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My 16 yo really struggles with writing. Really, really struggles. She has  taken 3 classes at reputable online academies and in person and still she just can't generate a good 5 paragraph paper.  Any suggestions as to where to go from here, curriculum ideas? 

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She says she just doesn't have anything to say. My oldest writes well, that was a natural writer, so learned easily. I am a natural writer, so I feel like I don't have any idea how to help her.  

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2 hours ago, Rosie_0801 said:

What is she supposed to be writing about?

At her age, she is supposed to be defending an argument. Is she generally the sort of person who doesn't care to argue?

Her most recent assignment was a character analysis. She's a middle child and would rather cut her own arm off than argue. If I could get her to write a basic five paragraph paper that would be a major life accomplishment. Math is where she excels. her goal is to go to a college that does not require an essay for admission nor will she apply for any scholarships because they will require an essay. 🤪. I just need her to be able to write a basic enough paper to pass history and social science courses. 

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2 minutes ago, Shellydon said:

Her most recent assignment was a character analysis. She's a middle child and would rather cut her own arm off than argue. If I could get her to write a basic five paragraph paper that would be a major life accomplishment. Math is where she excels. her goal is to go to a college that does not require an essay for admission nor will she apply for any scholarships because they will require an essay. 🤪. I just need her to be able to write a basic enough paper to pass history and social science courses. 

I would do IEW.

Then, you could do his sentence in a few words thing in reverse, she could do an outline type paragraph, then spend a few days turning the word facts into sentences.  You do the middle 3 paragraphs first, then form a conclusion and write an intro.  If she has trouble forming a conclusion, pick one for her for a while, or suggest 3 and make her pick 1.  

You could also organize the topic into 5 basic groups for her and pick 3 to turn into paragraphs if the picking part is what is hard.

She can call you from college and get a conclusion if she still can't pick one herself, LOL, it should just take a few minutes.

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19 minutes ago, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

I'm going to second IEW in this case. You could get two years in if you so choose. The website says the new Structure and Style Level C will be available mid-August, and that is what you would need. Then she could (if you both liked the program) do a second year of that, the S&S, or the Advanced Communication Series, and she would be ready enough for college writing. 

IEW is great for students who don't know what to write, or are afraid of writing the wrong thing. It's the perfect set up for either of those cases to lead into something else- in her case college comp. 

You could start out with this one, note taking and writing.

https://iew.com/shop/products/advanced-communication-series

Then move to Structure and Style once that's done.  The note taking thing is also the process in reverse, no choosing required. 

I would recommend you choose topics and help set up options for the paper part, some of it requires the student to choose, but you could choose instead.

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The bad thing about the note taking and writing course vs. the others is that you can't speed him up.  He talks very slow, we watched him on 1.5X and then 2X online, but you can't speed up DVDs, at least we can't, some setups you may be able to.

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1 hour ago, ElizabethB said:

I would do IEW.

Then, you could do his sentence in a few words thing in reverse, she could do an outline type paragraph, then spend a few days turning the word facts into sentences.  You do the middle 3 paragraphs first, then form a conclusion and write an intro.  If she has trouble forming a conclusion, pick one for her for a while, or suggest 3 and make her pick 1.  

You could also organize the topic into 5 basic groups for her and pick 3 to turn into paragraphs if the picking part is what is hard.

She can call you from college and get a conclusion if she still can't pick one herself, LOL, it should just take a few minutes.

This is good advice, thank you

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52 minutes ago, square_25 said:

Could she work on arguments via proofs, if she likes math? 

And those goals seem very... unproductive, lol. This does seem like an attitude issue, at least partially. Has this issue become really contentious? 

No attitude issues, she just really has not a single idea of what to put in on a piece of paper. She doesn't care to read for fun, but will read what I make her.  She will be a math/computer person in her adult life that never has to read a book and will probably never choose too.  My other kids adore words, she just doesn't.

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59 minutes ago, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

I'm going to second IEW in this case. You could get two years in if you so choose. The website says the new Structure and Style Level C will be available mid-August, and that is what you would need. Then she could (if you both liked the program) do a second year of that, the S&S, or the Advanced Communication Series, and she would be ready enough for college writing. 

IEW is great for students who don't know what to write, or are afraid of writing the wrong thing. It's the perfect set up for either of those cases to lead into something else- in her case college comp. 

Thank you, I didn't realize they were releasing a new Level C.

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42 minutes ago, ElizabethB said:

You could start out with this one, note taking and writing.

https://iew.com/shop/products/advanced-communication-series

Then move to Structure and Style once that's done.  The note taking thing is also the process in reverse, no choosing required. 

I would recommend you choose topics and help set up options for the paper part, some of it requires the student to choose, but you could choose instead.

We've actually taken a look at this, but it was over her head for now.  She is a good note taker for lectures, so that is not an issue fortunately.  She is currently taking two dual credit history courses this summer and has a high A average because she is able to take good notes and use those on tests.  But if she had to write a compare/contrast paper on WW2, she'd be sunk. 

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1 hour ago, Rosie_0801 said:

Sounds like a psyche sort of issue, rather than an academic one. Maybe work on boundaries to develop her sense of acceptable and unacceptable arguing?

I also hate to argue and will avoid it unless absolutely no other choice.  I don't feel like I have pyche problems because I hate arguing. 

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33 minutes ago, Shellydon said:

I also hate to argue and will avoid it unless absolutely no other choice.  I don't feel like I have pyche problems because I hate arguing. 

I'm glad.

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I would recommend she read lots of trade books about things of interest, be it computers, the history of technology, math, codes / cryptography, women scientists/mathematicians, etc. such as (just random ideas) anything by Simon Singh, Coders by Clive Thompson, Code Girls by Liza Mundy, Black Hole Blues by Janna Levin, Underbug by Lisa Margonelli, The Information by James Gleick, biographies of mathematicians/computer scientists/scientists, and the Science section of the NYTimes (published weekly on Mondays) or interesting science-heavy magazines. I would have her write things that are not “arguments” per se but explanations or discussions of some topic. You might also take a look at the free NYTimes writing curriculum as well as their Learning Network generally for writing prompts including photo prompts.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/22/learning/free-writing-curriculum-with-nyt.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/22/learning/144-picture-prompts-to-inspire-student-writing.html

Edited by stripe
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3 minutes ago, stripe said:

I would recommend she read lots of trade books about things of interest, be it computers, the history of technology, math, codes / cryptography, women scientists/mathematicians, etc. such as (just random ideas) anything by Simon Singh, Coders by Clive Thompson, Code Girls by Liza Mundy, Black Hole Blues by Janna Levin, Underbug by Lisa Margonelli, The Information by James Gleick, biographies of mathematicians/computer scientists/scientists, and the Science section of the NYTimes (published weekly on Mondays) or interesting science-heavy magazines. I would have her write things that are not “arguments” per se but explanations or discussions of some topic. You might also take a look at the free NYTimes writing curriculum as well as their Learning Network generally for writing prompts including photo prompts.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/22/learning/free-writing-curriculum-with-nyt.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/22/learning/144-picture-prompts-to-inspire-student-writing.html

I was your daughter, and I agree with this. I LOVED writing a non-literature research paper in high school (the role of medicine in treating a specific medical condition a family member had), and I eventually became a tech writer. Using writing to explain something interesting, solve a problem, or help someone understand something is VERY different and practical. Additionally, what to write under those circumstances usually solves itself once you know the audience and what they need to know to do what they need to do. You might have to make up a problem right now since it's not being handed to her as part of a job assignment, but you can start small with things like asking her how she'd explain to a struggling student the difference between topic a and topic b in science (or history, grammar, math, etc.). You could have her write a technical description for an everyday object. She could write a review for how well a certain device in your home works. If you are thinking about making a major purchase, you could have her write up a summary of what choice a is better than choice b. Have her write status reports about her week--what she did for school, problems she solved, problems she's still trying to solve, choices she made and why, etc. 

You could start with something like a literature review on a topic. In non-literary fields, that means summarizing current research on a relevant topic from all the applicable sources. If you have too many sources, you can narrow your topic within that field of research. It's geek heaven. You might still have to assign the topic, but it's easier to get into the swing if you don't have to be passionate about it. You could make a list of things and have her choose from the list. 

I still hate all literature/argument style writing with a fiery passion, and I don't write for fun. The whole college essay thing makes me want to barf. Annotating books or writing responses to literature feels creepy and invasive. 

There are so many more ways to use writing in real life. Most of the writing you do in school isn't very real world, IMO.

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1 hour ago, stripe said:

I would recommend she read lots of trade books about things of interest, be it computers, the history of technology, math, codes / cryptography, women scientists/mathematicians, etc. such as (just random ideas) anything by Simon Singh, Coders by Clive Thompson, Code Girls by Liza Mundy, Black Hole Blues by Janna Levin, Underbug by Lisa Margonelli, The Information by James Gleick, biographies of mathematicians/computer scientists/scientists, and the Science section of the NYTimes (published weekly on Mondays) or interesting science-heavy magazines. I would have her write things that are not “arguments” per se but explanations or discussions of some topic. You might also take a look at the free NYTimes writing curriculum as well as their Learning Network generally for writing prompts including photo prompts.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/22/learning/free-writing-curriculum-with-nyt.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/22/learning/144-picture-prompts-to-inspire-student-writing.html

Wonderful! Off too look. 

