Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Review of Create Better Writers

Writing is often the bane of a homeschool mom's existence.  Even if one is a good writer herself, it is sometimes hard to translate that skill into teachable writing.  Fortunately, there are companies like Create Better Writers to help out.

Create Better Writers is the brainchild of a veteran writing teacher who, finding that the public school curricula from which he was teaching was simply inadequate, set about creating his own.  With the input of homeschool teachers, David Dye came up with a program that has a proven success record.  In fact, he actually became a trainer of public school writing teachers.

As part of the Crew, I was able to review How to Teach the Paragraph, The Homeschool Writing Action Plan and How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay.  The Homeschool Writing Action Plan is organized into three parts: the writing action plan summary, a pacing guide, and a roadmap.  The best thing about this book is that you are not obligated to use Create Better Writers' program.  The Action Plan will help you teach writing from any curriculum.  I began my foray into Create Better Writers by reading this book.

The Action Plan Summary immediately tells a parent/teacher what they should teach their child writing-wise and when.  It tells parents how long each aspect of writing instruction should take, based on how old the child is when learning it.  Along the way, it offers the resources of Create Better Writers so you know what to use and when (assuming you choose their curriculum).  Again, though, the directions are so clear that you don't have to use CBW to teach writing.  You will learn when to teach sentences, paragraphs, essays, etc., and how to accomplish the teaching, with just this one book.  Think of it as writing lesson plans.

How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay is more nuts and bolts.  The format of the book is as follows:

  1. List of Steps
  2. Sample Pacing Charts
  3. Detailed Lesson Plan
  4. Plan for Total Mastery
  5. Bells and Whistles
  6. The Next Level
The premise of the book is that by learning how to write the five paragraph essay, a student will be able to apply the skill to any kind of writing (persuasive, narrative, etc.) in any situation.  The goal is to teach this skill, not to teach a particular style of writing.

I think this resource is a valuable one.  I did use it with my eldest daughter, and I liked terms like "Terrific Transitions" and "Classy Conclusions." I think catchphrases like this can really help cement ideas with kids.  The best endorsement that I can give this book is that it teaches writing like I teach writing.  No, I don't have an MEd like the author, but I was gifted with a father who taught me how to write at a very young age, excellent teachers, and, I think, a natural ability.  I have problems with programs that focus on creative writing, free writing, etc. while ignoring the basics.  Like it or not, the five paragraph essay is the basics.  Even in my dissertation, I was aware of the basic structure of an essay.  In essence, then, whether a student is writing a two-page essay or a 300 page dissertation, the knowledge of this basic structure is key to writing success.

If you need a writing program that teaches nothing but the skills needed to write a great academic essay (which, to me, should be the primary goal of any writing program), Create Better Writers is the program for you.  The entire program - everything you will ever need to teach your students writing - can be had for less than $100.  How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay costs $17.95.  How to Teach the Paragraph is $7.95.  The Homeschool Writing Action Plan costs $15.95.  The best deal is the Homeschool Bundle for $84.95.  

The Package Contains

You really will not have to buy another writing program. Best of all, your kids will be able to write!

These books taught me that everything believe about teaching writing is correct.  To see what other Crew members thought, see the Crew blog.


Disclaimer: I received these ebooks free in exchange for my review.  I received no other compensation.

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