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Writing With Skill is just not working for my 6th grader


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We are trying WWS for the first time with my 3rd child and it is just not working.  It is too ... complex?.... for her to handle.  DD is bright, creative and excellent at memorization and learning new languages.   WWS is too detailed for her, too many small steps and instructions.  Any suggestions on another writing curriculum to try?

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No suggestions for other curriculum but...

Have you tried breaking down all of those steps into smaller chunks? So that you might spend two or three days to complete one "day"? Much less overwhelming that way.

We have been doing WWS for three years - this is year four - and we are still at the end of book 2.

The other huge thing is make sure your dd can type! That made a huge difference for us, with all of the revision work that is needed. A much less daunting task if you are making edits on the computer versus rewriting the whole long thing.

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Do you mind sharing how far you've gotten? 

My 11 year old son is only about 4 weeks in and we are taking it very very slowly, but I did find that having him type rather than hand write has made a huge difference. 

I don't personally have alternative suggestions, but I am interested to hear what others have to say. 

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When we did it for fifth and sixth grades, it was all done together.  They really needed me to provide the big picture of where it was going, or else there was no buy in.  Plus a lot of the passages were more challenging than they were ready for so we broke them down together, outlined together, etc.  We started WWS 3 and so far they have been able to do it by themselves but then again we are only in week 2! It's been a crazy month.  

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Yeah, while it's a well-put-together program, we never had success with WWS1 until 7th grade.  And my right-brained thinkers always sighed in despair when they had to work on it.  It is a very linear and sequential way to teach writing.  We tended to work on it for a few weeks, take a break, work on something else and then come back to it.

That being said, my kids are actually pretty good writers.  (They've used chunks of WWS1, 2 and 3.)  I cringe when people assume homeschooled kids don't work on writing.  In one of their outside classes, the teacher was using ds15's writing as an example for the rest of his class...Lol 

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Yesterday my 6th grade son surprised me by announcing that writing is his favorite subject, so how well WWS fits a child probably does have a lot to do with personality! He enjoys writing as long as it is on a computer and not by hand. 

Last year when I was debating over using WWS someone here posted that she went through the workbook and made notes and highlights to let her child know exactly what to do. It was an excellent idea and I think that has been one reason my son is doing so well with it so far. I mark the lessons up a bit to let him know the expectations and we also discuss it together if he has any questions. 

I know this doesn't answer the original question as to a replacement for WWS, but I wanted to add this tidbit for anyone else using or considering WWS. 

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I keep saying this over and over on various threads, but as a secondary English teacher, the recommendations on ages for this program are overall too young. These are late junior high skills. The skills taught in WWS are essential, but they are cognitively more in the 13-14 y.o. developmental range. I would have no qualms whatsoever about enjoying the last couple of years of elementary writing and returning to WWS in 7th or 8th grade.

Edited by FairProspects
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On 9/25/2018 at 8:31 PM, Shellydon said:

We are on week 6.  While *I* love it and see where it is going, it is causing much tears and frustration and taking WAY too much of our day and too much mom time.


That really sounds like a student who is not ready and having to stretch too far. Not a problem to put it aside this year and get it out again next year, after your student has had time for brain development. There is a real danger of a student becoming resistant and developing a hatred for a subject when a parent pushes too hard into material for which the student doesn't yet have the skills.

Another thought, based on the description of the student in the first post: the student may do better with a more whole-to-parts or "right brain" approach to writing, but esp. with a program that speaks to her creative side. Check out this recent thread for some other ideas of resources that might be a fit: "Logic stage writing for the creative child".

JMO, but 6th grade can be a great time to take a break from a formal traditional writing program and let the student develop writing confidence and stamina through something like Cover Story (gr. 6-8), or Adventures in Fantasy Writing (gr. 5-9). Or even something a bit more traditional, but informal in tone like Jump In, which has a variety of types of writing and focuses on helping students think of what to say and how to organize their thoughts -- it is more of a whole-to-parts style of writing instruction.

All 3 of those also have the benefit of being done mostly solo by the student, so a break for mom in "riding herd" on writing for a year. ?