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1 hour ago, kbutton said:

I was your daughter, and I agree with this. I LOVED writing a non-literature research paper in high school (the role of medicine in treating a specific medical condition a family member had), and I eventually became a tech writer. Using writing to explain something interesting, solve a problem, or help someone understand something is VERY different and practical. Additionally, what to write under those circumstances usually solves itself once you know the audience and what they need to know to do what they need to do. You might have to make up a problem right now since it's not being handed to her as part of a job assignment, but you can start small with things like asking her how she'd explain to a struggling student the difference between topic a and topic b in science (or history, grammar, math, etc.). You could have her write a technical description for an everyday object. She could write a review for how well a certain device in your home works. If you are thinking about making a major purchase, you could have her write up a summary of what choice a is better than choice b. Have her write status reports about her week--what she did for school, problems she solved, problems she's still trying to solve, choices she made and why, etc. 

You could start with something like a literature review on a topic. In non-literary fields, that means summarizing current research on a relevant topic from all the applicable sources. If you have too many sources, you can narrow your topic within that field of research. It's geek heaven. You might still have to assign the topic, but it's easier to get into the swing if you don't have to be passionate about it. You could make a list of things and have her choose from the list. 

I still hate all literature/argument style writing with a fiery passion, and I don't write for fun. The whole college essay thing makes me want to barf. Annotating books or writing responses to literature feels creepy and invasive. 

There are so many more ways to use writing in real life. Most of the writing you do in school isn't very real world, IMO.

This is such a good point

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Might be time for a tutor who specializes in writing. A good writing tutor will be able to quickly pinpoint where the troubles are, and have strategies to help her brainstorm to figure out *what* she wants to say, and how to come up with ideas for fleshing out what she wants to say.
 

I've been teaching Lit. & Writing to our homeschool middle/high school classes, and there are SOOO many places where a student can get tripped up in the writing process, that it usually takes me a number of assignments, often up to a full semester, to really be able to assess what seems to be the trouble. A 1-on-1 tutor can get to the heart of the issue much faster than a teacher who only has limited time with her because the teacher has to spread themself out over a whole class of students.

In case it helps you and DD more specifically narrow down what the issue is, here are a few things I see my students frequently struggle with when trying to write:

- Not able to deal with writing as a multi-stage process (brainstorming, organizing, rough draft, revision, proof-edit)
The student is trying to simultaneously do all 5 stages at once (often because the student dislikes writing, or struggles with writing, and only wants to write things down once, lol) -- but a longer piece of writing (more than 1 paragraph in length) makes doing the whole process one time/all at once too difficult, and the student is overwhelmed. It is much like trying to do a complex, multi-step Algebra problem all in your head and keep all the steps straight.

- Struggles to get enough "pre-writing" thinking (brainstorming and organizing stages of the writing process) in order to have enough material for writing the paper.

- Doesn't have complete paragraph structure down, which makes expanding the complete paragraph into a longer piece of writing difficult.

- Hasn't "clicked" yet with how to build a supported argument -- the abstract/logic portions of the brain just haven't developed yet, which is what is needed for coming up with an opinion or position or claim or idea, and then come up with points to build an argument of support for that opinion, and then to flesh out each point with specific facts, examples, anecdotes, and other forms of support.

- Struggles to come up with what to write about to begin with.

- Struggles to come up with a complete thesis statement, which is the entire piece of writing in capsule form; a complete thesis statement may take more than 1 sentence but must include all 3 parts of the thesis:
1. topic = your overall subject for the paper
2. claim = your position, take, or "debatable idea" about the topic (debatable means "not a statement of fac"t -- it is a claim that must be supported by reasons/points)
3. direction = overview of your major reasons/points that will build your argument of support for your thesis claim; the body of the paper is each paragraph fleshing out a point of the arguments

- Struggles with coming up with the "commentary" sentences in the paragraph.
Along with a thesis statement, commentary sentences are the hardest to write, because they have to come out of your own head; you have to think through and connect the dots for the reader. Commentary sentences explain how/why the examples support or show the point of the paragraph. Concluding commentary sentences come at the end of paragraphs and explain how/why the point of the paragraph support your thesis claim.


While I agree with previous posters that if DD doesn't "click" with literary analysis, you don't have to spend tons of time on it. However, the basics of writing (the writing process stages, and solid complete paragraph structure -- and expanding one complete paragraph into longer more detailed piece of writing) remain basically the same when doing many other types of writing: express your idea, then back it up with reasons/points, which in turn are supported and fleshed out by facts and examples, and conclude each paragraph by explaining how/why the supporting facts and examples support the point discussed in that paragraph, and finally, explain how/why that point supports your original idea (thesis claim). In many ways, it is like constructing a Geometry proof -- each line of the proof must logically build on the previous one, without gaps or leaps in logic, to prove the initial statement.

((( hugs ))) -- Trying to help a struggling student over one of the core subject hurdles is so hard! Wishing you the very BEST of luck in finding what best helps DD move forward with writing. Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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On 7/24/2020 at 6:23 PM, Shellydon said:

Her most recent assignment was a character analysis. She's a middle child and would rather cut her own arm off than argue. If I could get her to write a basic five paragraph paper that would be a major life accomplishment. Math is where she excels. her goal is to go to a college that does not require an essay for admission nor will she apply for any scholarships because they will require an essay. 🤪. I just need her to be able to write a basic enough paper to pass history and social science courses. 

Writing is very different from speaking, because you are not right there with your reader, and you can't make any assumptions about what they do/don't understand. When speaking, we are still understood when we use incomplete sentences, because gestures and facial expressions add details; we can also skip parts when we see the listener is following us, or we can back up if we see we've lost the listener. With writing, you have to start with the assumption that the reader does NOT have a shared history with you, so you're "starting from scratch" and have to explain everything. So you have to lay out every part of your thinking in complete sentences, in detail, in a logical order, with transitions, to guide your reader through your thinking.

Building an argument in writing is very different from "arguing" (i.e. conflict/confrontation) in real life. Building a supported argument in writing is actually much more like a math equation -- filling in the required steps to solve the equation, or especially, like building a Geometry proof, where each line of the proof must logically build on the previous one, without gaps or leaps in logic, to prove the initial statement. Similarly, you need to include certain types of sentences in a certain order to build up a complete paragraph, without gaps or leaps, so that the reader is never lost or confused due to missing details. So what you are doing by "arguing" in writing is HELPING your reader by providing all the background needed to understand what you are trying to share with them -- it is not about conflict or confrontation with the reader. 😉 

One other idea came to mind, from your post here -- some students need a ton of scaffolding in the brainstorming/organizing stage of writing. That can come in the form of you asking lots of questions, or throwing out thoughts, to help walk them through coming up with all the parts they will need for writing the assignment, and then help them organize -- sort through all the brainstorming ideas, which fit, which don't, what's a logical order, oh look we're missing some support here or a point there -- so back to a bit more brainstorming to fill in the missing parts... 

Some of my students find a graphic organizer, "bubble" or "mind" maps, or other visual method helpful for the brainstorming and organizing stages of the process. That gives them a visual roadmap to refer to as they write the rough draft.

Again, wishing you all the very BEST in finding what is the best help in moving forward in the writing process! Warmest regards, Lori D.


 

Edited by Lori D.
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1 hour ago, square_25 said:

Got it.

So the idea of working on it via proof doesn’t appeal?

I don't think I could teach this way. I made it through all of high school and a bachelor's degree and a master's degree of science without ever taking a lick of geometry, so I can't apply writing to something I don't understand myself.  She completely understands geometry but I don't think I can switch writing to a mathematical language. 

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8 hours ago, Lori D. said:

Might be time for a tutor who specializes in writing. A good writing tutor will be able to quickly pinpoint where the troubles are, and have strategies to help her brainstorm to figure out *what* she wants to say, and how to come up with ideas for fleshing out what she wants to say.
 

I've been teaching Lit. & Writing to our homeschool middle/high school classes, and there are SOOO many places where a student can get tripped up in the writing process, that it usually takes me a number of assignments, often up to a full semester, to really be able to assess what seems to be the trouble. A1-on-1 tutor can get to the heart of the issue much faster than a teacher who only has limited time with her because the teacher has to spread themself out over a whole class of students.

In case it helps you and DD more specifically narrow down what the issue is, here are a few things I see my students frequently struggle with when trying to write:

- Not able to deal with writing as a multi-stage process (brainstorming, organizing, rough draft, revision, proof-edit)
The student is trying to simultaneously do all 5 stages at once (often because the student dislikes writing, or struggles with writing, and only wants to write things down once, lol) -- but a longer piece of writing (more than 1 paragraph in length) makes doing the whole process one time/all at once too difficult, and the student is overwhelmed. It is much like trying to do a complex, multi-step Algebra problem all in your head and keep all the steps straight.

- Struggles to get enough "pre-writing" thinking (brainstorming and organizing stages of the writing process) in order to have enough material for writing the paper.

- Doesn't have complete paragraph structure down, which makes expanding the complete paragraph into a longer piece of writing difficult.

- Hasn't "clicked" yet with how to build a supported argument -- the abstract/logic portions of the brain just haven't developed yet, which is what is needed for coming up with an opinion or position or claim or idea, and then come up with points to build an argument of support for that opinion, and then to flesh out each point with specific facts, examples, anecdotes, and other forms of support.

