Friday, September 14, 2012

Wordsmith - Creative Writing Made Easy (And Fun, Too!) #homeschool


Wordsmith Writing Curriculum

  • Teacher's Guide and Student Workbook Sold Separately
  • Created by Homeschool Mom/Co-Op Writing Teacher Janie B. Cheaney
  • Created for Grades 7-9
  • Adaptable for Individual Student Needs and Abilities
  • Teacher's Guide Is Easy to Follow with Clear Instructions and Encouragement
  • Student Workbook is Friendly, and Easy to Follow
  • One of Cathy Duffy's 100 Top Picks 
  • Extra Supplies Needed - A Thesaurus, a Notebook, and a Folder
  • Both Books are Available Through the Timberdoodle Website
  • Teacher's Guide is Currently $6.95
  • The Student Workbook is Currently $16.00 $14.50

What Makes Wordsmith Special?

My boys are exceedingly intelligent and bright, but struggle with creative writing.   It is partly the nature of being 12 year old boys, and partly the fact that they both have Asperger Syndrome .   The combination is not a good one when looking for bright and vibrant written expression.  Although they are learning to love great literature, more often these guys prefer written information in a concise and easy to follow manner that is fact based and rather dry.

When we were given the opportunity to try the Wordsmith Writing Curriculum, I was immediately interested.  After reading the description, I had a feeling it would be a good fit for us.

On the day the books arrived, I glanced through the Teacher's Guide first.  It starts with a wonderful introduction explaining how Ms. Cheaney's observations that students of various age groups tend to have different writing skill sets.  When I read through her words and considered how my sons lag in maturity (related to their AS) I had a definite lightbulb moment.  I have become more understanding of how an SAT vocabulary might not make its way into a writing assignment.  The whole introduction is so encouraging and gentle, I loved it.

After setting forth what the program will and will not do, (for example, it will not be heavy in grammar, and it will not teach how to write a book report, but it will help students to develop clear, bright descriptive writing style) the author then describes The Wordsmith Approach and how to use the program. 

As the teacher, you will decide the pace that you feel is best for you child.  The lessons are divided into 36 "weeks", but this a guideline - and the course can be done in 3 months, six months, nine months or even a year.  I have found that although they ace the first two parts, the writing is more difficult for my sons.  However, when we take some extra time with revision, they produce work that has made their aunt, (who teaches High School English) swoon.  Most of these start with a first draft that was only a step above brainstorming.

The joy of homeschooling is that the child's understanding sets the pace, so for now, we take a little bit longer than one week to finish a lesson.

Speaking of revision, there are great revision tips for parents included in this section.

It is Easy to Teach

Lessons begin with exercises in better word choices, move on to work with sentences - and finally use these skills in a writing assignment.

Each lesson is clearly mapped out in the teacher's manual as the suggested plan of study.  I love that the lessons include great teaching tips and encouragement.  Please, if you choose to do this program, do not skimp on the Teacher's Guide.  It is only $6.00 and worth every penny.

 The Student Workbook is broken into three parts.

  1. Word Games
  2. Building Stronger Sentences
  3. Now We're Writing

As I explained earlier, the word games are designed to help the student replace trite, vanilla, or overused language with more bright, original, and vibrant words.  Use of a Thesaurus is encouraged.

The sentence work is fun.  Given a sentence such as Randy finally finished the race, my boys enjoy coming up with replacements such as: Wheezing and panting, Randy finally pulled himself across the finish line, basking in the excited cheers from the crowd; or Although he was bruised and bleeding from his fall, Randy picked  himself up and limped across the finish line.

These exercises include the different tricks used to achieve the more attractive styles.

Finally, using well defined parameters, students create poems, paragraphs, stories, and even written dialogue.  Given the mnemonic TOWER they:
  • Think
  • Organize
  • Write
  • Evaluate
  • Revise
Just as in the Teacher Guide, the Student Workbook also has an introduction.  It is called "So You think You Hate Writing?"  She won the affection of my guys from word one, and has held it through each lesson so far.  The lessons speak to the child in ways that are inspiring.  My boys are not intimidated at all, and actually enjoy the work.  There are not standing ovations when it is time to write, but there is far less grumping and grousing, and wonderful work, too.

The student will also find helpful appendices with help for proofreading, revision, a verb list, and examples of what is considered "correct".  The last pages of the book are some quizzes.

Overall, I am very pleased with this program.  It delivers what it says it will, and it is clear about what it will not cover.  It is easy to teach, affordable, and enjoyable for the students.

Find this program, and more great Homeschool supplies and curriculum from the Timberdoodle website.  they can set you up with everything from games, manipulatives, single subjects or even your rentire core curriculum by grade level, if needed.

As a member of Timberdoodle's Blogger Review Team I received a free copy of the Wordsmith Teacher's Guide and a Student Workbook in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.  I was not paid to write this post.