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What writing program did you see visible results from...


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For oldest ds:
Writing Tales (progym style but also hands on)
Writing With Skill

Those were the two big ones.  We tried everything, but those two are the ones that laid a good foundation and helped him soar.

For youngest ds:
I want to say ELTL because it provided something he needed: slow, gentle practice with just writing and eventually learning how to write a narration.  We'll continue with it, but this year his needs were different: structured writing lessons but without the books ELTL chose for the next level.  I didn't think he was ready.
I definitely will say Treasured Conversations has helped him immensely.  It was just the right amount of scaffolding and just the right amount of pulling back so that he has been successful in every assignment. 

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What age are you looking for? If this is for an older student (grade 8+) you might find some of the overall thoughts about writing from these past threads helpful for figuring out what you need for *this* specific student:

"Resources for teaching writing for high school" an oldie but goodie
"Bringing Karen's mention of essay writing to a new thread" -- good discussion on how to go about teaching writing

As previous posters mention, some children just are NOT going to click with writing before grade 6-8. And, a lot depends on the student. DS#1 = average writer, but disliked writing / DS#2 = struggling writer with mild LDs in Writing, Spelling, and Math. Writing was a long, slow, painful process all 12 years of homeschooling here, and I never did find any program that was the "silver bullet" for writing. At best, I was able to pull bits and pieces and great tips/ideas from various programs, and then tweak to fit MY students. (In retrospect, it might have been best to have outsourced writing for a year or two in high school -- says the woman who is now teaching Lit. & Writing for OTHER students at the local homeschool co-op, lol.)

A few things that helped me in our learning to write journey as I homeschooled our DSs:

- daily short sentence practice (gr. 3-5 for DSs) -- practiced a variety of journal prompts, Ready-Set-Revise, adding to a book report until after a week or so it was finished; and other things to just get pencil to paper regularly in short bites
- IEW excerpts (gr. 4-6 for DSs) -- idea of keyword outline; breaking the work into bite-size pieces and doing a little each day (or at several times during the day)

- Wordsmith Apprentice (gr. 5 (DS#1) & gr. 7 (DS#2)) -- helped both DSs to "not mind" writing (huge step forward from pencil phobic and hating writing, lol)

- 2x/week paragraph practice (gr. 6-7 for DSs) -- write a paragraph about a country from our research to go in the "geography atlas" we made that year
- Jump In (gr. 8 for DS#2) -- helped him think of what to say, and how to organize his thoughts

- Window to the World (gr. 9-10 for DSs) -- chapter on how to write a literary analysis essay
- weekly practice of timed essays from essay prompts (gr. 8-12 for DSs) -- idea from 8FillTheHeart, WTM poster
- importance of a checklist/rubric -- idea from Marcia Somerville (Writing Aids author) at a homeschool convention session on writing -- write out very specific expectations for the assignment and when each is due; make it a checklist that the student must check off and hand it at the same time they hand in each stage of the assignment
- understanding that a commentary sentence explains how/why the example supports your thesis claim -- specific tip from Nan in Mass, WTM poster:  
Wow! I think I fixed my son’s writing!

A few things I've learned from teaching writing at the homeschool co-op:
- no one writing program works for teaching writing to a co-op class 
- students need a LOT of scaffolding as they are learning to write -- lots of feedback, lots of encouragement, lots of brainstorming with them
- students do better with an extremely specific checklist/rubric
- students do better with an example of the assignment to see what types of sentences are needed and where they go in the paragraphs
- students progress better by doing lots and lots of 1-3 paragraph assignments to learn how to "think" and get all the mechanics of writing flowing, and do just one longer assignment at the end of the year

Hope you have a much less rocky road of it than we did! BEST of luck in finding what works for YOUR student! Warmest regards, Lori D.

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I'm a Bravewriter lover, so I'll chip in with Bravewriter.

But above all else, patience and the back and forth feedback of actually teaching, regardless of the specific framework, is what I think works for kids. I think programs help us teach, but that teachers, not programs, are what grows writers. I think that's especially true after kids have mastered the basics of putting words on a page.