- Struggles to come up with what to write about to begin with.

- Struggles to come up with a thesis statement, which is the entire piece of writing in capsule form:
thesis topic = your overall subject for the paper
thesis claim = your position, take, or "debatable idea" about the topic (debatable meaning it's not a statement of fact -- a claim needs to be supported by an argument)
thesis direction = overview of your major points that will build your argument of support for your thesis claim; the body of the paper is each paragraph fleshing out a point of the arguments

- Struggles with coming up with the "commentary" sentences in the paragraph.
Along with a thesis statement, commentary sentences are the hardest to write, because they have to come out of your own head; you have to think through and connect the dots for the reader. Commentary sentences explain how/why the examples support or show the point of the paragraph. Concluding commentary sentences come at the end of paragraphs and explain how/why the point of the paragraph support your thesis claim.


While I agree with previous posters that if DD doesn't "click" with literary analysis, you don't have to spend tons of time on it. However, the basics of writing (the writing process stages, and solid complete paragraph structure -- and expanding one complete paragraph into longer more detailed piece of writing) remain basically the same when doing many other types of writing: express your idea, then back it up with points, which in turn are supported by facts and examples, and conclude each paragraph by explaining how/why the supporting facts and examples support the point discussed in that paragraph, and finally, explain how/why that point supports your original idea (thesis claim). In many ways, it is like constructing a Geometry proof -- each line of the proof must logically build on the previous one, without gaps or leaps in logic, to prove the initial statement.

((( hugs ))) -- Trying to help a struggling student over one of the core subject hurdles is so hard! Wishing you the very BEST of luck in finding what best helps DD move forward with writing. Warmest regards, Lori D.

I'm going to go over this with her later, and see if she can identify which areas she struggles with more, but I'm guessing she'll say all of it. 😁 Thank you for taking the time to write all this out. We are dedicating some time this afternoon to reading the suggestions on this thread and seeing how we can move forward. I've had her in writing classes over the last four years but never with a one-on-one tutor. I can definitely look into that

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2 hours ago, square_25 said:

It's not that it's a mathematical language :-). It's just showing a mathematical argument in writing. 

Have you seen Art of Problem Solving? We have the kids write out explanations to their mathematics, and it's actually quite good writing training. Here's a page about it: 

https://artofproblemsolving.com/news/articles/how-to-write-a-solution

Here's a proof my kiddo did a few days ago (she's little, but it has a lot of words, so it kind of shows the idea): 

1240840713_Combinatoricsproof.thumb.jpeg.981f90dc6f2350f78cee53ba85b3eba3.jpeg

It's not really what I'm normally suggest for writing, but if she likes math, I wonder if putting down mathematical arguments would inspire her more. If you signed her up for a AoPS online class, she'd have to submit written proofs every week, and people would absolutely comment on how reasonable the layout is, whether she used paragraphs, whether her logic was airtight, etc. So it could be a very good first step, especially if she doesn't like arguing about contentious subjects and finds it boring, because this is still practicing the same kinds of organizational skills. 

Definitely something to explore with her.  I'll show her this. Thank you!

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Posted (edited)

We looked at a full IEW lesson for level C this morning.  She didn't love the fact that it focused on writing stories, so I am not sure I can get her to do it.  She will never write a story without much gnashing of teeth, so if that is more than one section then I don't think it will work.   We also watch Essentials in Writing grade 9 to see what it was like for comparison, it looks similar, just structured a bit differently.  I had her rate the list that Lori D. provide (reasons students struggle) and she put not being able to deal with writing as a multi-stage process as her number one difficulty, hasn't "clicked" yet with how to build a supported argument and her number 2 struggle and finally struggles with coming up with the "commentary" sentences in the paragraph as the third most difficult. 

After a an hour so looking she laid on the ground and cried and said she would rather quit school than ever look at writing again. Sigh. She is now looking at jobs that don't require a college degree and are manual labor only.

On the upside, I think IEW level 3 would be great for my 8th grader.  She loves to write but tends to ramble, so the program will help her organize her thoughts.

Edited by Shellydon
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Just now, square_25 said:

Oh, teens. 

Did you suggest the math route to her or no? 

Yes. She balked, but was already crying so I will have to try again later.    She is just a academically capable, but academically reluctant kiddo.  She doesn't care a bit for learning, doesn't have a desire to know more and really just wants to be left alone to her animals.  It doesn't help that older sister is an academic superstar, lots of scholarships and loves to learn and talk about all things bookish.  

 

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I don't think that a writing program is the answer.

I would have her write about what she is learning in her other classes, and--and this is the key--I'd sit with her and help her every step of the way.  

Give her 3-5 prompts that lend themselves to a five paragraph essay (or whatever sort of essay you want her to work on) and discuss each of them with her.   Then have her choose one to write about.

Next, sit with her and discuss the prompt she has chosen in detail.  Have her come up with a thesis, supporting points, and evidence.  If she has trouble, help her.  Take notes.

Then sit with her while she writes.  Give her suggestions if she gets stuck.  Have lists of transitions and lists of attributive tags (if you're using sources).

The idea here is to heavily scaffold the process to help her develop confidence.  Do this with each essay, and over time gradually dismantle the scaffold.

If you think that working with you isn't going to work, I'd hire a writing tutor.

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2 hours ago, EKS said:

I don't think that a writing program is the answer.

I would have her write about what she is learning in her other classes, and--and this is the key--I'd sit with her and help her every step of the way.  

Give her 3-5 prompts that lend themselves to a five paragraph essay (or whatever sort of essay you want her to work on) and discuss each of them with her.   Then have her choose one to write about.

Next, sit with her and discuss the prompt she has chosen in detail.  Have her come up with a thesis, supporting points, and evidence.  If she has trouble, help her.  Take notes.

Then sit with her while she writes.  Give her suggestions if she gets stuck.  Have lists of transitions and lists of attributive tags (if you're using sources).

The idea here is to heavily scaffold the process to help her develop confidence.  Do this with each essay, and over time gradually dismantle the scaffold.

If you think that working with you isn't going to work, I'd hire a writing tutor.

I'll definitely be sitting with her as she writes and helping.  I don't feel capable of creating a writing program though, I'll need to purchase something that functions as a writing program/full curriculum

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I recommend EIW (Essentials in Writing).  My son has used the 9th and 10th grade levels, and they're great.  EIW gives students clear, incremental steps on how to outline and write paragraphs and essays, and teaches them how to use graphic organizers and other methods to generate and organize ideas for writing.  The structure has been very helpful for my son.  EIW's textbook lessons and videos are clearly organized by lesson number.   My son watches a video lesson, takes notes as needed, reads the textbook page(s) that correspond with the video lesson, and begins whatever assignment is given.  In the beginning, I sat with him through the whole process.  Over time, he's gotten to the point where he can do almost all of it on his own unless he gets stuck and needs my input on selecting a topic, generating ideas, or organizing his thoughts for a given paragraph.  EIW's customer service is great, and their curriculum is available in two formats ---  DVDs with textbook, or streaming with textbook.  They also offer a paragraph/essay scoring service for an annual fee.

I should note that prior to EIW, we used IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) Level B. While IEW is a good curriculum that helped my son learn how to dress up his writing with adjectives, adverbs, and clauses, it didn't seem to solidify the structure of an essay in his mind the way EIW has.  To be fair, maybe subsequent levels would have done that.  However, another issue I had with IEW is that their video was a recording of a live classroom/training session that did not have clearly defined starting and stopping points within the video itself.  Instead, it was necessary to refer to a specific page in the curriculum guide that indicated at which "minute mark" you were supposed to start and stop the video for a given lesson.  While this might be a minor issue for others, to me it was an inconvenience that kept the curriculum from being as "open and go" as I would have liked on a daily basis.  

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16 minutes ago, square_25 said:

She seems very picky about what she writes, though. I don't know that I'd force her to go through specified assignments... do you think you could adapt a program? 

Yes, adapting I can do. Although I agree, the IEW starts with stories which will be a struggle. 

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4 minutes ago, ColoradoGirl said:

I recommend EIW (Essentials in Writing).  My son has used the 9th and 10th grade levels, and they're great.  EIW gives students clear, incremental steps on how to outline and write paragraphs and essays, and teaches them how to use graphic organizers and other methods to generate and organize ideas for writing.  The structure has been very helpful for my son.  EIW's textbook lessons and videos are clearly organized by lesson number.   My son watches a video lesson, takes notes as needed, reads the textbook page(s) that correspond with the video lesson, and begins whatever assignment is given.  In the beginning, I sat with him through the whole process.  Over time, he's gotten to the point where he can do almost all of it on his own unless he gets stuck and needs my input on selecting a topic, generating ideas, or organizing his thoughts for a given paragraph.  EIW's customer service is great, and their curriculum is available in two formats ---  DVDs with textbook, or streaming with textbook.  They also offer a paragraph/essay scoring service for an annual fee.

I should note that prior to EIW, we used IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) Level B. While IEW is a good curriculum that helped my son learn how to dress up his writing with adjectives, adverbs, and clauses, it didn't seem to solidify the structure of an essay in his mind the way EIW has.  To be fair, maybe subsequent levels would have done that.  However, another issue I had with IEW is that their video was a recording of a live classroom/training session that did not have clearly defined starting and stopping points within the video itself.  Instead, it was necessary to refer to a specific page in the curriculum guide that indicated at which "minute mark" you were supposed to start and stop the video for a given lesson.  While this might be a minor issue for others, to me it was an inconvenience that kept the curriculum from being as "open and go" as I would have liked on a daily basis.  

