my now six year-old twins next year.  For more information on Writing Tales, please visit their website, which is replete with great information.  You can also use their contact form if you have specific questions.  

To see other Crew opinions of Writing Tales, visit the Crew Blog!

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