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Lewelma if you wouldn't mind I would love an update of your thoughts on your choices of writing curricula. Now that it has been several years and you have had a chance to go through some of the upper grades with your kids would you mind giving your current thoughts on how what you used has worked out, and what you liked/didn't like? Would you have changed what you used? Did you change anything from your original plan?

 

 Well, I wrote the first post in this thread when my older was 11.  Now he is a month shy of 16, and he is a good writer.  Unfortunately, for curriculum lovers his path veered off the original plan by probably the most unusual way possible.  Older DS ended up learning how to write through AoPS.  :huh: Basically, he started writing between two and four 1-2page long proofs every week and did this for 1.5 years.  On the other end of this maths process, he could write English papers.  What this taught me was what I started to understand upthread, that writing is thinking made clear.  AoPS taught him how to think, and how to take a web of ideas and turn them into a linear argument, which is what writing is all about. Unless you plan to write a hypertext, as an author you need to plan how you will take so many connections and order them into a linear format which is what arrangement is all about.  Basic 5 paragraph papers teach you a basic structure that you just fill in, but as your ideas get more complicated and more interrelated, you must diverge from this outline because it will quit being functional.  This is where a program like WWS comes in to play because SWB teaches the student how to work more complexity into an argument and thus cannot provide a straight forward layout for an essay.  So what my older son's experience taught me is that to be a good writer you must be a crisp thinker.  They are completely related, and you can learn to be a crisp thinker in many ways and with many different subjects.  Fascinating really.

 

Another thing I learned while teaching my older is the difference between 'reading papers' and 'writing papers.'  This is a UK thing, and I found quite a few resources online that helped me to distinguish these two types of papers that the UK and NZ differentiate between, but the US doesn't explicitly (but still expects kids to write both, although there is a focus on reading papers in high school in the US).  A 'reading paper' is one that is designed to show that you can read and interpret the material and organize your thoughts into an essay with a thesis.  This is the 5 paragraph paper, and its purpose is not to create excellent writing, but rather to 1) crisp up your thinking on a subject, and 2) be able to be graded.  These papers are typically horribly boring to read.  In contrast, a 'writing paper' is where you learn how to write something that could be published in National Geographic or Scientific American.  Audience and purpose become incredibly important.  These types of papers often turn into creative nonfiction with long narratives at the beginning, and various paragraph types sprinkled throughout.  You would never write a 'writing essay' on a test, because they take too long to plan, write, and edit.  Clearly, there is some overlap in these two types of essays, but the differentiation really helps to clarify why all the different writing curriculum are so very different.

 

For example, WWS teaches 'writing papers'.  SWB teaches different paragraph types and then teaches you how to merge them into full essays.  If you were writing for a test, you would not likely start with a full paragraph that was a narrative -- this is a writing paper technique.  

 

IEW teaches 'reading papers', at least the arrangement of them.  Short, crisp, efficient.  Get your ideas down with clarity.

 

LToW teaches the thinking that is required for 'reading papers' and the structure of the essay as well. 

 

So what I found with my older was quite interesting.  While he was working through his AoPS courses, I was desperately trying to get him to write (although he really did not want to).  I started using Common Threads, because it is an awesome book with fabulous examples of different types of essays to read and analyze that are focused around the common topics.  But there was a pitfall to this book.  All the essays were creative nonfiction, and when I first started using the book I did understand the difference between a reading and writing paper.  This book could be used for either, really; but the examples were writing papers.  Writing papers often have a more subtle thesis that is developed over the course of the paper to sort of develop into a shockingly insightful ending.  And my ds started trying to use this style.  Trouble is that it takes quite a skilled writer to maintain audience and purpose when the thesis is defined but not explictly stated until the end.  Once I was clear that this was a writing paper, I could show my ds examples of each and clarify when you would use each.  Now he practices both using NZ curriculum.

 

The main problem I have had with my older boy is that he wants to sort out all his ideas in his head and through discussion and *then* write an outline.  He does not like to jot notes down before the outline.  And what I have finally realized is that all the jotting of notes acts as an extended working memory that allows you to see connections between so many more ideas than you could store in your head.  What happened to him is that because his working memory is so good he was able to sort through his ideas in his head up to a certain complexity point and then he quit progressing. And it became very difficult to convince him to jot down ideas because he had never done it before.  So my main take away was that LToW's brainstorm list and *then* categorization is a really critical step and one which I am teaching my younger now.

 

As for my younger, life has given us a turn because he was diagnosed as dysgraphic a few months ago.  This has led to interesting challenges trying to decide how best to help him move forward.  I am currently trying to decide between LToW and WWS.  LToW teaches a technique for how to pull ideas out of your head, but it has a much less structured day-by-day approach.  WWS really forces a kid into structured thinking, but in a way that is somewhat more rigid as the content is pre-chosen and the assignements are much more clearly defined than LToW.  Right now, we have spent a month on LToW, and I'm thinking that the structure of WWS (with lots of parental guidance) might be a better choice.  I'll know by the end of the year, I'm sure. :001_smile:

 

But I will also say to all those with struggling writers, don't be afraid to go back to basics.  My younger ds and I are doing dictation for 30 minutes a day, to help him with spelling, grammar, mechanics, etc.  And it is helping immensely. Should he have mastered this in 3rd grade? Well yes, probably.  But he didn't, so this is where we are. We are doing the dictation for remediation while continuing to push forward on the thinking aspect of writing using either WWS or LToW.  It is fine to split up skills, and work at different levels on different things.  I am also considering Kilgallon, not for style as my ds has plenty, but rather for a holistic study of grammar. He cannot use a typical grammar book, and Kilgallon will allow us to attack it in a different way.