Thank you for this review. EIW is the other program I'm really looking at I may just buy both.

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52 minutes ago, Shellydon said:

I'll definitely be sitting with her as she writes and helping.  I don't feel capable of creating a writing program though, I'll need to purchase something that functions as a writing program/full curriculum

One problem with writing programs is that they give off the feeling that writing is a convergent process--that there is the One Way to Write--and that writing is somehow its own separate sphere of endeavor.  It would be be far better if she were to see that writing is a process that evolves out of thinking about important and interesting questions.  So coming up with some questions about what she is learning and then helping her craft essays about them is much more authentic and aligned with the actual purpose of academic writing.  If she has essay questions embedded in her other course materials you could use those.  

If you must use a program, I recommend a text intended to be used for freshman composition classes (for example, The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing) or AP English Language and Composition (for example, The Language of Composition).  I would also recommend that you read the book Engaging Ideas.

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3 hours ago, EKS said:

One problem with writing programs is that they give off the feeling that writing is a convergent process--that there is the One Way to Write--and that writing is somehow its own separate sphere of endeavor.  It would be be far better if she were to see that writing is a process that evolves out of thinking about important and interesting questions.  So coming up with some questions about what she is learning and then helping her craft essays about them is much more authentic and aligned with the actual purpose of academic writing.  If she has essay questions embedded in her other course materials you could use those.  

If you must use a program, I recommend a text intended to be used for freshman composition classes (for example, The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing) or AP English Language and Composition (for example, The Language of Composition).  I would also recommend that you read the book Engaging Ideas.

Good idea about the thinking important and interesting questions.  She really doesn't care to ponder/think about things, she is more of a rote do the next thing kind of person.  Her younger siblings do enough thinking/questions for the whole family I think :).  I do actually have copies of books for freshman comp since my eldest has already taken the class.  Thanks!

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On 7/25/2020 at 12:22 PM, Shellydon said:

We looked at a full IEW lesson for level C this morning.  She didn't love the fact that it focused on writing stories, so I am not sure I can get her to do it.  She will never write a story without much gnashing of teeth, so if that is more than one section then I don't think it will work.   We also watch Essentials in Writing grade 9 to see what it was like for comparison, it looks similar, just structured a bit differently.  I had her rate the list that Lori D. provide (reasons students struggle) and she put not being able to deal with writing as a multi-stage process as her number one difficulty, hasn't "clicked" yet with how to build a supported argument and her number 2 struggle and finally struggles with coming up with the "commentary" sentences in the paragraph as the third most difficult. 

After a an hour so looking she laid on the ground and cried and said she would rather quit school than ever look at writing again. Sigh. She is now looking at jobs that don't require a college degree and are manual labor only.

 

On 7/25/2020 at 12:38 PM, Shellydon said:

Yes. She balked, but was already crying so I will have to try again later.    She is just a academically capable, but academically reluctant kiddo.  She doesn't care a bit for learning, doesn't have a desire to know more and really just wants to be left alone to her animals.  It doesn't help that older sister is an academic superstar, lots of scholarships and loves to learn and talk about all things bookish.  

(((hugs))) Oh dear! PLEASE let her know that Writing is HARD for MANY students -- probably 25% of my high school Lit & Writing class co-op students come in to my classes struggling with writing (juniors and seniors too!). And my own DS#2 had VERY similar struggles. Give her a hug!


I am totally with EKS that a writing program is most likely NOT going to help her. I think you can A tutor is going to be able to pinpoint the trouble areas AND have ideas to help her over those hurdles. Also, writing for someone OTHER than mom is often less stressful/emotional for students. Writing is so personal, that many students don't want mom commenting/grading the "personal thoughts" that is their writing assignment.

- Drop creative writing -- seriously, unless a student is interested in creative writing, there is NO need to ever do it.

- Scaffold her through the writing process, especially in the parts that have to come from your own thinking (brainstorming/organizing, the thesis statement, and commentary sentences) -- discuss, ask leading questions.

- For coming up with points/reasons of support for her thesis, after the thesis claim, write the word "because ___________" -- now fill it in the blank with several answers; this starts generating ideas for the major points of what to write about in the body portion of the paper.

- For coming up with the commentary sentence, explaining how/why the example proves/shows the point, right after the sentence with the example, start the next sentence with the words: "This example shows that _____________________." and fill in the blank -- and that is your commentary. 😄 

- Break it into smaller bites -- just do 1 stage of the process for 30 minutes. Done! The next day, pick up where you left off in the process, go for 30 minutes. Done! Rinse. Repeat. If at first it takes 1 whole week (five 30-minute "bites") to complete one solid paragraph -- great! Stop and celebrate, and point out what is working well in the final product. Also make sure to point out how she persevered through the stages of writing, and how that helped her end up with a solid finished product. 😄

- Practice "building an argument" -- check out quotation #1 below -- lewelma's "The Best" game as one idea to orally work into developing those thinking skills and later transfer it to the brainstorming/organizing stages of writing.

- Focus building a complete paragraph of various types. Really, if you can write a complete paragraph, then it's just a matter of stretching the writing muscles to turn parts of the single paragraph each into their own paragraph --voila! a multi--paragraph (or even multi-page!) paper!

PARAGRAPH STRUCTURE

intro sentence(s)
- topic sentence -- overview of what the paragraph is about; "this is what I'm going to talk about"; often includes a "claim" (thought/idea; position or "take" on the topic; opinion; etc.)
- explanation sentence(s) -- if needed; used to flesh out or explain the topic sentence
body sentences
- supporting sentences -- concrete evidence; examples, facts, examples; sometimes a quotation or an anecdote works as support
- detail sentence(s) -- flesh out/describe/give details about the support
concluding sentences
- commentary sentence -- connect the dots between support and topic; explains how/why the example/fact shows/proves your big idea in the topic sentence; "This shows that _________"
- concluding sentence -- overview sum up of what the paragraph was about; "I just told you about ______"

ESSAY STRUCTURE

I. introductory paragraph
1. 'hook' sentence -- to catch reader attention (examples: question; quotation; aact/statistic; bold/surprising/shocking statement; definition of a key word/idea in the paragraph; etc.)
2. explanation sentence(s) -- if needed; used to flesh out or explain or give "backstory" about your overall topic; or define any terms that may be unfamiliar to the reader that you will use in the essay
3. "intro info" -- if writing a literary or film analysis essay, a sentence that includes the author's name and the title of the book (or short story or poem or play), or, the title of the film (with release date in parentheses) and director's name
4. thesis statement (may be more than 1 sentence)
   * thesis topic -- the subject of the paper
   * thesis claim -- your "claim" (position, "take on", "big idea") about the thesis topic
   * thesis direction -- overview of the points/reasons that will be fleshed out in the body (each point/reason gets its own paragraph)

II (each) body paragraph
1. transition -- often the transition and topic sentence combine nicely in 1 sentence
2. topic sentence -- states what specific point/reason/sub-topic will be covered in this paragraph
3.  explanation sentence(s) -- if needed; used to flesh out or explain the topic sentence
4. supporting sentences -- example, fact, example, quotation, anecdote, etc.
5. detail sentence(s) -- flesh out the support
6. commentary sentence -- connects the dots between support and point/reason of this paragraph; explains how/why the example/fact shows/proves the point stated in the topic sentence; "This shows that _________"
7. concluding sentence -- overview sum up of what the paragraph was about; "I just told you about ______"; often this is a sentence of concluding commentary that connects the dots between the point/reason of this paragraph, and the thesis claim (in the intro paragraph); explains how/why the point/reason of this paragraph proves your "argument" of your thesis claim (in the intro paragraph); "This shows that _________"

III concluding paragraph
1. transition sentence -- smooth from the close detail at the end of the last body paragraph to going "broad" again with the
2. sum-up sentence(s) -- restate the thesis in a fresh way to reinforce the essay's main idea in light of the overall argument  usually including a brief summary of the paper's main points
3. "clincher" sentence(s) -- leave the reader with your final thought; often ties back in with either the paper's title or "hook"; (examples: answers the question asked in the hook; use a quotation, or complete the quotation used in the "hook", or a "twist" on a major quotation used in the essay; a "call for action"; a final "food for thought" type of statement; etc.)
__________________________

Below are two long-ago posts from lewelma, about teaching writing to someone for whom it does not come naturally/easily.

1. = from "Transition to Original Writing"
"With my younger we play a word game I made up - 'The Best.'  We take turns asking the other why something is the best.  "Why is this heater the best?"  "Why is this sofa the best?"  Then the person has to come up with three points in 30 seconds.  fast fast fast.  Then we switch sides.  We do this over and over for about 15 minutes.  It is super fun, and gives kids the confidence to come up with 3 points with confidence.  Over time we make the questions harder "Why is this city the best?" "Which Roman God is the best?" "What is the best dragon in D&D?"etc. 