OP: BEST of luck in finding what allows your DD to move forward in writing this year with *joy*. Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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One of the things I noted in looking at WWS is that it's very parts to whole... I think a lot of kids are more whole to parts with writing - they need to see where it's going instead of working on these discrete skills. I don't think it's good to get too hung up on these distinctions (like the whole mastery vs. spiral thing in math discussions, which is massively overblown, IMHO)... but I do think it can make a difference in thinking about what possibly isn't working. So above someone suggested breaking it down even further... and my first response to that was sort of to recoil. If it's not working because it's already too broken down and obscuring the end picture - the point of developing these skills in the first place - then that would just make it worse.

But I also agree with FairProspects that it's just an older than recommended program too, so there's that.

You could try Brave Writer's Faltering Ownership. We liked Twisting Arms. The programs Lori suggested above are good possibilities too.

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It was much to parts-to-whole for my kids.  So much so it seemed almost authoritarian (ie “do this now and don’t ask why).  My kids definitely do NOT work well that way.  We had better success with LTOW and then adding in some other writing forms using Writer Source 2000/Writers Inc. 

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20 hours ago, FairProspects said:

I keep saying this over and over on various threads, but as a secondary English teacher, the recommendations on ages for this program are overall too young. These are late junior high skills. The skills taught in WWS are essential, but they are cognitively more in the 13-14 y.o. developmental range. I would have no qualms whatsoever about enjoying the last couple of years of elementary writing and returning to WWS in 7th or 8th grade.

 

Liking your post wasn't enough.  I need that "I agree" emoji.  

Yes, I was shocked when WWS1 first came out and it was supposed to be 5th grade writing.  I tried it with my oldest in 5th grade (who was a stellar student and actually was labeled as gifted when she went to ps) and she was only able to make it through half the book...  And that was after using the entire Writing with Ease series...  In my mind, she should've been able to use WWS successfully and it was frustrating.

4-5 kids later, we don't try WWS until 7th grade.

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17 hours ago, Farrar said:

One of the things I noted in looking at WWS is that it's very parts to whole... I think a lot of kids are more whole to parts with writing - they need to see where it's going instead of working on these discrete skills. I don't think it's good to get too hung up on these distinctions (like the whole mastery vs. spiral thing in math discussions, which is massively overblown, IMHO)... but I do think it can make a difference in thinking about what possibly isn't working. So above someone suggested breaking it down even further... and my first response to that was sort of to recoil. If it's not working because it's already too broken down and obscuring the end picture - the point of developing these skills in the first place - then that would just make it worse.

But I also agree with FairProspects that it's just an older than recommended program too, so there's that.

You could try Brave Writer's Faltering Ownership. We liked Twisting Arms. The programs Lori suggested above are good possibilities too.

This makes sense in light of how DD works, I think WSS was just too much detail.  I'll take a look at Bravewriter.  I have always avoided it because it is very different from my style ?  DD is opposite of me, so it just might work!

 

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17 hours ago, Targhee said:

It was much to parts-to-whole for my kids.  So much so it seemed almost authoritarian (ie “do this now and don’t ask why).  My kids definitely do NOT work well that way.  We had better success with LTOW and then adding in some other writing forms using Writer Source 2000/Writers Inc. 


DD asks why roughly 752 times an hour.  LOL  I'll take a look at your recs, thanks!

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

Just chiming in: my older child is just this year doing fine with WWS -- actually enjoying a reasonable chunk of it! -- and he's 13 (we're calling this year 7b 😉 ).  He did the first few weeks in earlier years, and we worked through just the literary analysis section last spring, but this is the first time it has seemed a good fit for him.  Also, I'm getting buy-in because it is either WWS, Classical Writing or Classical Composition.  

ETA: I'm not endorsing Classical Composition here -- the other two programs I've found excellent, but CC is a very poor fit for us -- but I have the books b/c of Memoria Press stuff and it would be my version of get'er done. 

Edited by serendipitous journey
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  • 4 weeks later...

Right, we were never WWS loyal users but I feel like it has an idea where it’s going. I’ve yet to see a program that methodically teaches how to write a research paper, for example. Tiny parts to whole works well for that, if nothing else...

Bravewriter, well I took a look at the thousand page pdf and nope. And I wasn’t enamoured of their classes, either, unlike every other poster here. 

Writing instruction, such as it is, continues to be haphazard here, so don’t listen to me. I think what to do with DD, otherwise called do-over and I see the appeal of WWS bc it seems to have a point...

Edited by madteaparty
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6 hours ago, chicagoshannon said:

We ditched it last year and are using Jump In over two years.  Seems to be working out much, much better!

 

3 hours ago, Paradox5 said:

But where do you go afterwards? It is that jump to applying writing skills to other subjects that seems more difficult.