 

As for all the new curriculum I bought, well, most of it is the high school books that Swimmermom recommended up thread.  In the end, I'm not sure we will use them because we have to switch to the NZ curriculum in 11th grade.  But I have enjoyed reading them as a way to increase my own skill as a writing coach.  

 

Well, that was a fun walk down memory lane.  Thanks for asking about our journey.  :001_smile:

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It has been summer holidays here, so I have been reading, reading, reading about writing.   I have read 3 of the 4 recommendations from SWB for rhetoric: Corbett's Classical Rhetoric for the

Well, I wrote the first post in this thread when my older was 11.  Now he is a month shy of 16, and he is a good writer.  Unfortunately, for curriculum lovers his path veered off the original plan by

I just read them.  I know how to write, but I did not know 1) how to teach writing to a child who needs explicit teaching, and 2) what exactly a high school graduate is supposed to be able to write.

I really appreciate your update, as I'm currently deciding, with considerable angst, our future writing path. I have a lot of choices I'm trying to wade through (CAP, CW, WWS, IEW, LToW), as we are on the other side of the logic stage (my oldest being in 4th grade). I often come back to your analyses of the curricula and re-read and wished for an update. Thank you!

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Thank you for the update.  I've read through this thread many times.  My impression always was that you were most impressed by CW.  Your latest update doesn't mention that curriculum at all.  Did you change your mind about it?

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Thank you for the update.  I've read through this thread many times.  My impression always was that you were most impressed by CW.  Your latest update doesn't mention that curriculum at all.  Did you change your mind about it?

 

No, I didn't change my mind about it. It is quite good, and I love how it is completely integrated and covers all the skills.  Probably the only curriculum I have read that does.  The main problem for me when I was making my choices all those years ago was the non-modern writing.  But now having had my older boy learn to write English by writing Math proofs, it has demonstrated to me that as long as you are working to crisp up your thinking into a linear argument, it does not matter what you write about -- modern topics, non-modern topics, or math. :thumbup1:  By the time ds had finished half of WWS3, he was so involved in math, that we needed something that did not take much time, and that is certainly not CW.  For my other boy, the un-diagnosed dysgraphia has led me to switch completely to a homegrown English program where I could remediate his weaknesses while still working on his strengths. For years I could not figure out what was going on, and I could not find a writing program that he was *willing* to do, let alone *able* to do.  But now at age 12, I am looking again at a curriculum for him, and with your little reminder, I'll be pulling Homer for older beginners off my shelf to see if it might work.  My younger boy needs some serious hand holding but yet is also *very* picky about the content he will write about.  LToW allows for any content you want, but the hand holding is much less than WWS or CW.  I can't use IEW because ds's style is beautiful, and there is no way he could work with IEW's rules which are half of the program (the other half being arrangement).  I was hoping to sit down with all my lovely books today to pick, but dh told me I have to do my taxes.  :tongue_smilie:

 

ETA: I'm sorry that CAP was not published when I read all those curricula.  I might just buy it and see what all the fuss is about. I have all the other Writing curricula, might as well have a full set. :001_smile:   :001_rolleyes:

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Thank you so much for this update. I have spent hours the last few days reading through old threads on writing, and this one is by far one of the most helpful. I am coming to the conclusion that I somehow need to get my hands on a lot of the same materials as you did, even for the sake of my own education. Writing is not a strength for me, but I need to have the ability to help "mentor" my kids through the upper grades. I am realizing the only way I will have the confidence to do this is by increasing my own understanding of the writing process. Your update confirms to me the necessity of this. The main idea I gathered is that it is not about finding the perfect curriculum, although that would be very helpful, but more about understanding the process enough to apply it to all types of writing situations. As much as I wished you had forged the perfect path through the different curricula that I could than follow ;), I am actually glad you ended up a place different than you expected and it has all worked out. I always seem to figure out the "perfect" plan and when we inevitably vary from it I become quite frustrated. I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that my kids are their own people with their own needs and rarely do they fit perfectly into My plans. :). It is nice to see that your kids have found a unique way of learning their writing skills even though it was not your original plan. Sorry for my rambling. :)

 

I love that you pointed out the difference between "writing" and "reading" papers. I had never thought of it that way, but that makes perfect sense. I always learn something new when I come here. :) Thank you so much, your posts are always so inspiring. You are a great example to me of having the desire to learn about a topic and just buckling down and doing it.

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Love this update, thanks so much for taking the time!

 

The aops info is fascinating! How very cool to see him become a great writer that way!

 

We are doing a mish mash inspired by SWB (wwe and wws and the complete writer and the lectures all buzzing in my mind) and by CW. We sort of pitch back and forth between the two depending on what else is happening in school and life! We just spent months working with CW's poetry, we're about to move forward with a SWB inspired writing in science/history. Lots of dictation, outlining, grammar etc.

 

I also like to chuck in some of the assignments in the MCT books to mix things up. We wing it quite a lot around here...

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The aops info is fascinating! How very cool to see him become a great writer that way!

 

 

I know. Kind of super cool given that he is a mathematician.  He took the 4 intermediate AoPS classes from 13.5 to 15 and wrote upward of 150 1-2 page math proofs but only 5 English papers during that time.  At age 13.5 I thought he was a very average 8th grade writer -- he was slow and sloppy with his language and his ideas were uninspired and unorganized. When he came out of the AoPS push at 15, he was assessed by an English teacher as writing at an Excellence level (top 10%) for 11th grade. I was like  :huh:  :confused1: .  Interestingly, during those years he started reading the Economist and continued to read 15 classics a year.  So I'm guessing that was a piece of the puzzle.

