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writing for good writer

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I realise the subject of writing is discussed a lot around here :001_smile: and I have been part of many discussions on the boards, and have used several writing programs with my kids. For some reason, I am completely stuck right now choosing what to use next with my ddalmost 14.


She has done Homer A and B. She is a great writer, very creative, fluent, mechanics are great- not perfect but not a problem. She is using AG for grammar, that's going well. She has also done a writing course with a teacher here,based on Writing Strands but in a class with her friends, and she did well.


However..there is a but..she really strongly detests programs like Wordsmith and Writing Strands, and anything like that which breaks writing down to meaningless assignments. For some reason Homer was ok- imitative writing works well- at the moment she is rewriting Greek Myths. And, she is doing a creative writing course. Perhaps her biggest problem is flowery, wordy writing, but I don't want to dampen her enthusiasm too much- her vocabulary is awesome and her writing is naturally maturing. In other words, she is a natural writer. She thrives in a class, but I cant afford an online one right now, and the local one is finished.


I feel its time for her to learn "serious" writing, essays, expository writing etc. But, I am trying to find something she will respond well to, that is simple and just teaches her the basic skills she needs. Although CW Diogenes would be wonderful, I cant do that and do the other things we love to do- there arent enough hours in the day.

I have a list of options:

Robin Finlay's Teaching the Essay

Bravewriter for Hgh School

Writer's Inc


but i am sure there are others.

I know that week upon week of contrived exercises is not going to work. She needs to feel she is doing real writing and can express herself. I could force her into a program like WS or Wordsmith, but it will make things unhappy around here. If there was a simple way of doing the progym I woudl do it, but CW is just too much.


Anyone btdt? How did you solve it? Any other options I haven't thought of? How do you teach dry writing to a child who adores to write and express herself creatively, without wilting her?

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And this is why we teach "expository essays" as the thrust of the "writing program" at my co-op (middle and high school.)


My DD was also a competent writer on some levels by the time she was 14. She'd been thru WordSmith in upper elementary. She'd rejected Writing Strands somewhere in there, too, for reasons similar to what you describe.


Along the way I realized that whether she would ever "be a writer" was not crucial to what we would do in the way of "writing instruction" at home. What I needed to be about was preparation and laying good foundations for writing in college. Because college was going to be her path.


So our co-op writing classes focused like a laser beam on 1-learning to organize a well-written expository essay (yeah, we do it in five paragraphs as beginners), and 2-learning to incorporate carefully crafted prose that really helps the kids make their point and proves their arguments. After that, we applied those skills to writing for English. Read a book: Write the essay in response. And she wrote many many many essays ... all the while honing those skills. (Sometimes we would "do some research" and write an essay - as for history or science topics - but mainly we honed the essay SKILLS on writing literature analysis type essays.)


Because I graded her essays myself I could monitor her progress, using REVISIONS as a MAJOR TEACHING TOOL. NO essay was "finished" after the first attempt. Learning to write better means being open to criticism and striving to improve the writing: be clearer, be more to the point, use better examples, stronger verbs, clearer transitions, and so on.


When the student gets to this point I really do NOT believe a packaged curriculum can help since the improvement process is so specific to what the student is actually writing - SOMEbody must read the drafts and provide that one-on-one critique. Then the student must get busy incorporating the suggestions for improvement until the finished work is obviously finished :-) since the revision(s) is/are so much better than the draft!


Having said that, the PREP for getting to that point, CAN be accomplished with certain package curricula - Finley's essay program is all about organization (which MUST be mastered). Don Killgallon's books are all about using language (which goes to clarity and purpose in the writing). Mastery of grammar is obviously fundamental but hopefully you did that in middle school.


I don't have any easy answers for how or where to find a competent one-on-one tutor for a kid who is ready to benefit from that - I suspect this is what the online programs do but I can't say for sure as we never used those.

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My younger ds is much like your dd -- writes very well, and with ease, but he could use some refinement.


I don't use any writing programs, and don't plan to for the near future, but instead follow the WTM, assigning summaries, context pages, and occasionally some research topics. I proof read, and he corrects for spelling and any glaring awkward sentence constructions. I've talked about his writing with a couple of writing instructors I've known, and both have said he writes well, and not to fret about reigning in his creative flourishes, but to keep the words flowing. They said that when the time comes for more formal writing, he should be able to switch gears with ease.


I have in fact pointed out to him how formal academic writing differs from his more casual voice, and he gave me the standard teen-age response "well no duh, mom". So, I'm crossing my fingers that I'm right in thinking it won't be hard for him to adapt when the time comes.

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Have you looked at Put That in Writing II: Mastering the Essay? There are 24 units covering various types of essays. Each unit has eight step by step exercises with thorough explanations and you can choose the pace and give the student options in regard to topic. Editing is incorporated into the schedule such that every three weeks you are reviewing and revising a previous composition. (It also includes a small amount of grammar review which you can skip since you are using analytical grammar.) You can see samples at http://www.barrettsbookshelf.com


Good luck!



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Dolly, will you come teach at my house:001_smile:?


I agree with Dolly's wise words. We are in the same spot with my ds, 14. And while I have run through the revision process and provided the one-on-one critique for other people's children, I find it SOOOO difficult to do with my own. Just too critical, I guess. I get frustrated when the first draft is so far from my expectations - lovely language, but completely unfocused, no use of specific examples, doesn't directly address the question. I hardly know where to start! It has really helped to work with him in laying out the outline before he hits the keyboard.