Jump In author Sharon Watson has a follow-up full-year high school program: The Power in Your Hands, which covers a variety of types of writing, including: several types of essays (descriptive, narrative, persuasive, compare/contrast), literary analysis, process paper ("how-to"), definition paper, business writing (letters), and news articles.

What I typically see on these boards is that (roughly) in 8th-9th-10th grades, homeschool families either use full-year writing programs (IEW, Lively Art of Writing, Elegant Essay, etc. etc.) -- or outsource to online or local writing classes -- and then the student is able to do what writing is needed for other subjects for grades 10-11-12 (depending on the student) without a program. Or, families move on to dual enrollment and do the community college Writing 101/102 courses.
 

3 hours ago, madteaparty said:

...I’ve yet to see a program that methodically teaches how to write a research paper, for example...


possible ideas for you:
- Writing Research Papers with Confidence (Moss)
- The Research Paper: A Contemporary Approach (Sorenson)
- Writing Research Papers: The Essential Tools (Myers)
- Writing a Research Paper (Sadlier)

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If she is doing it independently, before throwing in the towel, you might try doing it with her. 

I'm not sure why SWB decided to overlay the executive function piece on top of the writing instruction.  She could have kept the book just as it is but eliminated that thing about how important it is for kids to do it independently since whether that is appropriate varies widely from kid to kid and family to family and pretty much has nothing to do with writing level.

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We felt that WWS overcomplicated simple tasks while at the same time didn’t require much of thinking to write. I am making no sense here so let me try again. No real analytical skills were required to complete writing assignments (it was mostly straightforward info as opposed to thesis based writing), but the directions for “form” were just crazy complicated. We made it to a level and a half and then quit.

Bravewriter also left us completely unimpressed.  I don’t understand the fuss over it.

 

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I liked Bravewriter in that DD enjoyed the class and later DS enjoyed some of the Arrow things, but I didn't see it as being super helpful in developing writing.  And it was a lot of $ just for some pat-on-the-back feedback in the class, imo.  

We also found that WWS was better suited to like 7th grade.  I taught thesis-type writing (as opposed to the largely expository writing that WWS seems to focus on) separately.  It wasn't that hard; on a long car drive I taught DD13 how to invent and write a 5 paragraph theme about anything on the spot. First I explained how I do it in my head a few times with different books that we've both read, then I had her assign me a few topics so she could see how you do it extemporaneously, then I assigned her progressively harder topics.  I didn't work on the actual writing in the car, as WWS was pretty good for that, but on structuring thoughts logically and defending or examining a thesis (and coming up with a thesis in the first place).  At the beginning she was very resistant and sure that this was a magical skill that was hard to learn and impossible to apply to most topics; I told her that by the end she'd be able to sketch out a paper about almost anything, and that I could do one on dryer lint off the top of my head and she would be able to as well. 🙂  

It worked really well.

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On 12/21/2018 at 10:40 PM, madteaparty said:

I think it’s just you and I that share this view. Bizarre.

 

I adore Julie Bogart and love to listen to her seasoned advice, but I am not a Bravewriter fan girl, either. I was not impressed with the original book or with the high school writing samples that kids were supposedly leading up to. 

I am more on the structured side of teaching writing for most kids, which is why I like WWS so much. However, I now have a child who is stuck midway through WWS3, which has me kinda flummoxed, because, why now, at this point? But I am reading these threads and thinking about switching to something that will finish what we started and also will go ahead and segue into thesis-based writing. 

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2 minutes ago, Penelope said:

I adore Julie Bogart and love to listen to her seasoned advice, but I am not a Bravewriter fan girl, either. I was not impressed with the original book or with the high school writing samples that kids were supposedly leading up to. 

I am more on the structured side of teaching writing for most kids, which is why I like WWS so much. However, I now have a child who is stuck midway through WWS3, which has me kinda flummoxed, because, why now, at this point? But I am reading these threads and thinking about switching to something that will finish what we started and also will go ahead and segue into thesis-based writing. 

How old is your kid? Mine sort of learned to write these papers, ad hoc, building the house as we lived in it, but I was looking at the composition books our local college uses and it’s those Norton seagull ones. From the table of contents at least, it seems comprehensive. Of course, one like need to feel comfortable grading, which, based on nothing in particular at all, I do feel fine with doing. 