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We are currently using WWS in the summers and had a lot of exposure to WWE methods and to some of those books as well. My kid is in charter school so does not have a lot of time during school year. I plan on covering WWS2 key chapters this summer as much as possible ( he still needs fun!) but was wondering if IEW SWI level C would be useful for SAT and other types of tests like AP exams if we did not stick to the style checklists which I abhor. I even have the IEW High School Writing Intensive and their workbook on Elegant Essay. Do you recommend any of these as a supplement to WWS which I think is excellent?

 

I guess what I am wondering is whether IEW will confuse my son's from WWS methods which I think is fantastic? My kid is a fairly strong writer. I am wanting something that reviews essays quickly while we cover the details in WWS. he just took AP World History ans was unable to finish 3rd essay (only wrote thesis paragraph) which may have been a timing issue for him but I thought more practice on essay work might help.

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 Well, I wrote the first post in this thread when my older was 11.  Now he is a month shy of 16, and he is a good writer.  Unfortunately, for curriculum lovers his path veered off the original plan by probably the most unusual way possible.  Older DS ended up learning how to write through AoPS.  :huh: Basically, he started writing between two and four 1-2page long proofs every week and did this for 1.5 years.  On the other end of this maths process, he could write English papers.  What this taught me was what I started to understand upthread, that writing is thinking made clear.  AoPS taught him how to think, and how to take a web of ideas and turn them into a linear argument, which is what writing is all about. Unless you plan to write a hypertext, as an author you need to plan how you will take so many connections and order them into a linear format which is what arrangement is all about.  Basic 5 paragraph papers teach you a basic structure that you just fill in, but as your ideas get more complicated and more interrelated, you must diverge from this outline because it will quit being functional.  This is where a program like WWS comes in to play because SWB teaches the student how to work more complexity into an argument and thus cannot provide a straight forward layout for an essay.  So what my older son's experience taught me is that to be a good writer you must be a crisp thinker.  They are completely related, and you can learn to be a crisp thinker in many ways and with many different subjects.  Fascinating really.

 

Another thing I learned while teaching my older is the difference between 'reading papers' and 'writing papers.'  This is a UK thing, and I found quite a few resources online that helped me to distinguish these two types of papers that the UK and NZ differentiate between, but the US doesn't explicitly (but still expects kids to write both, although there is a focus on reading papers in high school in the US).  A 'reading paper' is one that is designed to show that you can read and interpret the material and organize your thoughts into an essay with a thesis.  This is the 5 paragraph paper, and its purpose is not to create excellent writing, but rather to 1) crisp up your thinking on a subject, and 2) be able to be graded.  These papers are typically horribly boring to read.  In contrast, a 'writing paper' is where you learn how to write something that could be published in National Geographic or Scientific American.  Audience and purpose become incredibly important.  These types of papers often turn into creative nonfiction with long narratives at the beginning, and various paragraph types sprinkled throughout.  You would never write a 'writing essay' on a test, because they take too long to plan, write, and edit.  Clearly, there is some overlap in these two types of essays, but the differentiation really helps to clarify why all the different writing curriculum are so very different.

 

For example, WWS teaches 'writing papers'.  SWB teaches different paragraph types and then teaches you how to merge them into full essays.  If you were writing for a test, you would not likely start with a full paragraph that was a narrative -- this is a writing paper technique.  

 

IEW teaches 'reading papers', at least the arrangement of them.  Short, crisp, efficient.  Get your ideas down with clarity.

 

LToW teaches the thinking that is required for 'reading papers' and the structure of the essay as well. 

 

So what I found with my older was quite interesting.  While he was working through his AoPS courses, I was desperately trying to get him to write (although he really did not want to).  I started using Common Threads, because it is an awesome book with fabulous examples of different types of essays to read and analyze that are focused around the common topics.  But there was a pitfall to this book.  All the essays were creative nonfiction, and when I first started using the book I did understand the difference between a reading and writing paper.  This book could be used for either, really; but the examples were writing papers.  Writing papers often have a more subtle thesis that is developed over the course of the paper to sort of develop into a shockingly insightful ending.  And my ds started trying to use this style.  Trouble is that it takes quite a skilled writer to maintain audience and purpose when the thesis is defined but not explictly stated until the end.  Once I was clear that this was a writing paper, I could show my ds examples of each and clarify when you would use each.  Now he practices both using NZ curriculum.

 

The main problem I have had with my older boy is that he wants to sort out all his ideas in his head and through discussion and *then* write an outline.  He does not like to jot notes down before the outline.  And what I have finally realized is that all the jotting of notes acts as an extended working memory that allows you to see connections between so many more ideas than you could store in your head.  What happened to him is that because his working memory is so good he was able to sort through his ideas in his head up to a certain complexity point and then he quit progressing. And it became very difficult to convince him to jot down ideas because he had never done it before.  So my main take away was that LToW's brainstorm list and *then* categorization is a really critical step and one which I am teaching my younger now.