Once my ds was good at that, we moved to "3 points of support" for each paragraph. We would warm up with a bunch of 'the best', pick one we liked, and go for the support.  We try for 3 points for a paragraph in 30 seconds (you do have to build up to this, but you have to be fast fast fast, no time for worrying about being "right") and with 3 paragraphs that is under 2 minutes.  We take turns.  Sometimes you can't find any supporting points and then you know that your main point was no good.  This is a good lesson.

Finally, we require "opposition" -- to name the strongest point against our argument and how we would respond. 
++++
This is game is built up over time.  Start slow and as they master it you add in the next step.  Because you are moving fast and doing odd or even silly topics, sometimes the answers are really quite funny and we get the giggles. As you get better, it is fun to try to trick the other. "Why is this the best color white for the wall?" Sometimes we are stumped, which tells us something.  We never write these things up.  The goal is simply to gain confidence and speed, and to not be frozen with indecision as to where to start.  Also, the goal is to realize that you don't need the *right* answer, you only need *an* answer with support.  We are fighting perfectionism over here, and this game has helped so much and so quickly."
__________________________
2. = from "s/o of a s/o: Implementing ideas for preparing our kids for college-level writing"

"I have a few suggestions when it comes to teaching writing:

 -Half the battle is thinking of a thesis statement so I don't think it is a good idea always to start with a prompt.  Instead, try to find a general set of questions to discuss FIRST and while you are discussing, see if any interesting ideas crop up.  For literature, you can use TWEM.  At one point on this board, people came up with a set of history questions and primary source questions.  I think a good set of questions to think about or discuss will start with the concrete (when was this written, what else was going on in the world), move through to the more abstract (what is the theme, what if this were taken to the extreme), and then will move into the realm of opinions and personal applications (have you found this to be true).  I found that if the questions were specific to a piece of literature or an event or a topic, they tended to make it harder to find something to write about rather than easier.  Maybe this is where OhElizabeth's observation about elite schools comes in?  It is harder to work from a set of general questions at the beginning, but in the end, the questions are internalized and noticing things and being curious about things becomes easier.

-To teach organization, it helps to snip up the rough draft into sentences, talk about what sort of sentence each is - topic statement, detail, hook, transition, conclusion, etc., and what other sentences it belongs to, and then rearrange the whole batch.

-Fix papers from big things to little things.  It isn't worth working on sentence wording until after you've fixed the organization and it isn't worth fixing the spelling until after you've fixed the wording.  A proofreader can fix the spelling.  If you haven't spent hours fixing the wording, you are much more willing to reorganize it.

-Some of our best discussions about writing have been the result of me just saying "why" over and over.  Why did the author choose to write about this topic?  Why did the writer choose to organize the paper this way?  Why did the author choose to emphasize that?  Why did the author choose that word?

-You can increase the value of good examples by also supplying some dreadful examples.  I discovered this accidentally when we tried to listen to an audiobook on a long drive.  I had chosen it because the back cover made it sound like I might like it (housewife main character) AND my teen boys might like it (something about hunting down evil somethings).  I spent the trip listening to my children rip apart the writing from the back seat.  I had no idea they could do that.  The point is that they COULDN'T if what they were reading was well written.

-It is much easier to write if the writing is real.  It is hard to do a good job if you are writing essays to a prompt just to show that you have read the assigned reading or that you understand a concept.  There isn't point and it is hard to decide what to include and what not to include.  That sort of deciding is important to learn.  You can't take a science test without being able to write that sort of essay.  But it is easier to learn that sort of writing by beginning by trying to tell someone something they DON'T already know and then move into practising telling someone who DOES know.  If that makes sense.

-It might be better to outsource if you can't take the time to figure out what exactly is wrong with your child's writing and how to fix those particular things.  I found that in high school, it didn't really work to decide that my son couldn't write well and pick a writing program for him to go through.  We tried that.  The writing program didn't fix the writing because there were specific things wrong with the writing and the program didn't get to those things for a long time and when it finally did, it spent too little time on them, not knowing that those things were a problem for this particular person.

-For examples, you can look at real examples of writing used for that purpose, but be aware that unless it was done by a writer, it isn't necessarily going to be well-written.  The scientist or historian who writes up his findings may do an adequate job but might not be someone to emulate."
__________________________


Hope something here is of help! Sending big hugs and encouragement to both you and DD! You guys can do this! 😄 Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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10 hours ago, Shellydon said:

She really doesn't care to ponder/think about things, she is more of a rote do the next thing kind of person.

That, more than anything, is probably the problem.  Real writing is anything but rote, and the problem with writing programs is that they erroneously try to make it seem like there is a process you can follow--a rote procedure--to get that essay cranked out.  There are certain "moves" (as they call them in They Say/I Say) that make things easier, but the essence of good writing is good thinking.

Speaking of They Say/I Say--you may want to take a look at that as well.  

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15 hours ago, Shellydon said:

Thank you for this review. EIW is the other program I'm really looking at I may just buy both.

So much good advice in this thread.  My only contribution is IF you decide to use parts of IEW, I would definitely skip all the creative units.  Only use the report-style units (If I remember correctly, they used to be the even numbered ones, but that might be different now.  I don't know).  

Another thought - Lost Tools of Writing sort of specializes in the thinking stage of the essay (they call it Invention), but I really hesitate to recommend it because I think it's cumbersome to use and probably is more confusing than helpful.  What you might do is see if there are any free talks or You Tubes that explain their approach - look for information on their use of the "should question" and the "ANI chart" (A- affirmative, N - negative, I - interesting) and see if they are helpful to you as tools for helping her.  

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1 hour ago, Another Lynn said:

So much good advice in this thread.  My only contribution is IF you decide to use parts of IEW, I would definitely skip all the creative units.  Only use the report-style units (If I remember correctly, they used to be the even numbered ones, but that might be different now.  I don't know).  

Another thought - Lost Tools of Writing sort of specializes in the thinking stage of the essay (they call it Invention), but I really hesitate to recommend it because I think it's cumbersome to use and probably is more confusing than helpful.  What you might do is see if there are any free talks or You Tubes that explain their approach - look for information on their use of the "should question" and the "ANI chart" (A- affirmative, N - negative, I - interesting) and see if they are helpful to you as tools for helping her.  

Thank you! 

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13 hours ago, Lori D. said:

 

(((hugs))) Oh dear! PLEASE let her know that Writing is HARD for MANY students -- probably 25% of my high school Lit & Writing class co-op students come in to my classes struggling with writing (juniors and seniors too!). And my own DS#2 had VERY similar struggles. Give her a hug!


I am totally with EKS that a writing program is most likely NOT going to help her. I think you can A tutor is going to be able to pinpoint the trouble areas AND have ideas to help her over those hurdles. Also, writing for someone OTHER than mom is often less stressful/emotional for students. Writing is so personal, that many students don't want mom commenting/grading the "personal thoughts" that is their writing assignment.

- Drop creative writing -- seriously, unless a student is interested in creative writing, there is NO need to ever do it.

- Scaffold her through the writing process, especially in the parts that have to come from your own thinking (brainstorming/organizing, the thesis statement, and commentary sentences)
-- discuss, ask leading questions.

- For coming up with points/reasons of support for her thesis, after the thesis claim, write the word "because ___________" -- now fill it in the blank with several answers; this starts generating ideas for the major points of what to write about in the body portion of the paper.

- For coming up with the commentary sentence, explaining how/why the example proves/shows the point, right after the sentence with the example, start the next sentence with the words: "This example shows that _____________________." and fill in the blank -- and that is your commentary. 😄 

- Break it into smaller bites -- just do 1 stage of the process for 30 minutes. Done! The next day, pick up where you left off in the process, go for 30 minutes. Done! Rinse. Repeat. If at first it takes 1 whole week (five 30-minute "bites") to complete one solid paragraph -- great! Stop and celebrate, and point out what is working well in the final product. Also make sure to point out how she persevered through the stages of writing, and how that helped her end up with a solid finished product. 😄

- Practice "building an argument" -- check out quotation #1 below -- lewelma's "The Best" game as one idea to orally work into developing those thinking skills and later transfer it to the brainstorming/organizing stages of writing.

- Focus building a complete paragraph of various types. Really, if you can write a complete paragraph, then it's just a matter of stretching the writing muscles to turn parts of the single paragraph each into their own paragraph --voila! a multi--paragraph (or even multi-page!) paper!