Edited by Farrar
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Thank you so much for the replies!!  These are great!

Lori D - Love your advice! Very helpful!

I am asking for a 4th and 7th grade boys.   They do ok with writing, I am just having a hard time finding a program.  They all seem so good, but I want one that I know will bring results.  I guess that is impossible to know until I jump in and use one.


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Then I think Farrar’s post is the most applicable. The best progress once kids have the basics, is by working with them.  If they need help with paragraph development, help them build strong outlines or mind maps.  If they need better style, analyze good writing and play with techniques. Any writing program will help with that, so take the pressure off of finding the perfect one.  It’s likely any will do. 

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Agreeing with Farrar and Freesia.

And agreeing with Freesia about "any program" -- you'll get good info that will move you forward from most any program you choose. If your students have a particular need or learning style, or you have a particular need or teaching style, you might check out level's thread of "My evaluation of numerous writing curricula", or look at Cathy Duffy reviews, to get an idea of which program might best fit your family.

Without knowing your students, I'd suggest possibly one of these solid, comprehensive programs:

4th grader
- Wordsmith Apprentice -- gentle, mostly solo-working, brings some fun to writing, covers all 4 types of writing (Descriptive, Narrative, Expository, Persuasive)
- Writing & Rhetoric, Book 3: Narrative II = part of a series of levels that build on one another, and expand into new topics with each level
- Writing With Ease level 2 or 3 = structured, formal program

For your 7th grader:
- Jump In = comprehensive program (covers the 4 types of writing, and the writing process)
- Writing & Rhetoric, Book 5: Refutation & Confirmation or possibly Book 6: Commonplace
- Writing With Skill 1 -- but only If the student is a pretty strong thinker/writer; otherwise, wait a year or two

Also bear in mind that "seeing results" varies with the individual student's time table of development. Also, being able to *write* comes out of being able to *think*. Writing is NOT the same as putting your speaking down on paper, lol. So developing critical thinking, reasoning skills, and debate skills will help a lot in providing the foundation of thinking that needs to go into good writing. For your 7th grader, you might look at Twisting Arms: Teaching Students How To Persuade to start seeing what is needed for building an argument of support for a thesis claim.

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I've tried both WWE (or was it WWS?) and IEW with my DD13. What I found was that IEW worked better for my kid because she doesn't have a naturally interesting voice when she writes. (Think: All sentences were subject-verb. Not a lot of multisyllabic words. Lots of "to be" verbs, etc.) IEW forced her to vary sentence structure and choose more interesting vocabulary to convey her thoughts. It also taught her to structure her thoughts so that she had an actual topic sentence in each paragraph. 🙂 

WWE/WWS gave more general guidelines on how to write for different purposes. "Here's the info you need to include for a scientific description." "Here's how to write a narrative of a historic event." I found she could follow the structure but her writing was boring. That said, I have a friend whose kids are avid readers and have developed pretty decent voices. They prefer WWE/WWS because they don't need the scaffolding with language.

My younger, DS10, has autism-related language issues. IEW has worked very well for him because he responds well to checklists and to the use of key word outlines. This is a kid who, when I began homeschooling him, couldn't narrate back a single sentence. And now, using IEW's key word outlines, he can narrate a full paragraph.

I also dabbled with Bravewriter, and while I love the concept, I had a difficult time implementing it because *I* needed more hand-holding in the teaching. But I greatly admire the folks who can use it because I imagine their homeschool days are filled with some really cool reading & writing experiences.

Just my 2 cents. 🙂 Good luck with the search --- there's so many great options out there. It's a matter of finding what matches your kids' learning styles and your teaching style.

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I have liked IEW for DD. It breaks things down and is very clear about what is expected from each assignment. 

I have her going through one of the topic books, but then I also have her applying the same techniques in, say, the writing for history.

i think as a student I would have hated IEW, but I had a natural talent for writing and mimicking what I read that she lacks. 

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My 10-year old started Just Write. She dislikes writing but now says this is her favorite subject. I do not know how much it will help long-term but just the fact that she is writing and enjoying it seems like a step in the right direction. The book teaches good tips.

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