 

As for my younger, life has given us a turn because he was diagnosed as dysgraphic a few months ago.  This has led to interesting challenges trying to decide how best to help him move forward.  I am currently trying to decide between LToW and WWS.  LToW teaches a technique for how to pull ideas out of your head, but it has a much less structured day-by-day approach.  WWS really forces a kid into structured thinking, but in a way that is somewhat more rigid as the content is pre-chosen and the assignements are much more clearly defined than LToW.  Right now, we have spent a month on LToW, and I'm thinking that the structure of WWS (with lots of parental guidance) might be a better choice.  I'll know by the end of the year, I'm sure. :001_smile:

 

But I will also say to all those with struggling writers, don't be afraid to go back to basics.  My younger ds and I are doing dictation for 30 minutes a day, to help him with spelling, grammar, mechanics, etc.  And it is helping immensely. Should he have mastered this in 3rd grade? Well yes, probably.  But he didn't, so this is where we are. We are doing the dictation for remediation while continuing to push forward on the thinking aspect of writing using either WWS or LToW.  It is fine to split up skills, and work at different levels on different things.  I am also considering Kilgallon, not for style as my ds has plenty, but rather for a holistic study of grammar. He cannot use a typical grammar book, and Kilgallon will allow us to attack it in a different way.

 

As for all the new curriculum I bought, well, most of it is the high school books that Swimmermom recommended up thread.  In the end, I'm not sure we will use them because we have to switch to the NZ curriculum in 11th grade.  But I have enjoyed reading them as a way to increase my own skill as a writing coach.  

 

Well, that was a fun walk down memory lane.  Thanks for asking about our journey.  :001_smile:

 

This is a fantastic discussion of the goals of writing and how you might get a student to be more of a fluent writer.  I have one kid who wrestles with writing when he is trying to compose thoughts and sentences at the same time.  I really like your observation about notes as a way of extending working memory and creating connections.

 

Writing is one of the focus points this year.  Interestingly, I found that one good assignment was to have him take the staccato baking instructions for something he's cooked often and write them out as a narrative paragraph with transitions and more detailed description and imagery.  I think that I will be using more similar assignments where he is working to go between narrative and bullet points and back with familiar topics.  (This is similar to WWS lessons, but will stay closer to familiar topics until he's more fluent.  He has so many what if questions about a topic like yellow fever or smallpox vaccinations that he struggle to write about them.)

 

I think your post here would make an amazing blog post for the Well Trained Mind Academy Blog

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FWIW, I think even as an adult, there are uses of both reading paper and writing paper skills as you explained them.

 

DH has written several book reviews on topics that he knows well.  His reviews typically give an overview of the book, a discussion of the topic the book covers, touches on how well the book accomplished what it set out to do and ends with an assessment of how the book does or does not add to the body of literature on the topic.

 

I was talking to an acquaintance recently who was doing something similar with peer reviews for a classmate who is working on his PhD in archaeology.  

 

There are similar reading paper applications when you are reviewing a report or a study and discussing how applicable it is for your company or department.

 

I've had to do more original writing when I was writing up lessons learned for simulations, wrote for my alumni magazine or wrote an article for a history magazine.  And there are personal evaluations and reports on broken equipment that required clear, logical writing.  

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FWIW, I think even as an adult, there are uses of both reading paper and writing paper skills as you explained them.

 

 

I completely agree.  And in fact, all the most celebrated analytical persuasive essays like Rachel Carson or MLK are an advanced mixture of both.  Beautiful writing with clear purpose and audience and of publishable quality, but still with a clear cut structure with very specific points to get across that have been developed through deep analysis of the topic.  The problem is that these things are too difficult (and long) for middle and high schoolers to write.  So what I have seen with all the different curriculum is that they attack the end goal in two different ways.  Focus on the development of complex ideas with clear purpose and audience (WWS) or develop the crisp, to-the-point overview structure to summarize your main points (IEW, LToW). Both approaches have their pros and cons, but the endpoints should be similar if students are willing to expand beyond the specific curriculum details.

 

Here and in the UK, reading papers are about developing analytical thinking skills, and writing papers are about developing beautiful writing skills including making decisions about audience and rhetoric and language. They are both really important.  But to expect kids to develop them all at the same time is typically unrealistic.  So I'm not undercutting 'reading papers' as the boring 5 paragraph essay used only in test taking situations. Reading papers help develop the ability to analyse what you have read; they develop analytical thinking. Reading papers, however, are the ones that you *do* find on tests because they are shorter and take less time to write if you have developed the fast analytical skills that reading papers help you develop. Does that make sense? 

 

So with that in mind, here are a few thoughts on specific curriculum. You will notice that they overlap in their goals.  The reading/writing paper dichotomy does not totally fit; however I find it helpful when I think about what skills I want my younger ds to develop.

 

WWS: 

Pros: Teaches kids how to really dig into a topic by learning both how to develop a topic's complexity *and* how to arrange complex ideas into proper paragraphs that guide a student to even more connections. This is an interesting mix of analytical thinking skills and deep writing skills.

 

Cons: WWS does not teach kids how to write reading papers for exams -- short, crisp, and efficient analysis.  Kids can wallow in the complexity, losing site of basics of writing. Takes more time to get a complete view of the whole of writing (so 3 years instead of 1 like with IEW and LToW)

 

IEW 

Pros: kids learn to write 5 paragraph essays efficiently and with ease.  They master the basics of the analysis of a subject and how to quickly and effectively outline it.  The basics become so automated that eventually their mind can focus on the complexities.

 

Cons: IEW papers are thin in complexity.  Deep thinking on a subject is not taught.  The basic outlines/thinking style taught can be difficult to migrate from when they have been embedded so deeply.

 

LToW is kind of a mixture of these approaches.  Jack of all trades and master of none?  Don't know. I really like this program for its combination of developing thinking skills (like WWS) and structure (like IEW); however, I have struggled to implement it effectively with my children.  