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On 12/28/2018 at 12:40 PM, moonflower said:

we also gave up on MCT.  

 

I loved MCT when my kid was in elementary school. It was a fun way to learn the big picture about grammar, but I found after the first two levels, the grammar was repetitive and redundant. Writing was hit and miss (we loved some but but not others). One component though that really shines is MCT vocab and I really regret not continuing with it. It worked for us and retention was near 100%. I just wonder how much better off we would have been if we stuck it out. So today I pulled out level 4 vocab and recommitted to getting it done. 

Edited by Roadrunner
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13 minutes ago, Roadrunner said:

 

I loved MCT when my kid was in elementary school. It was a fun way to learn the bog picture about grammar, but I found after the first two levels, the grammar was repetitive and redundant. Writing was hit and miss (we loved some but but not others). One component though that really shines is MCT vocab and I really regret not continuing with it. It worked for us and retention was near 100%. I just wonder how much better off we would have been if we stuck it out. So today I pulled out level 4 vocab and recommitted to getting it done. 

So what MCT vocab did you end up doing? I find their product lists not super illuminating. I still have Ceasar’s English, for eg. What grade is that for? Maybe DD will have better luck than DS

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35 minutes ago, madteaparty said:

So what MCT vocab did you end up doing? I find their product lists not super illuminating. I still have Ceasar’s English, for eg. What grade is that for? Maybe DD will have better luck than DS

 

We did Crasar’s English 1 and 2 and it really stuck. I will say that it is disjointed in some way, but the work is oral and there is repetition (level 2 reviews all level 1). We used to make cards and drill and do those little tests and read. Kids learned. I think the key is oral work and repetition. I have Words within Words level 1 and I think I am going to make lists and drill with it because learning vocab by osmosis doesn’t seem to work in this house. The vocab book seems overwhelming with lists, but I am going to think tiny chunks and push forward. 

Honestly, if I had to do it again, I would use Island llevel MCT grammar (no vocab and no poetry) only in grade 3 and then find another grammar program. But start Caesar’s English 1 in grade 4-5 and keep working at vocab (unless of course I had a kid who just didn’t need vocab). 

Edited by Roadrunner
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I have never found a writing program that I actually like.  I sometimes use bits and pieces from different things.  But, @madteaparty if you were looking at the Norton book, I would recommend looking at  Patterns in College Writing.  That and Rhetoric in the Classical Tradition are the only 2 where I have used most of the book.   Between the 2, I would choose Patterns.  Older editions are cheap, too.  I have used it in middle school with my strong writers or early high school with my weaker writers.

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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  • 2 weeks later...

I found MCT's writing to be from some other planet, honestly. But then again, he also repeatedly stated that English is a language derived from Latin so he's living in some weird alternate timeline where English is a Romance language so maybe that's where the writing comes from.

You all know I'm a BW fangirl... but I do see better now why some people can't stand it. When I've seen the feedback they provide in the classes, I feel deeply disappointed for the students, honestly. I just have a radically different take on how much feedback kids need in order to grow their writing. I think my ideal program is very loose like BW but has a teacher who is strong enough to really direct and step back as needed. And that's something that's impossible to put into a book. I don't know how you do it other than being a good teacher yourself.

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On 12/16/2018 at 7:39 PM, Paradox5 said:

But where do you go afterwards? It is that jump to applying writing skills to other subjects that seems more difficult.

We used IEW after that. If the kids had kept homeschooling, Wordsmith Craftsman was the next planned step.

On 10/2/2018 at 7:35 AM, Shellydon said:

I've ordered a a sample of Bravewriter, and two books of Wordsmith.  I have EIW around here somewhere, so will get that out as well.  I'll update this thread when we finally choose something.

I've heard good reports of EIW. I'd love to hear what you end up choosing.

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On 12/21/2018 at 8:40 PM, madteaparty said:

I think it’s just you and I that share this view. Bizarre.

 

I also do not life Bravewriter as a writing program. My kids found most of it hokey. We have loved some of her suggestions, like Tea Time, but I just have not been successful with it at all. To be honest, even my dyslexic kiddo LOVES the progymnasmata writing curricula. Both MP and CAP Fable and Narrativr have captured his attention and he says they are his favorite subjects. We haven’t moved beyond those but his older sister is taking Ref/Con from MPOA and he says he wants to take it too. 

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On ‎1‎/‎8‎/‎2019 at 5:00 PM, Farrar said:

I found MCT's writing to be from some other planet, honestly...….