PARAGRAPH STRUCTURE

intro sentence(s)
- topic sentence -- overview of what the paragraph is about; "this is what I'm going to talk about"; often includes a "claim" (thought/idea; position or "take" on the topic; opinion; etc.)
- explanation sentence(s) -- if needed; used to flesh out or explain the topic sentence
body sentences
- supporting sentences -- concrete evidence; examples, facts, examples; sometimes a quotation or an anecdote works as support
- detail sentence(s) -- flesh out/describe/give details about the support
concluding sentences
- commentary sentence -- connect the dots between support and topic; explains how/why the example/fact shows/proves your big idea in the topic sentence; "This shows that _________"
- concluding sentence -- overview sum up of what the paragraph was about; "I just told you about ______"

ESSAY STRUCTURE

introductory paragraph
- 'hook' sentence -- to catch reader attention (examples: question; quotation; aact/statistic; bold/surprising/shocking statement; definition of a key word/idea in the paragraph; etc.)
- explanation sentence(s) -- if needed; used to flesh out or explain or give "backstory" about your overall topic; or define any terms that may be unfamiliar to the reader that you will use in the essay
- "intro info" -- if writing a literary or film analysis essay, a sentence that includes the author's name and the title of the book (or short story or poem or play), or, the title of the film (with release date in parentheses) and director's name
- thesis statement (may be more than 1 sentence)
   * thesis topic -- the subject of the paper
   * thesis claim -- your "claim" (position, "take on", "big idea") about the thesis topic
   * thesis direction -- overview of the points/reasons that will be fleshed out in the body (each point/reason gets its own paragraph)
(each) body paragraph
- transition
- topic sentence -- states what specific point/reason/sub-topic will be covered in this paragraph
- explanation sentence(s) -- if needed; used to flesh out or explain the topic sentence
- supporting sentences -- example, fact, example, quotation, anecdote, etc.
- detail sentence(s) -- flesh out the support
- commentary sentence -- connects the dots between support and point/reason of this paragraph; explains how/why the example/fact shows/proves the point stated in the topic sentence; "This shows that _________"
- concluding sentence -- overview sum up of what the paragraph was about; "I just told you about ______"; often this is a sentence of concluding commentary that connects the dots between the point/reason of this paragraph, and the thesis claim (in the intro paragraph); explains how/why the point/reason of this paragraph proves your "argument" of your thesis claim (in the intro paragraph); "This shows that _________"
concluding paragraph
- transition sentence -- smooth from the close detail at the end of the last body paragraph to going "broad" again with the
- sum-up -- 1-2 sentences which restate the thesis in a fresh way to reinforce the essay's main idea in light of the overall argument  usually including a brief summary of the paper's main points
- "clincher" sentence -- leave the reader with your final thought; often ties back in with either the paper's title or "hook"; (examples: answers the question asked in the hook; use a quotation, or complete the quotation used in the "hook", or a "twist" on a major quotation used in the essay; a "call for action"; a final "food for thought" type of statement; etc.)
__________________________

Below are two long-ago posts from lewelma, about teaching writing to someone for whom it does not come naturally/easily.

1. = from "Transition to Original Writing"
"With my younger we play a word game I made up - 'The Best.'  We take turns asking the other why something is the best.  "Why is this heater the best?"  "Why is this sofa the best?"  Then the person has to come up with three points in 30 seconds.  fast fast fast.  Then we switch sides.  We do this over and over for about 15 minutes.  It is super fun, and gives kids the confidence to come up with 3 points with confidence.  Over time we make the questions harder "Why is this city the best?" "Which Roman God is the best?" "What is the best dragon in D&D?"etc. 

Once my ds was good at that, we moved to "3 points of support" for each paragraph. We would warm up with a bunch of 'the best', pick one we liked, and go for the support.  We try for 3 points for a paragraph in 30 seconds (you do have to build up to this, but you have to be fast fast fast, no time for worrying about being "right") and with 3 paragraphs that is under 2 minutes.  We take turns.  Sometimes you can't find any supporting points and then you know that your main point was no good.  This is a good lesson.

Finally, we require "opposition" -- to name the strongest point against our argument and how we would respond. 
++++
This is game is built up over time.  Start slow and as they master it you add in the next step.  Because you are moving fast and doing odd or even silly topics, sometimes the answers are really quite funny and we get the giggles. As you get better, it is fun to try to trick the other. "Why is this the best color white for the wall?" Sometimes we are stumped, which tells us something.  We never write these things up.  The goal is simply to gain confidence and speed, and to not be frozen with indecision as to where to start.  Also, the goal is to realize that you don't need the *right* answer, you only need *an* answer with support.  We are fighting perfectionism over here, and this game has helped so much and so quickly."
__________________________
2. = from "s/o of a s/o: Implementing ideas for preparing our kids for college-level writing"

"I have a few suggestions when it comes to teaching writing:

 -Half the battle is thinking of a thesis statement so I don't think it is a good idea always to start with a prompt.  Instead, try to find a general set of questions to discuss FIRST and while you are discussing, see if any interesting ideas crop up.  For literature, you can use TWEM.  At one point on this board, people came up with a set of history questions and primary source questions.  I think a good set of questions to think about or discuss will start with the concrete (when was this written, what else was going on in the world), move through to the more abstract (what is the theme, what if this were taken to the extreme), and then will move into the realm of opinions and personal applications (have you found this to be true).  I found that if the questions were specific to a piece of literature or an event or a topic, they tended to make it harder to find something to write about rather than easier.  Maybe this is where OhElizabeth's observation about elite schools comes in?  It is harder to work from a set of general questions at the beginning, but in the end, the questions are internalized and noticing things and being curious about things becomes easier.

-To teach organization, it helps to snip up the rough draft into sentences, talk about what sort of sentence each is - topic statement, detail, hook, transition, conclusion, etc., and what other sentences it belongs to, and then rearrange the whole batch.

-Fix papers from big things to little things.  It isn't worth working on sentence wording until after you've fixed the organization and it isn't worth fixing the spelling until after you've fixed the wording.  A proofreader can fix the spelling.  If you haven't spent hours fixing the wording, you are much more willing to reorganize it.

-Some of our best discussions about writing have been the result of me just saying "why" over and over.  Why did the author choose to write about this topic?  Why did the writer choose to organize the paper this way?  Why did the author choose to emphasize that?  Why did the author choose that word?

-You can increase the value of good examples by also supplying some dreadful examples.  I discovered this accidentally when we tried to listen to an audiobook on a long drive.  I had chosen it because the back cover made it sound like I might like it (housewife main character) AND my teen boys might like it (something about hunting down evil somethings).  I spent the trip listening to my children rip apart the writing from the back seat.  I had no idea they could do that.  The point is that they COULDN'T if what they were reading was well written.

-It is much easier to write if the writing is real.  It is hard to do a good job if you are writing essays to a prompt just to show that you have read the assigned reading or that you understand a concept.  There isn't point and it is hard to decide what to include and what not to include.  That sort of deciding is important to learn.  You can't take a science test without being able to write that sort of essay.  But it is easier to learn that sort of writing by beginning by trying to tell someone something they DON'T already know and then move into practising telling someone who DOES know.  If that makes sense.

-It might be better to outsource if you can't take the time to figure out what exactly is wrong with your child's writing and how to fix those particular things.  I found that in high school, it didn't really work to decide that my son couldn't write well and pick a writing program for him to go through.  We tried that.  The writing program didn't fix the writing because there were specific things wrong with the writing and the program didn't get to those things for a long time and when it finally did, it spent too little time on them, not knowing that those things were a problem for this particular person.

-For examples, you can look at real examples of writing used for that purpose, but be aware that unless it was done by a writer, it isn't necessarily going to be well-written.  The scientist or historian who writes up his findings may do an adequate job but might not be someone to emulate."
__________________________


Hope something here is of help! Sending big hugs and encouragement to both you and DD! You guys can do this! 😄 Warmest regards, Lori D.

This is enormously helpful.  Thank you so much!

 

 

So as an update, I've removed her from the summer writing class she was taking, it wasn't helping at all.  I have dropped her dual credit class for fall as I think it will be too much writing.  She is taking Physics, Precal, Worldview and some electives through our co-op this coming year, so I will work on adding writing to the mix

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Possibly you can find a MOOC course on Coursera.org or edX.org about Writing. Preferably one that's directed to High School students. Also, look on Khan Academy to see what they have available for writing. I think Indiana University (?) has a writing thing online, to help high school and university students with writing skills.. This is a really tough thing to be learning as a Junior. I strongly suggest NOT taking the Writing portion of the SAT!   Good luck!

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4 hours ago, Another Lynn said:

So much good advice in this thread.  My only contribution is IF you decide to use parts of IEW, I would definitely skip all the creative units.  Only use the report-style units (If I remember correctly, they used to be the even numbered ones, but that might be different now.  I don't know).  

 

I would do the same, I think there are a lot of IEW parts that could help her. You could skip all the creative units or modify them to be non fiction writing, help her generously with anything where she had to choose what to say or what facts to include, you could help her gather facts and ideas and show her how to organize them and narrow them down.

For example, writing a 5 paragraph essay about an animal she likes and knows a lot about, find 3 books, have her write some facts she knows on her own, find 12 to 20 more facts, talk about different ways she could organize them into topics that could each be a paragraph, then throw each type of fact into an outline, pare them down to 3-5 facts per paragraph, turn facts into sentences. Then, from those facts try to have her make a summary sentence, if she can't, you write 3 and have her pick the best one.

After you have 3 paragraphs, have her try to write a summary sentence of all 3 paragraphs to use for intro and conclusion, if she can't, you write 3 and have her pick the best one.

Now, you have a 5 paragraph report.

To turn in into a persuasive essay, add something to argue for and against.  If she can't choose anything, pick 3 and she adds one, now a persuade essay, IEW also is very similar in how it walks you through this.

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On 7/24/2020 at 9:44 PM, Shellydon said:

She is a good note taker for lectures, so that is not an issue fortunately.  She is currently taking two dual credit history courses this summer and has a high A average because she is able to take good notes and use those on tests.  But if she had to write a compare/contrast paper on WW2, she'd be sunk. 

Being able to take effective notes is great.  When she takes notes, does she summarize and paraphrase and pick out key items in her notes, and does she organize the information in any way?  Or does she just write all the things down, without interacting with it at all? 