 

I've used all three of these programs at different times.  :001_smile:  At this point, my younger ds loves complexity, and I am uncertain if I should let him wallow in it with WWS and at least get SWB to teach him *how* to deal with the complexity. Or whether I should get him some basic skill practice with IEW so he can get things down faster and with more clarity as to how to organize.  We have been using LToW but he keeps veering off into complexity and not sticking with the program, so I'm tempted to switch. 

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Have you looked at the upper levels of MCT, especially the new post-voyage level? There's a lot of analysing speeches and examples of excellent writing in there. There are also a few ancillary MCT/rfwp books in that vein like the one I have about Jefferson.

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We are currently using WWS in the summers and had a lot of exposure to WWE methods and to some of those books as well. My kid is in charter school so does not have a lot of time during school year. I plan on covering WWS2 key chapters this summer as much as possible ( he still needs fun!) but was wondering if IEW SWI level C would be useful for SAT and other types of tests like AP exams if we did not stick to the style checklists which I abhor. I even have the IEW High School Writing Intensive and their workbook on Elegant Essay. Do you recommend any of these as a supplement to WWS which I think is excellent?

 

I guess what I am wondering is whether IEW will confuse my son's from WWS methods which I think is fantastic? My kid is a fairly strong writer. I am wanting something that reviews essays quickly while we cover the details in WWS. he just took AP World History ans was unable to finish 3rd essay (only wrote thesis paragraph) which may have been a timing issue for him but I thought more practice on essay work might help.

 

I'm terrible at giving specific curriculum advice, but I think it would be wise to teach test taking essays as separate from WWS deep thinking essays.  I don't think he would get confused.  From my point of view, you have been focusing on writing essays and now have found you need to study up on reading essays.  Make the distinction, teach them both. To do well on an exam, kids need to be able to efficiently evaluate what they read and be able to organize an essay on the fly.  This is not what WWS teaches.  WWS teaches deep thinking and complexities in writing, tools used when there is time to really dig into a subject.  

 

Both skills are necessary in life -- quick analysis and slow deep thinking.  Exams, however, only test quick analysis.  

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Have you looked at the upper levels of MCT, especially the new post-voyage level? There's a lot of analysing speeches and examples of excellent writing in there. There are also a few ancillary MCT/rfwp books in that vein like the one I have about Jefferson.

 

I only have the lower levels of MCT sadly.  Just so many good curricula out there, and a limited budget.  sigh.  

 

I have found analyzing speeches and excellent writing to be very productive towards helping my kids develop writing skills.  We have specifically looked for rhetorical choices to appeal to a chosen audience and for language skills. Studying others' writing has definitely helped my kids with the 'writing papers' by giving them some understanding of the choices writers make, and that there are many paths to the same goal in writing.  I remember spending a full week (so 5 hours) analyzing a JFK speech.  It was absolutely fascinating to see how he (or his writers) chose to put certain things in to persuade the audience. Once you see some of these techniques in action, you are more likely to try to use them yourself, especially if you have the time for deep thinking and careful editing for rhetoric and audience and language. Studying good examples has helped my older ds to be pretty good at rhetoric, for his age at least. My younger and I have only started this process this year, and are working through a National Geographic article every month.  I have also used NYT Room for Debate with him to analyze why some essays are better than others, because there is a *huge* variety of skill level in the writers they post.

 

I don't think, however, that reading others' works has helped *my* kids with 'reading papers'  Reading papers, meaning using analytical reading skills to write an analysis essay, come from practicing analysis over and over again.  Brainstorming the ideas, categorizing them, making a thesis, and writing. This seems to require discussion in my house.  My older ds is reasonably good at it, though not fast, but seems to require me to ask questions and argue with him. What I am working on now is getting him to ask the questions of himself, which he finds kind of hard and not as much fun!

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Haha! Yes, unfortunately the money fountain doesn't flow fast enough for all the curriculum...

 

Yes, I've realised with my oldest that a lot of the practice needs to come from discussion first. That discussing IS practising skills. And it is a real asset in homeschooling to be able to have the deep, one on one discussions.

 

Truthfully, I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the reading/writing papers thing... I'm not sure whether la types (intuitive with writing/language) naturally turn their reading essays into more writing ones - when given enough time? Or, maybe I'm just not clear, is it the deliberateness in writing beautifully and/or to a particular audience? More proactive than reactive?

 

Surrounding them with good examples fits the schole ideas too, giving them an appetite for beautiful writing so their inclination will be towards the good. In theory...

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I have found analyzing speeches and excellent writing to be very productive towards helping my kids develop writing skills.  We have specifically looked for rhetorical choices to appeal to a chosen audience and for language skills. Studying others' writing has definitely helped my kids with the 'writing papers' by giving them some understanding of the choices writers make, and that there are many paths to the same goal in writing.  I remember spending a full week (so 5 hours) analyzing a JFK speech.  It was absolutely fascinating to see how he (or his writers) chose to put certain things in to persuade the audience. Once you see some of these techniques in action, you are more likely to try to use them yourself, especially if you have the time for deep thinking and careful editing for rhetoric and audience and language. Studying good examples has helped my older ds to be pretty good at rhetoric, for his age at least. My younger and I have only started this process this year, and are working through a National Geographic article every month.  I have also used NYT Room for Debate with him to analyze why some essays are better than others, because there is a *huge* variety of skill level in the writers they post.

 

I don't think, however, that reading others' works has helped *my* kids with 'reading papers'  Reading papers, meaning using analytical reading skills to write an analysis essay, come from practicing analysis over and over again.  Brainstorming the ideas, categorizing them, making a thesis, and writing. This seems to require discussion in my house.  My older ds is reasonably good at it, though not fast, but seems to require me to ask questions and argue with him. What I am working on now is getting him to ask the questions of himself, which he finds kind of hard and not as much fun!