... I think my ideal program is very loose like BW but has a teacher who is strong enough to really direct and step back as needed. And that's something that's impossible to put into a book. I don't know how you do it other than being a good teacher yourself.

I laughed at your MCT writing comment.  I don't get the love, either.  I have never seen his elementary programs, but Essay has a few good essay examples, but everything else, no thank you.

I have also never seen Bravewriter, but I agree with your comment.  I did my best to write something that teaches parents how to think about teaching writing.  It can be used as open and go, but that approach totally dilutes its purpose.  I didn't write something with the intention of wanting parents to depend on it, but with the purpose of enabling parents to feel confident in teaching writing.

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On 12/30/2018 at 6:10 PM, 8FillTheHeart said:

I would recommend looking at  Patterns in College Writing.  That and Rhetoric in the Classical Tradition are the only 2 where I have used most of the book.

I picked up an older edition of Patterns  (thirteenth-so not too old) recently & hope to read through it myself this summer & decide about using it with a kid or two next year. I'm hopeful.

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  • 4 months later...

I came to this topic looking at tips on where to "start" my 11 year old (will be 6th grader in the Fall). He's still in public school (PS) but we're transitioning to HS in the Fall.

I don't think he will be ready for WWS, even though in PS he's supposedly been (taught) "writing".

I realize WWE Levels are supposed to correspond to grades, but having looked through some samples, I wonder if I should start my kid at WWE level 2, because I am not confident about the well-roundedness of his writing skills.

Anyone start their middle school students on early level WWE? I don't think he's even exposed to many of the stories in the samples, so this may be interesting to him.

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2 hours ago, JaneC said:

...looking at tips on where to "start" my 11 year old (will be 6th grader in the Fall). He's still in public school (PS) but we're transitioning to HS in the Fall...

I don't think he will be ready for WWS, even though in PS he's supposedly been (taught) "writing"... I wonder if I should start my kid at WWE level 2...


That sounds like a great plan! As previous posters mentioned uptrend, *many, many* children really aren't read for WWS1 until 7th/8th grades, so that is wise of you to hold off on WWS.

Even if WWE2 is a little young/easy for him, that will give him a ton of confidence about Writing. And it will be nice to have something that is gentle and that he's having a lot of success with as you transition into homeschooling. That would allow you to do WW3 in 7th, and skip WW4 (which was designed with that option in mind -- skippable for students flying through the program, or as extra review/extra time for students not clicking as quickly with writing), and then start WWS1 in 8th grade. (Of course, all that is provided that the WWE/WWS series ends up being a good fit for your DS... (:D )

Also, if you find that DS is moving quickly through WWE2, you might consider supplementing or alternating with Wordsmith Apprentice, which is a very fun little program designed for the student to do mostly solo, with a goofy "cub reporter" theme, and the student writes for the different departments of a newspaper. I had 2 writing-phobic DSs, and both really enjoyed this little program.
 

2 hours ago, JaneC said:

... I realize WWE Levels are supposed to correspond to grades...


Actually, the levels of WWE are not so much about grade level, but to show increasing level of advancing concepts -- just like you would take Spanish 1 before going on to Spanish 2, and then Spanish 3 and Spanish 4. Children develop at very different rates, and some would not be ready for WWE1 until grade 3 or even grade 4. No big deal; start where the student's brain maturity level is, and move forward from there. 

BEST of luck with whatever you go with for Writing -- and especially: welcome to homeschooling! Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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Thank you so much, Lori D!

I like your analogy of Spanish 1, 2, 3 etc. Makes a lot of sense! I appreciate your supplemental program idea as well.

I am new to homeschooling. While my son is thrilled ("I spend hours sitting in the same chair, we take so long going over the same stuff"), I am terrified :D

 

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13 minutes ago, JaneC said:

...I am new to homeschooling. While my son is thrilled ("I spend hours sitting in the same chair, we take so long going over the same stuff"), I am terrified 😄


Oh my goodness, having a child who is looking FORWARD to homeschooling is getting you more than halfway there to having an enjoyable and successful transition.

Remember to just take it slow as you get started, and don't try to "reproduce school at home". Be sure to regularly include fun field trips and activities in your schedule as part of your learning, read some great books together, and do some hands-on activities (in art, science, history, geography, or whatever), and you're going to have a fantastic year! Welcome to homeschooling! Warmest regards, Lori D.

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