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Jenn in CA

Looking for writing curriculum that's simple to use

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Any suggestions for 9th grade writing curriculum?

* Basic writing skills for expository writing (not necessarily creative writing)

* Straightforward, easy to figure out each day what to do; maybe 20-30 min per day of work

* Just writing; I already have grammar & lit covered 

I was looking at Wordsmith or Jensen's Format Writing... I can't tell if Wordsmith is solid on "academic" or expository writing, though, and Jensen's, I can't tell how much work per day it is. It seems like a lot. Maybe one of those would actually fit the bill though.

We started w/WWS level 3, which seems a good fit difficulty-wise, but because my 9th grader hasn't done levels 1 or 2, it has been frustrating due to the references to "like you did last year". We could probably work around them, but I thought I'd try finding something different first.

Thanks for any ideas! I find I'm not very familiar w/writing curricula. 

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I've used both Wordsmith and Jensen's. 

Wordsmith is written to the student, and can mostly be done solo. It can be divided into as big or small of a "bite" of writing as you wish. It covers descriptive, narrative, expository, and persuasive writing, starting with paragraphs and building into multi-paragraph essays. There is a bit of grammar included, but within the context of writing. I personally think it is too light for high school, unless it is a remedial student. If you've been doing WWS, your student is very likely beyond Wordsmith. This program is really geared for the average middle grade student moving from single paragraphs of various types into 3- and 5-paragraph essays.

Jensen's covers the paragraph, the 5-paragraph essay, types of business writing, and the research paper. It is extremely brief in the explanations -- more like bullet points -- so if you need more detailed explanations than WWS3, this is probably not the best fit. Jensen's is also dry as dust in presentation. 😫 We did find the business writing section useful.

When you say "expository writing", what do you mean? Expository writing at the high school level would include:
- research paper with citations
- process ("how to") essay
- definition essay
- business writing (resume, cover letter, reports, presentations, etc.)

Another huge chunk of typical high school writing is persuasive writing (having an opinion/contention/claim and supporting it):
- literary analysis essay
- comparison essay
- argumentative essay
- cause and effect essay

Also, at some point in high school, the student will probably do these types of essays:
- timed essay from a prompt (ACT or SAT test) -- a form of persuasive writing
- personal essay for college or scholarship applications -- a form of narrative writing

For straight-forward / easy to use / step-by-step, I would actually point you towards looking at one of the following (no personal experience with any of these, although I did use the middle school program Jump In -- and Power in Your Hands is the high school level by the same author):

- if just wanting essay-writing: The Lively Art of Writing -- and free work pages to go with, created by WTM board members
The Power in Your Hands (written to the student; covers: essay structure; several types of essays: definition essay: comparison essay; literary analysis essay; position paper; process ("how to") paper; narrative essay; letters & emails; news article)
Essentials in Writing (DVD lessons) -- paragraph structure; essay structure; essay types: personal narrative, comparison, persuasive, expository; research paper)

Edited by Lori D.
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We did WWS3 without the first two. It went fine. I did go through the teacher materials (actually the sample for the teacher materials) and make sure the notebook was set up correctly and made a sticky note for any unfamiliar terms as we went along. After that, pretty much everything was clear with a very occasional internet search.

Dd had already done Lively Art of Writing (good instruction, very dated examples) and parts of Power in Your Hands until I chucked it (mostly good instruction, pervasive conservative worldview that was inappropriate for our family).

I agree with Lori about both Jensen and Wordsmith.

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Thanks Lori D for your detailed response. I like the looks of your suggestions. And MamaSprout, your experience is good to hear too. 

I like the outlining part of WWS. Because I started dd w/3, part of me is wondering if we should just go back to 1 and spend more time w/outlining. She is good at saying what she wants to say in complete sentences and with good grammar; she could use more instruction in structure, openings for paragraphs, and staying on topic in a paragraph. And a 5-par essay is just overwhelming. 

It would be nice to find a balance between throwing her in the deep end (which honestly is what I did w/my oldest 3, and they didn't exactly thank me for it) and aiming too low where the assignments are too easy. I haven't done any writing curricula to this point w/her, just daily, CM-style written narrations.

 

 

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I just switched my daughter to Essentials in Writing and we are both very pleased with it so far.   We have used IEW prior for years, and this is a much simpler approach.  We are just finishing up section 2 (types of paragraphs) of the book and it takes about 30 minutes a day.  

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Sharon Watson's books are easy to use and my oldest liked them.  Actually, the fact that she liked them really says something because she didn't like any of the other programs we tried 🙂

Analytical Grammar has Beyond the Book Report.  I used their older program several years ago and found it very useful and easy.  Youngest got quite a bit out of it.  Ignite Your Writing 2 is also very to the point.

Now that both dds are in college, they have said Elements of Style was extremely helpful.  Also, both have said Editor in Chief has proven to be extremely useful. While Editor in Chief is not a writing program, but rather an editing/usage program, both dds said it helped prepare them for college level writing by teaching them what to avoid, how to fix it, and how to look for it.

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I think Wordsmith Craftsman would work fine for what you need. It covers a variety of types of essay writing as well as writing skills needed for adulthood (business letters and reports, taking notes, letters of support or apology). I am using it with my senior to polish her essay-writing skills and to cover writing that she has not done before (the business writing section and the critical essay). I do not find it remedial at all; it is definitely high school level. We are doing it in a semester, though; next semester she will be working on research papers and literary essays.

Jensen's Format Writing is much less wordy than Wordsmith Craftsman. If you need a straight, just-the-facts presentation, that is what I would recommend. I should add that my experience using it is with the original version, not the new edition from Masterbooks - my version has cleaner and less cluttered pages and no tests.