 

This thread....amazing!  Thank you Ruth!  As I plan out our writing for next year, I am torn about what to do with my oldest.  He'll be a senior and still struggles with constructing both reading papers and writing papers (love the distinction and definition you offered - makes so much sense).  Heck, sometimes he still struggles with a decent thesis statement.  I am inspired by what you wrote here.  I don't think we've spent enough time analyzing speeches and excellent writing, and this is especially true for rhetorical choices.  I'm going to start reading speeches and choose several to study together next year.  NYT Room for Debate is a great resource too.  Thanks again!

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Truthfully, I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the reading/writing papers thing... I'm not sure whether la types (intuitive with writing/language) naturally turn their reading essays into more writing ones - when given enough time? Or, maybe I'm just not clear, is it the deliberateness in writing beautifully and/or to a particular audience? More proactive than reactive?

 

 

I think really it is just a distinction made for high school writing so that kids don't have to do *everything* all at once. To get into university here you have to have 5 reading credits and 5 writing credits, which is why I'm aware of the split.  NZ has followed the UK's A-levels English curriculum reasonably closely, so I read up a lot about it there.  One of the problems I have had for years is trying to gain clarity as to *what* I'm supposed to be teaching.  And how in the world there could be all these great curricula out there that teach writing in such different ways?  How is this possible?  So as a scientist, I look for a model, even when the model does not fit exactly so that I can gain clarity.  However, models always have pitfalls!

 

Ok, so there is a lot of overlap, but if you want two extremes to consider: National Geographic articles are 'writing papers' and a 5 paragraph high school essay is a 'reading paper.' One is written for an audience and one is written to practice analysis. National Geographic draws you in with a narrative, uses expository, descriptive, comparison/contrast, cause and effect paragraphs to develop a deep understanding of a topic.  These essays often have (but not always) a bit of a punchy ending to close it all up and leave you with something new to think about, and they are wonderfully engaging and interesting to read. When my ds wrote his 'writing paper' on superconductors, he used the history of superconductors to demonstrate what basic research was and how it could, but does not always, lead to useful technology. Superconductors actually started with a gentlemen's bet in the 1800's as to who could find absolute zero.  So this paper did have a thesis, but it was never stated upfront; instead he interwove the two ideas.  He had to carefully manage the amount of science he included because he had chosen his audience to be the scientifically interested but not scientists.  So he had to use metaphors and simpler language where required to help his audience understand how basic research works using absolute zero/superconductors as his example. This paper had to be interesting to read to the public, and perfected to a high standard both in word choice and rhetoric to get a high mark. In fact he started this paper with a 2 paragraph long narrative of the fateful night that the absolute zero was found and the bet won. This story needed to be as good as creative writing, with all the features of the genre.  Its goal was to develop interest in a the somewhat boring topic of basic research.  

 

In contrast a reading paper is about analyzing your reading, sorting through ideas, creating a thesis, and writing a paper.  My ds read House of Leaves, and decided to write about how all 5 types of fear could be found in the book, but that the fear of insignificance was the most difficult to resolve.  This paper had a clear thesis up front, and walked the reader through the 6 points he was making, with a proper conclusion at the end summarizing his points and leaving the reader with something to think about.  This paper did not care about audience, did not need any rhetorical choices, and language features like metaphors or alliteration would not really be needed.  Its focus was about crisping up his thinking about something he had read, teaching him to analyze. If he only wrote these types of papers, he would never learn about audience, language, and rhetoric.

 

Basically, for a high school student a 'writing paper' is written for someone else and a 'reading paper' is written to improve your own understanding. As students get older these two types of papers probably diverge into creative nonfiction and analytical writing.  But there is just so much overlap in the real world. In fact, I just read a wonderful analysis paper of War and Peace in the London Review of Books that was clearly written to persuade an audience.  But what I hear so often on this board is about the 5 paragraph essay, and then someone like Laura in the UK is like what?  Never heard of that.  And I just needed to spend some time reconciling these differing views.  People complain that high school writing is useless in college.  I think I have even seen SWB discuss this.  And that is because they are talking about 5 paragraph essays, which are 'reading papers' -- they are about critical analysis.  By the time you get to university, you are taking your critical analysis and either going towards Rachel Carson's analytical writing that is deep and readable, or you are going towards creative nonfiction like the stuff you find in high level magazines. Both mix analysis with rhetoric.  What the UK distinction does is separate out the skills to make each more manageable for younger students.  

 

Does that help?  I kind of feel like I am burying myself here :tongue_smilie: , but the distinction has been so helpful for me that I thought it might help someone else.   :001_smile:

Edited by lewelma
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Yes it does help, thank you! The examples are very helpful.

I'm just posting my musings, trying to sort out my thoughts...

I'm coming from the perspective of a natural writer with a fairly poor education so much of what people call 'highschool writing' is foreign. We did the 5 paragraph thing - though it was never explicitly taught - and university essays seemed less 'writing paper' to me, if I'm understanding the distinction. University essays were basically just longer 5 paragraph essays...

 

I think at the same point you were 5 years ago - figuring out what exactly constitutes an education in writing and how to implement it. I'm getting a lot of new vocabulary and concepts (from here, wtm, writing curriculum etc) to describe vague intuitions I always had which made me able to write passably when many classmates struggled.