My point is, all those "interact with the material in taking notes" things are also *writing* skills.  So if she does *anything* beyond straight "hear fact, write fact" - those are skills that transfer to writing that she *already has*.  That's why so many writing programs start with teaching note-taking.  (If she doesn't do anything beyond "hear fact, write fact", then she might benefit from doing some work on note-taking, or at least on summarizing.)

Also, are there any short answer questions on the tests, or are they just multiple choice?  Any idea how much the course tests straight recall vs requires the student to do something further with their knowledge?

On 7/24/2020 at 9:36 PM, Shellydon said:

She doesn't care to read for fun, but will read what I make her.  She will be a math/computer person in her adult life that never has to read a book and will probably never choose too.

I'm thinking this (along with not wanting to think) is a key factor.  She hasn't had a lot of practice interacting with written ideas, doesn't have nearly as much background knowledge or as strong an intuitive sense of what words do and how they do them. 

How's her oral logic?  If she wants something, if a sibling annoys her - can she "use her words" effectively enough in trying to get what she wants?  Or is she fairly inarticulate even when the topic at hand is of immediate personal import?

Does she talk much, in everyday life?  I mean, does she talk about things of interest, like her animals, or is she pretty quiet?

~*~

I'm with square25, in that with her being good with math and computers - which require logical thinking - there really ought to be a way to harness that to help with writing.  The things she identified as her biggest struggles from Lori D's list - multi-stage writing process, building a supported argument, and writing commentary sentences - that middle one, building a supporting argument, that's really logical.  Somehow it seems like there ought to be a way to connect that to what she can do in math.  How does she do with word problems in math?  Can she write her answer in a sentence?

Also, does she do any kind of short answer questions in science; if so, how does she do on them?  I mean, is she effective at *any* kind of writing, such as short, 2-3 sentence, factual-type things.  From what you've said, she's good at taking notes, and bad at multi-paragraph essays.  But there's a lot of in-between area - can she do writing that's shorter, or that is more factual, or that is more narrow in scope?  Can she do summaries? 

 

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2 hours ago, EKS said:

That, more than anything, is probably the problem.  Real writing is anything but rote, and the problem with writing programs is that they erroneously try to make it seem like there is a process you can follow--a rote procedure--to get that essay cranked out.  There are certain "moves" (as they call them in They Say/I Say) that make things easier, but the essence of good writing is good thinking.

Speaking of They Say/I Say--you may want to take a look at that as well.  

I'll take a look at They Say/I Say, thanks!  I agree, it would be so much easier if she were a natural 'thinker', but she is not.  All of my other children are, so that makes the writing generally easier with exception of my dyslexic child.  But, you can't make someone want to ponder the universe if they have no desire to do so.  I've tried, but it doesn't work unfortunately, so we'll do the best we can with what we have.

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6 hours ago, Another Lynn said:

Another thought - Lost Tools of Writing sort of specializes in the thinking stage of the essay (they call it Invention), but I really hesitate to recommend it because I think it's cumbersome to use and probably is more confusing than helpful.  What you might do is see if there are any free talks or You Tubes that explain their approach - look for information on their use of the "should question" and the "ANI chart" (A- affirmative, N - negative, I - interesting) and see if they are helpful to you as tools for helping her.  

LToW is really good at forcing you to *think*.  (It's one of the things my dd *didn't* like about it, lol.)  And there's a ton of scaffolding, for getting from your initial ANI chart (how they organize your brainstorming), to guiding *how* to think wider and deeper, to generating your main points and supporting commentary from your revised ANI chart and putting them on an outline.  (And going on to generate your body paragraphs and your intro/conclusion, and into revising.)  My oldest dd is an intuitive creative writer, but struggles with making her thinking *explicit*.  She needed a lot of guidance and some pushing from me on all the various "forcing you to think through your topic" parts of LToW.  I'd teach them and then we'd apply the new bit to the previous essay together.  Then she gave it a go on her own on the new essay topic.  Often she could only come up with some of it, or the answers she gave were only so-so, so then we'd go over it together next lesson. 

Honestly, discussion together, with me drawing her out (and with me basically doing it myself alongside her, so *I'd* interacted with the topic sufficiently) was really, really key.  LToW gave us a good structure for thinking in, so that we could think in productive directions, be stretched to think in new directions - but it couldn't think for us.  We got out what we put in.  (Which made keeping to a schedule hard, and I did have problems knowing how much I should push the first time we'd encountered something, versus pushing a little more each time we saw it.)  I found that we lived or died based on our topic (which we selected ourselves) - we had to care enough about it to keep pushing our thinking deeper and wider (and it had to have enough to it to reward such thinking).  (And it's one of those programs that I don't think I'll really understand how to teach it till I've taught it all the way through once, but I was learning more every lesson.)

~*~

However, a lot of what LToW does in the Invention stage, in guiding *how* to think deeper and wider and in productive directions, is not unique to them - it's their take on Aristotle's Common Topics.  Writing With Skill, Classical Writing, and CAP's Argument Builder, among others, also use the Common Topics.  (I do think that WWS might be worth looking at, starting at Level 1.  SWB does a good job breaking things down into logical, explicit steps, and a lot of the early exercises provide all the content you need to build your argument - you just pick and choose from what's already there, instead of having to come up with stuff from out of your head.)

CAP's Argument Builder is actually a logic text (albeit one that has a heavy crossover with classical-inspired writing programs), and that might be another avenue to pursue: studying word-based logic.  The intersection of logical thinking and working with words might help harness some of her math strengths. 

~*~

Another resource that comes to mind is The Writing Revolution.  It's not a curriculum, but an approach (aka not open and go).  They take a writing-is-thinking approach, and integrate writing with other subjects - the idea is that you teach writing through learning other subjects and teach other subjects through learning writing.  So *all* their exercises, from the easiest to the most advanced, involve *thinking* about what you are writing, require you to *interact* with your subject.  They have a nice scaffolded approach to moving from sentences to one paragraph compositions to multi-paragraph essays to argumentative essays.  The idea is that the rigor of the subject drives the rigor of the thinking and thus the rigor of the writing.  So little kids can start learning to think and interact about what they learn, using easy subjects, while older kids can use the same tools to interact with their more difficult subjects.  They treat sentences as mini-compositions, and a single paragraph as a mini-essay - so you can learn to interact and think about your subject through first expanding simple sentences.  They bridge from sentences to single paragraphs by expanding on an expanded sentence.  It teaches the sort of thinking that goes into longer essays without overwhelming their composition skills.  They hold that you can't write an effective multi-paragraph essay before being able to write an effective single paragraph composition.

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2 hours ago, Lanny said:

Possibly you can find a MOOC course on Coursera.org or edX.org about Writing. Preferably one that's directed to High School students. Also, look on Khan Academy to see what they have available for writing. I think Indiana University (?) has a writing thing online, to help high school and university students with writing skills.. This is a really tough thing to be learning as a Junior. I strongly suggest NOT taking the Writing portion of the SAT!   Good luck!

I agree, she will not do the writing portion of the SAT.  None of the schools she is interested in require it.

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6 minutes ago, forty-two said:

LToW is really good at forcing you to *think*.  (It's one of the things my dd *didn't* like about it, lol.)  And there's a ton of scaffolding, for getting from your initial ANI chart (how they organize your brainstorming), to guiding *how* to think wider and deeper, to generating your main points and supporting commentary from your revised ANI chart and putting them on an outline.  (And going on to generate your body paragraphs and your intro/conclusion, and into revising.)  My oldest dd is an intuitive creative writer, but struggles with making her thinking *explicit*.  She needed a lot of guidance and some pushing from me on all the various "forcing you to think through your topic" parts of LToW.  I'd teach them and then we'd apply the new bit to the previous essay together.  Then she gave it a go on her own on the new essay topic.  Often she could only come up with some of it, or the answers she gave were only so-so, so then we'd go over it together next lesson. 

Honestly, discussion together, with me drawing her out (and with me basically doing it myself alongside her, so *I'd* interacted with the topic sufficiently) was really, really key.  LToW gave us a good structure for thinking in, so that we could think in productive directions, be stretched to think in new directions - but it couldn't think for us.  We got out what we put in.  (Which made keeping to a schedule hard, and I did have problems knowing how much I should push the first time we'd encountered something, versus pushing a little more each time we saw it.)  I found that we lived or died based on our topic (which we selected ourselves) - we had to care enough about it to keep pushing our thinking deeper and wider (and it had to have enough to it to reward such thinking).  (And it's one of those programs that I don't think I'll really understand how to teach it till I've taught it all the way through once, but I was learning more every lesson.)

~*~

However, a lot of what LToW does in the Invention stage, in guiding *how* to think deeper and wider and in productive directions, is not unique to them - it's their take on Aristotle's Common Topics.  Writing With Skill, Classical Writing, and CAP's Argument Builder, among others, also use the Common Topics.  (I do think that WWS might be worth looking at, starting at Level 1.  SWB does a good job breaking things down into logical, explicit steps, and a lot of the early exercises provide all the content you need to build your argument - you just pick and choose from what's already there, instead of having to come up with stuff from out of your head.)

CAP's Argument Builder is actually a logic text (albeit one that has a heavy crossover with classical-inspired writing programs), and that might be another avenue to pursue: studying word-based logic.  The intersection of logical thinking and working with words might help harness some of her math strengths. 