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Thanks Clear Creek, that's good feedback about WS Craftsman. And yes, the new Jensen's, I am not too crazy about all the added stuff. I remember looking at it back in the day and it looked so simple and straightforward.

OK, one small thing I decided is really important to me for curriculum... if the book (student or teacher) is an inch thick paperback, Just... No. ) I want thin, and stays open. I detest that gigantic WWS book and the even-thicker teacher manual. Too wordy, too heavy, pages too cluttered.

I have a homeschool bookstore nearby. I will go and peruse all these titles.

Edited by Jenn in CA
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32 minutes ago, Clear Creek said:

I think Wordsmith Craftsman would work fine for what you need. It covers a variety of types of essay writing as well as writing skills needed for adulthood (business letters and reports, taking notes, letters of support or apology). I am using it with my senior to polish her essay-writing skills and to cover writing that she has not done before (the business writing section and the critical essay). I do not find it remedial at all; it is definitely high school level. We are doing it in a semester, though; next semester she will be working on research papers and literary essays.

Jensen's Format Writing is much less wordy than Wordsmith Craftsman. If you need a straight, just-the-facts presentation, that is what I would recommend. I should add that my experience using it is with the original version, not the new edition from Masterbooks - my version has cleaner and less cluttered pages and no tests.


Always great to see other experiences. Different programs will click for different students, so it's good to hear that. 🙂 

Just to clarify my post: there are 3 levels of Wordsmith:
- Wordsmith Apprentice (gr. 4-6)
- Wordsmith (gr. 6-8)
- Wordsmith Craftsman (gr. 9-12).
Since OP asked about just "Wordsmith", I assumed she meant the middle grade level. 😉

We did both Apprentice and Wordsmith. We attempted Craftsman, but it was too scattered in presentation and jumped around too much for us to have success with it, and we dropped it not long after trying it. 

Also clarifying: I also used the original Jensen's, and based my comments on that version. 🙂

Edited by Lori D.

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26 minutes ago, Jenn in CA said:

...OK, one small thing I decided is really important to me for curriculum... if the book (student or teacher) is an inch thick paperback, Just... No. ) I want thin, and stays open....


That counts out Put That in Writing. 😄 

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4 minutes ago, Lori D. said:


Just to clarify: there are 3 levels of Wordsmith: Wordsmith Apprentice (gr. 4-6), Wordsmith (gr. 6-8), and Wordsmith Craftsman (gr. 9-12). Since OP asked about Wordsmith, I assumed she meant the middle grade level. 😉

Also clarifying: I also used the original Jensen's, and based my comments on that version. 🙂

I assumed since it was the high school board, she was referring to the high school book 😄 Thankfully we got that cleared up 😁

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I wonder, is there a (thin) book that spells out things such as “here are some good transition words”, “how to write a topic sentence”, “how to know if you’re staying in topic in your paragraph” and so forth? That is not even a curriculum? 

Also... does it seem like writers who write writing curriculum like to be verbose or conversational, because they like to write? 😂 this drives me nuts! 

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56 minutes ago, Jenn in CA said:

I wonder, is there a (thin) book that spells out things such as “here are some good transition words”, “how to write a topic sentence”, “how to know if you’re staying in topic in your paragraph” and so forth? That is not even a curriculum? 

Also... does it seem like writers who write writing curriculum like to be verbose or conversational, because they like to write? 😂 this drives me nuts! 


Well, I have been teaching Lit. & Comp. for the past 6 years at the homeschool co-op, and have had to pull bits and pieces from so many resources, plus lots of online articles and websites -- mostly because every student *thinks* so differently, and no one program really works for teaching a classroom when I have to find several different ways to present the material. I've pretty much had to write my own lessons and teaching info. sigh.

All that to say... the more I've read/researched, the more info I see that there is to cover in teaching writing. Hence the possible reason for wordiness in a writing program. LOL.

Mastering the 5-Paragraph Essay (Van Zile) is pretty thin and concise. Designed for classroom use, but you could adapt. (also available at Amazon).
How to Write an Essay (Kelly) is even more streamlined and straightforward -- for grades 6-8, so no excess words, LOL. I've actually found middle school materials like this to sometimes be perfect for my high school co-op classes, as they are so focused and streamlined.

re: topic sentence
Actually, I'm guessing you mean a thesis statement. 😉 In a multi-paragraph piece of writing, the topic sentence is the first sentence of each new paragraph that signals what point or example will be covered in that paragraph. A thesis statement is the overall "big picture" of an essay that shows up in the introductory paragraph of the essay, and has 3 parts:
- topic (the overall subject of your essay)
- claim (your "take" or "position" or "thought" on the topic)
- and direction (overview of the main points that will build the argument in the body of the essay that supports your topic and claim).

Thicker and designed for college classes -- but you would thoroughly understand how to write a thesis statement by the end of it -- is Writing With A Thesis (Skwire) -- you can buy an older used edition, which is perfectly fine and a lot cheaper. Several families on this board slowly work through this one, rather than a writing program.

BEST of luck in finding what works for you both! Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.

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For the reason you mentioned, I tend to go with pdf books. One of the reasons I gave up the Writing and Rhetoric series was the format of the book. I always had to cut the spine off and there was no good way of turning in the work without taking the whole book or writing it elsewhere. Or making a copy. Huge pain for a co-op situation or classroom.

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Ds12 is doing a time4writing course. It is not fancy but it has lessons and quizzes, someone else sets the assignment and grades it.  I get to brain storm, discuss and add extra explanation.  It is helping.

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