So, when you talk about the different tools used to create the writing paper, I'm going to have to think on that for a little while. I don't think I've ever sat and considered a difference between the two, reflecting now, I guess I'd thought of the writing paper as a more mature/sophisticated version of the 5 paragraph, but now I'm realising that they employ different skills for different purposes and those differences can be explicitly taught - even if there is overlap.

 

I really appreciate this thread, thanks for taking the time to answer.

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 Well, I wrote the first post in this thread when my older was 11.  Now he is a month shy of 16, and he is a good writer.  Unfortunately, for curriculum lovers his path veered off the original plan by probably the most unusual way possible.  Older DS ended up learning how to write through AoPS.  :huh: Basically, he started writing between two and four 1-2page long proofs every week and did this for 1.5 years.  On the other end of this maths process, he could write English papers.  What this taught me was what I started to understand upthread, that writing is thinking made clear.  AoPS taught him how to think, and how to take a web of ideas and turn them into a linear argument, which is what writing is all about. Unless you plan to write a hypertext, as an author you need to plan how you will take so many connections and order them into a linear format which is what arrangement is all about.  Basic 5 paragraph papers teach you a basic structure that you just fill in, but as your ideas get more complicated and more interrelated, you must diverge from this outline because it will quit being functional.  This is where a program like WWS comes in to play because SWB teaches the student how to work more complexity into an argument and thus cannot provide a straight forward layout for an essay.  So what my older son's experience taught me is that to be a good writer you must be a crisp thinker.  They are completely related, and you can learn to be a crisp thinker in many ways and with many different subjects.  Fascinating really.

 

 

 

I love that this great thread has been revived! I wanted to especially highlight the bolded because this is what I've learned in teaching writing here, too.  I've come to realize that it doesn't matter so much what you use to teach a kid "to write" - Julie Bogart is right that the mechanics of the 5 paragraph essay can be taught on the back of an envelope in a short period of time.  The hard part, and the most important part, is to teach them to be a good thinker.  I like your use of the word "crisp" in this context: I think that clarity and crispness of writing is actually the third step, and the goal to aspire to.  I know that for dd learning the structure of essay writing was straightforward, but learning to think analytically and deeply is the new and exciting challenge.  In this stage, things can sometimes be muddled, because they are having all these new deep thoughts!  Crispness and clarity in writing are a sign that you've made it through the muddle, somewhat, and you know what you want to say and *how* to say it in a clear way, because your thinking is clear.

 

All this is to say that I think I worried too much in 5th-8th grade about "How am I going to teach essay writing?" Teaching how to write an essay was the easy part. I realize now that the question is, how am I going to teach clear, crisp, and analytical thinking?  And the good writing flows from that, once you have learned the basic structure.

 

Like SWB says, don't ask for two new hard things at the same time, so spending some time focused on the structure of a good essay is time well spent. But it's a skill to get down so that it becomes automatic, then I think the time and effort is really to be spent on working on the thinking skills, which as Ruth says can be developed in any number of ways.

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No, I didn't change my mind about it. It is quite good, and I love how it is completely integrated and covers all the skills.  Probably the only curriculum I have read that does.  The main problem for me when I was making my choices all those years ago was the non-modern writing.  But now having had my older boy learn to write English by writing Math proofs, it has demonstrated to me that as long as you are working to crisp up your thinking into a linear argument, it does not matter what you write about -- modern topics, non-modern topics, or math. :thumbup1:  By the time ds had finished half of WWS3, he was so involved in math, that we needed something that did not take much time, and that is certainly not CW.  For my other boy, the un-diagnosed dysgraphia has led me to switch completely to a homegrown English program where I could remediate his weaknesses while still working on his strengths. For years I could not figure out what was going on, and I could not find a writing program that he was *willing* to do, let alone *able* to do.  But now at age 12, I am looking again at a curriculum for him, and with your little reminder, I'll be pulling Homer for older beginners off my shelf to see if it might work.  My younger boy needs some serious hand holding but yet is also *very* picky about the content he will write about.  LToW allows for any content you want, but the hand holding is much less than WWS or CW.  I can't use IEW because ds's style is beautiful, and there is no way he could work with IEW's rules which are half of the program (the other half being arrangement).  I was hoping to sit down with all my lovely books today to pick, but dh told me I have to do my taxes.  :tongue_smilie:

 

ETA: I'm sorry that CAP was not published when I read all those curricula.  I might just buy it and see what all the fuss is about. I have all the other Writing curricula, might as well have a full set. :001_smile:   :001_rolleyes:

 

Thanks for this thread.  It is so helpful and enlightening to this mom who was not taught to write well.

 

Does CW teach the writing or reading papers?  My two sons are just going into 5th grade.  We are going through IEW SWI A currently and I am trying to decide which way to go next.  I have only seen CW on-line, so don't have a good feel for it.  I have WWS and have enjoyed reading all you have written about it.  One of my sons seems to fairly easily pick up any kind of writing he is taught.  The other has struggled with WWE narrations and struggles with telling back a story even with IEW's KWO, although does better with it than just with WWE.  I have wondered if he might have dysgraphia.

 

Could you include CW in your comparisons or your pros and cons list, like you did with the others?

 

 

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I only have the lower levels of MCT sadly. Just so many good curricula out there, and a limited budget. sigh.