~*~

Another resource that comes to mind is The Writing Revolution.  It's not a curriculum, but an approach (aka not open and go).  They take a writing-is-thinking approach, and integrate writing with other subjects - the idea is that you teach writing through learning other subjects and teach other subjects through learning writing.  So *all* their exercises, from the easiest to the most advanced, involve *thinking* about what you are writing, require you to *interact* with your subject.  They have a nice scaffolded approach to moving from sentences to one paragraph compositions to multi-paragraph essays to argumentative essays.  The idea is that the rigor of the subject drives the rigor of the thinking and thus the rigor of the writing.  So little kids can start learning to think and interact about what they learn, using easy subjects, while older kids can use the same tools to interact with their more difficult subjects.  They treat sentences as mini-compositions, and a single paragraph as a mini-essay - so you can learn to interact and think about your subject through first expanding simple sentences.  They bridge from sentences to single paragraphs by expanding on an expanded sentence.  It teaches the sort of thinking that goes into longer essays without overwhelming their composition skills.  They hold that you can't write an effective multi-paragraph essay before being able to write an effective single paragraph composition.

I have Writing with Skill, I'll look at it again.

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1 hour ago, forty-two said:

Being able to take effective notes is great.  When she takes notes, does she summarize and paraphrase and pick out key items in her notes, and does she organize the information in any way?  Or does she just write all the things down, without interacting with it at all? 

My point is, all those "interact with the material in taking notes" things are also *writing* skills.  So if she does *anything* beyond straight "hear fact, write fact" - those are skills that transfer to writing that she *already has*.  That's why so many writing programs start with teaching note-taking.  (If she doesn't do anything beyond "hear fact, write fact", then she might benefit from doing some work on note-taking, or at least on summarizing.)

She does both, summarizing and hear/write

1 hour ago, forty-two said:

Also, are there any short answer questions on the tests, or are they just multiple choice?  Any idea how much the course tests straight recall vs requires the student to do something further with their knowledge?

She can pretty easily write paragraphs summarizing factual information

 

I'm thinking this (along with not wanting to think) is a key factor.  She hasn't had a lot of practice interacting with written ideas, doesn't have nearly as much background knowledge or as strong an intuitive sense of what words do and how they do them. 

I agree with you!

How's her oral logic?  If she wants something, if a sibling annoys her - can she "use her words" effectively enough in trying to get what she wants?  Or is she fairly inarticulate even when the topic at hand is of immediate personal import?

She is rarely annoyed and never asks/bargains for anything.  She is completely content with life as it is.  All of her siblings get along with her best because she rarely contradicts them.

Does she talk much, in everyday life?  I mean, does she talk about things of interest, like her animals, or is she pretty quiet?

No. She is very quiet, prefers to be alone, has a goal of living in the middle of no where and making a living without having to interact with people. She has fared really well through this pandemic because she is fine by herself. She does enjoy seeing her friends, but doesn't *need* much social interaction.

~*~

I'm with square25, in that with her being good with math and computers - which require logical thinking - there really ought to be a way to harness that to help with writing.  The things she identified as her biggest struggles from Lori D's list - multi-stage writing process, building a supported argument, and writing commentary sentences - that middle one, building a supporting argument, that's really logical.  Somehow it seems like there ought to be a way to connect that to what she can do in math.  How does she do with word problems in math?  Can she write her answer in a sentence?

I don't think she has had to ever write her answers in a sentence for math, but could likely do so. 

Also, does she do any kind of short answer questions in science; if so, how does she do on them?  I mean, is she effective at *any* kind of writing, such as short, 2-3 sentence, factual-type things.  From what you've said, she's good at taking notes, and bad at multi-paragraph essays.  But there's a lot of in-between area - can she do writing that's shorter, or that is more factual, or that is more narrow in scope?  Can she do summaries? 

She can do short, factual paragraphs and short summaries for classes pretty easily.  Her current history class requires that type of writing and she isn't have trouble with it. 

 

I've added quite a few rhetoric and comp books to my Amazon cart to see what I can find to help us along. 

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A "game" I play with my kids we call "when who did what where why/how". You just take a topic, any topic, and come up with a sentence that says something about that topic in the order of those question words. For instance, "In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins journeyed with the dwarfs to the Lonely Mountain because the dwarfs wanted to reclaim their home from Smaug." Or, "In 1453, the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople and closed down many west-east trade routes, resulting in the Age of Exploration." "Yesterday, my obnoxious little brother farted in my bed because he has no sense of decency." 

From there, focus on one of the question words from the main sentence and write a sentence about it. Do this for several of the parts of the main sentence. I found that if I do this excercise orally, it helps my "stuck" kids get a bit less stuck in how to think about what to write about.

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37 minutes ago, square_25 said:

I would really, really think outside the box with her and talk to her thoroughly about her options. She just seems like a kid who's genuinely bored by both argument and by literary analysis. And it sounds like she associates writing with tasks she really hates, so it's entirely possible that what you should work on at this point is not five paragraph essays but just lack of hatred of the written word. 

I'd really talk to her about WHAT she might want to write about. Would she like to write about math -- explaining her ideas in words? Or writing about her animals? Or writing an instruction manual for how to take care of her animals? Or maybe explaining how something works? Really, anything sounds like it might be an improvement over forcing her to go through a program that will increase her dislike of putting words down on paper. 

I agree.  I am taking a look at what she is doing for our co-op and what we are doing at home and seeing how I can incorporate additional writing without putting her over the edge.

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1 hour ago, forty-two said:

LToW is really good at forcing you to *think*.  (It's one of the things my dd *didn't* like about it, lol.)  And there's a ton of scaffolding, for getting from your initial ANI chart (how they organize your brainstorming), to guiding *how* to think wider and deeper, to generating your main points and supporting commentary from your revised ANI chart and putting them on an outline.  (And going on to generate your body paragraphs and your intro/conclusion, and into revising.)  My oldest dd is an intuitive creative writer, but struggles with making her thinking *explicit*.  She needed a lot of guidance and some pushing from me on all the various "forcing you to think through your topic" parts of LToW.  I'd teach them and then we'd apply the new bit to the previous essay together.  Then she gave it a go on her own on the new essay topic.  Often she could only come up with some of it, or the answers she gave were only so-so, so then we'd go over it together next lesson. 

Honestly, discussion together, with me drawing her out (and with me basically doing it myself alongside her, so *I'd* interacted with the topic sufficiently) was really, really key.  LToW gave us a good structure for thinking in, so that we could think in productive directions, be stretched to think in new directions - but it couldn't think for us.  We got out what we put in.  (Which made keeping to a schedule hard, and I did have problems knowing how much I should push the first time we'd encountered something, versus pushing a little more each time we saw it.)  I found that we lived or died based on our topic (which we selected ourselves) - we had to care enough about it to keep pushing our thinking deeper and wider (and it had to have enough to it to reward such thinking).  (And it's one of those programs that I don't think I'll really understand how to teach it till I've taught it all the way through once, but I was learning more every lesson.)

~*~

However, a lot of what LToW does in the Invention stage, in guiding *how* to think deeper and wider and in productive directions, is not unique to them - it's their take on Aristotle's Common Topics.  Writing With Skill, Classical Writing, and CAP's Argument Builder, among others, also use the Common Topics.  (I do think that WWS might be worth looking at, starting at Level 1.  SWB does a good job breaking things down into logical, explicit steps, and a lot of the early exercises provide all the content you need to build your argument - you just pick and choose from what's already there, instead of having to come up with stuff from out of your head.)

CAP's Argument Builder is actually a logic text (albeit one that has a heavy crossover with classical-inspired writing programs), and that might be another avenue to pursue: studying word-based logic.  The intersection of logical thinking and working with words might help harness some of her math strengths. 

~*~

Another resource that comes to mind is The Writing Revolution.  It's not a curriculum, but an approach (aka not open and go).  They take a writing-is-thinking approach, and integrate writing with other subjects - the idea is that you teach writing through learning other subjects and teach other subjects through learning writing.  So *all* their exercises, from the easiest to the most advanced, involve *thinking* about what you are writing, require you to *interact* with your subject.  They have a nice scaffolded approach to moving from sentences to one paragraph compositions to multi-paragraph essays to argumentative essays.  The idea is that the rigor of the subject drives the rigor of the thinking and thus the rigor of the writing.  So little kids can start learning to think and interact about what they learn, using easy subjects, while older kids can use the same tools to interact with their more difficult subjects.  They treat sentences as mini-compositions, and a single paragraph as a mini-essay - so you can learn to interact and think about your subject through first expanding simple sentences.  They bridge from sentences to single paragraphs by expanding on an expanded sentence.  It teaches the sort of thinking that goes into longer essays without overwhelming their composition skills.  They hold that you can't write an effective multi-paragraph essay before being able to write an effective single paragraph composition.

I added the Writing Revolution to my amazon cart! Thanks!

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2 hours ago, Shellydon said:

She can do short, factual paragraphs and short summaries for classes pretty easily.  Her current history class requires that type of writing and she isn't have trouble with it. 

That's awesome.  She can do a lot more writing than she probably thinks she can.

Is she able to write a multi-paragraph factual essay, or multi-paragraph book/chapter summary?  Have her history classes required her to do anything like "Evaluate the extent of change in United States political parties in the period 1791 to 1833"?

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