Sometimes I think this stage is more difficult because he is such a natural writer. His facility with language makes his fiction writing a pleasure to read. I didn't teach that. And I want to nurture, not squash, his own voice. But somehow I've got to get him to turn that corner and do -- uggh! -- academic writing. I say "uggh" because, really, it isn't the kind of writing anyone wants to read. It isn't what I consider "good" writing (where the top of your head is taken off, as EED would say), but it is necessary for college. And never after.


Maura in NY

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Lol, yes, Dolly, could you just come over to Australia for a bit?


Thanks everyone. Glad I am not the only one. I am thinking that Finlay's Teaching the Essay might be a good next step, and it's cheap and doable and not a whole book or year long curriculum. Just having her write a 5 paragraph essay each week might be a good move.

Meanwhile I have decided to keep inventing creative writing exercises that stretch her. I am really trying to integrate writing with history and literature rather than have it as a completely separate subject. Put That In Writing 2 looks good, but as its another "curriculum" and I already have several that have met with much resistance, I am reluctant to try another. Maybe its something we will end up having to do, but I would like to try without a curriculum. I looked at the expository writing essay exercise in Writing Strands 6 yesterday and my eyes started really glazing over. No wonder some kids dislike those books! It made something relatively simple into a 6 page reading exercise, and so incredibly abstract! I guess it works for some kids.


thanks again

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My dd is much the same way - loves creative writing, writes well with sometimes flowery sentences and expressions, but academic writing is a well, struggle. I like IEW, but found that sometimes the emphasis on style led her to get overly flowerly and wordy. I found that the Bravewriter courses were good for her because she could (and was encouraged to) put some of that creativity to use while writing essays and focus on academic writing. Recently, though, I bought Format Writing. What I like about this is that is just what it says, teaches how to write in formats - the 5 paragraph essay for example. My dd doesn't use the book - I do. Since I never remember writing 5 paragraph essays I needed help teaching this format. Format Writing explains in steps just how to do it. The samples of writing in the book are terrible, but my dd writes well anyway for the most part, , and doesn't even really need to see the samples. She just needs to understand how to write these kinds of essays. She seems to be adding her own creativity to these formats, but she really needed to understand how to do them. Enough of my rambling, and hope I helped and not confused the issue.



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I SO don't belong in this thread! But I have a cheap idea for you. My 13yo writes well when he wants to, so I have some of the same problems. Except that mine already hates to write so I don't have to worry about botching that LOL. He has been able to passively resist every writing curriculum we've looked at. I think it is partly the normal bright-child problem of not learning if you are bored, but I also think he isn't at a stage that likes its writing. He did part of Format Writing (simply dreadful but explains the organization part) and now needs a bridge up to real essays from the simple 5 para stuff. Someone here recommended Reading for Rhetoric by Shrodes as being that bridge. I got it very inexpensively used because it is an old book. It has essays, real essays by famous authors, questions to answer that help you see the framework, and then writing suggestions to try to do the same thing. Yes, it is the same stupid sort of assignments that writing curriculums always contain, but the difference is that it has you study good essays by people like Twain. The intro says:

"Each exercise requires the student to examine the purpose, structure, diction, and tone of the selection; to consider the fusion of thought and form at every level - word, sentence, paragraph, and overall organization. It is not to be assumed that each principle will receive equal attention in every exercise, for the distinctive quality of the essay has determined the nature of the analysis. Consequently, the excersizes following complex essays lead to an examination of more than one rhetorical principle at a time, with some questions reviewing information already learned and others introducing new material. In any one exercise the questions enable the student to determine how a particular excersize was organized and why that organization serves the author's purpose. Finally, the writing assingment requires the student to apply one or more of the rhetorical principles to his own essay.

The excersizes are cumulative. Through repetitin and variation they move from the simple concreteness of Mark Twain's Memories of a Missouri Farm (I dentification) to the intellectual precision of E.M. Forster's My Wood (Definition); from teh luminous clarity of Virginia Woolf's The Patron and the Crocus (Classification) to the musical form of Aldous Huxley's Pascal (Comaprison and Contrast); from the wild sanity of EBWhite's The Second Tree from the Corner (Illustration) to teh sharpness and sensitivity of James Agee's Odors (Analysis); from the genius of Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal (Argument and Persuasion) to the coplex tonality of Katherine Anne Porter's The Wooden Umbrella (Diction and Tone)."


(I've probably mangled some of that and I can't manage the italics. Sorry. I also have my normal problem with exercise/excersize.)


The reading selections are distinctly American. The book is meant for college, but I was able to go through and pick out ones that were more suitable for early high school (less depressing or difficult), and I think my son might actually learn something doing this book and therefore actually do it, rather than passively resist. It isn't a great investment, so I don't see why we shouldn't try it. If all else fails, it will teach me and then I can teach him within the context of our great books. That is my end goal for my youngest - no writing curriculum for high school; just writing. If you weren't wanting expository writing, you could do something like the book 30 Days to a Rough Draft (or whatever it is called - my library has it) and have her write a novel. I agree that expository writing is a necessary evil, though.


Good luck!


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