 

I have found analyzing speeches and excellent writing to be very productive towards helping my kids develop writing skills. We have specifically looked for rhetorical choices to appeal to a chosen audience and for language skills. Studying others' writing has definitely helped my kids with the 'writing papers' by giving them some understanding of the choices writers make, and that there are many paths to the same goal in writing. I remember spending a full week (so 5 hours) analyzing a JFK speech. It was absolutely fascinating to see how he (or his writers) chose to put certain things in to persuade the audience. Once you see some of these techniques in action, you are more likely to try to use them yourself, especially if you have the time for deep thinking and careful editing for rhetoric and audience and language. Studying good examples has helped my older ds to be pretty good at rhetoric, for his age at least. My younger and I have only started this process this year, and are working through a National Geographic article every month. I have also used NYT Room for Debate with him to analyze why some essays are better than others, because there is a *huge* variety of skill level in the writers they post.

 

I don't think, however, that reading others' works has helped *my* kids with 'reading papers' Reading papers, meaning using analytical reading skills to write an analysis essay, come from practicing analysis over and over again. Brainstorming the ideas, categorizing them, making a thesis, and writing. This seems to require discussion in my house. My older ds is reasonably good at it, though not fast, but seems to require me to ask questions and argue with him. What I am working on now is getting him to ask the questions of himself, which he finds kind of hard and not as much fun!

I love the idea of analyzing speeches. I would love to someday do this with my kids, but I would have no clue where to start? What should I be looking for, what makes it a good speech etc. Any suggestions on resources to help me learn how to analyze speeches and writing? Where do I even begin? It seems like an impossible overwhelming task to me at the moment.

 

Also quick question about IEW. You mentioned that in your pro con list that with IEW the basics can become so automated that eventually it might become difficult for them to focus on complexities. Do you think this would be the case if only used for a year?

 

I would also love if you included CW in the pro cons list. Just curious have you had a chance to look through their newer upper level, Plutarch? I believe it came out since you started this thread. If you ever get the chance I would love to hear your thoughts on it. Thank you again so much for all you knowledge that you are willing to share. :)

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I'm pretty busy for the next few days, but will answer these questions as soon as I have time.  This whole discussion is helping me decide how to prioritize for my younger's writing education.  Weighing the pros and cons always leads me to second guessing!  :tongue_smilie:

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I love the idea of analyzing speeches. I would love to someday do this with my kids, but I would have no clue where to start? What should I be looking for, what makes it a good speech etc. Any suggestions on resources to help me learn how to analyze speeches and writing? Where do I even begin? It seems like an impossible overwhelming task to me at the moment.

 

 

MCT has a study about Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address Speech and another study on Martin Luther King's I have a Dream speech, http://www.rfwp.com/series/self-evident-truths-series-statements-of-equality

 

That might be a place to start :)

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http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/348864-my-evaluation-of-numerous-writing-curricula/

 

 

Lewelma if you wouldn't mind I would love an update of your thoughts on your choices of writing curricula. Now that it has been several years and you have had a chance to go through some of the upper grades with your kids would you mind giving your current thoughts on how what you used has worked out, and what you liked/didn't like? Would you have changed what you used? Did you change anything from your original plan? I have an upcoming 5th grader next year and I am in the midst of trying to figure out our writing plans for here on out. Thanks. :)

 

I would love others BTDT thoughts as well on the curricula that was mentioned in that thread. Thanks. :)

 

It's hard to believe so much time has passed since this thread was started! I remember so many sleepless nights thinking about writing programs!

My daughter eventually settled into a mix of MCT, WWS, Killgallon, and myriad books/journals/magazines. (For her, reading begets writing.)

 

Nothing comes to mind that I would change. In the end, each resource contributed something of unique value. She entered high school as a strong reader and a strong writer. No regrets here.

What a relief to be on this side of the writing dilemma!! For those of you having sleepless nights over writing programs, hang in there! :grouphug:

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  • 1 year later...

the update to the forums has put a bunch of old threads in my feed. Resurrecting this from the grave.

We were late to the writing game. It is something I am fair at, but not comfortable teaching. My 7th grader is working through iew level b. In reading through this massive thread, I am trying to determine where to go next. My thoughts are WWS and killgallon followed by lost tools of writing. Not really any idea on timeline, though. Is she too old for WWS? thoughts?

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I don't think it's too old. I also don't feel very comfortable teaching it. DD took it through the WTMA in 7th grade and we supplemented with a little Kilgallon. If you do it self-paced you could and find it too easy, you could accelerate a little bit.

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15 hours ago, angelmama1209 said:

the update to the forums has put a bunch of old threads in my feed. Resurrecting this from the grave.

We were late to the writing game. It is something I am fair at, but not comfortable teaching. My 7th grader is working through iew level b. In reading through this massive thread, I am trying to determine where to go next. My thoughts are WWS and killgallon followed by lost tools of writing. Not really any idea on timeline, though. Is she too old for WWS? thoughts?

My boys are finishing up 7th grade (they will be 13 in June).  Specific to formal writing instructions, they have done all of WWE, some IEW, and some Essentials in Writing.  I've had WWS 1 on our shelves for a couple of years, but didn't think they were ready.  We finally started it this year and they have done really well with it.  I do not think they are too old for it and we will continue with WWS next year.  For mine, I think a couple of extra years to mature in this area were really beneficial before starting WWS.  Their writing (especially for my one that HATES writing) has really improved from WWS.

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On 4/12/2018 at 2:16 PM, angelmama1209 said:

the update to the forums has put a bunch of old threads in my feed. Resurrecting this from the grave.

We were late to the writing game. It is something I am fair at, but not comfortable teaching. My 7th grader is working through iew level b. In reading through this massive thread, I am trying to determine where to go next. My thoughts are WWS and killgallon followed by lost tools of writing. Not really any idea on timeline, though. Is she too old for WWS? thoughts?

For WWS I don’t think 7th is too old at all. In fact for most it’s a better age match than 5th.

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