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Writing: 5th Grade and WWS

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I posted this a few weeks ago in the Writing Workshop, but I didn't get any feedback there, and I'm wondering if it's just a board people don't look at. I'd love some feedback on writing levels and expectations for my 5th grader. He is working through WWS 1, and does well on the outlining, but struggles with the summaries. He also, imo, struggles with writing summaries in history and science, but I do not know if my expectations are too high. I am struggling with whether to stop and focus on grammar/spelling exclusively, or continue with WWS and working on writing summaries in content subjects. I'd love any feedback on this writing and where to focus to improve.


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First: Even though WWS level 1 says it can be started in grade 5, I would suggest waiting until the student is grade 7 or even grade 8, when abstract thinking and the logic portions of the brain are beginning to mature. I have read in numerous threads that people on these boards who use WWS have stated they had MUCH more success by waiting until later middle school when their students had developed those thinking skills required in WWS level 1.

SWB even lists alternate scheduling of the WWS series and ideas of other possible programs to use while waiting. See page 3 of her handout about her WWE and WWS series.  Starting WWS1 in 5th grade is NOT her first suggestion. Even if waiting to start WW1 in 8th grade, you would be finishing up WW3 in 10th grade, and still have 2 more years in high school for more advanced writing. 

A few of her examples of some of her alternative scheduling of the WWS series:

5th gr. = WWS1 (half)  /  6th gr. = WWS1 (half)  /  7th gr. = WWS2 (half)  /  8th gr = WWS2 (half)  /  9th gr. = WWS3 (half)  /  10th gr. = WWS3 (half)
5th gr. = other  /  6th gr. = WWS1 (half)  /  7th gr. = WWS1 (half)  /  8th gr = WWS2 (half)  /  9th gr. = WWS2 (half)  / 10th gr.  = WWS3
5th gr. = other  /  6th gr. = WWS1 (half)  /  7th gr. = WWS1 (half)  /  8th gr = WWS2   /  9th gr. = WWS3 
5th gr. = other  /  6th gr. = other  /  7th gr. = WWS1   /  8th gr = WWS2   /  9th gr. = WWS3 
5th gr. = other  /  6th gr. = other  /  7th gr. = other   /  8th gr = WWS1   /  9th gr. = WWS2   / 10th gr.  = WWS3

I personally think stories, unless they are super-short, like Aesop fables, are very hard to summarize in just 3 points. A 2-4 paragraph section out of a nonfiction History or Science text would be a lot easier to summarize into just 3 key points for summarizing. 

All that to say, your DS's summary seems reasonable. And very typical, as when an elementary-aged student is still learning/practicing narration and summarizing, they tend to hit on points that happen early in the story/text, and then feel exhausted and run out of steam for summarizing the rest of the story/text. That's what it looks like has happened with your DS's summarization, which if fine and normal at this age -- something to slowly over the next few years work on.

Was he summarizing the old-fashioned humorous short story of "The Deliverers of Their Country" by E. Nesbit? I, too, would be hard-pressed to summarize that entire story in just 3 short key-word phrases that I would then turn in to complete sentences for a summary... My adult experienced summarizing key points might look like this (below) -- and notice I needed 5 key points to do it. (If I was limited to just 3 points, then I'd drop #2 and #5.)

- dragon plague of England -- hatch out due to extra hot weather
- dragons a nuisance -- people do various things to get rid of them
- Effie & Harry turn on rain/snow taps (faucets) in cave with weather controls
- cold/wet weather kills off dragons, rain washes them away
- taps get stuck half on -- explains England's wet weather of today

Note also that my summarization points relied on holding the whole story in my mind and comparing different parts of the story to be able to combine the parts that held the explanations -- that's a pretty mature skill and comes with experience. All that to say that your DS's summary seems very typical and perfectly fine for his age.

Just me, but I would probably set aside WWS for now and for the next 2 years, I would work on complete sentences, complete paragraphs of various types, do a variety of writing assignment types in all 4 areas of writing (descriptive, narrative, expository (factual), and persuasive). And also practice the 5-step process of writing: 
1. brainstorm (generate ideas)
2. organize (sort & arrange ideas)
3. rough draft (write from a complete "writing roadmap" from the organizing)
4. revision ("big fixes" of add, remove, rearrange, combine overlapping ideas, and fix major sentence structure errors...)
5. proof-edit ("little fixes" -- capitalization, punctuation, typos, repeated words/forgotten words, formatting...)

In her handout I linked above, SWB suggests things like Essentials in Writing or Killgallon Paragraph Composing.

You might also look at something like Editor in Chief or Fix-It for practicing proof-editing, and Evan-Moore's Daily 6-Trait Writing workbook for practicing a variety of skills.

Or, you might look at a completely different writing program that comes from a different angle, if you feel WWS is not clicking with your DS -- CAP's Writing & Rhetoric (book 4 or 5), or Write Shop Junior (book E or F). Or, if needing to inject some fun into the writing, perhaps look at Wordsmith Apprentice.

Just my 2-1/2 cents worth! 😄 BEST of luck, in your 5th grade writing adventures! Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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I also delayed starting WWS1 until 6th. My son is an older 6th with a late September birthday The timing is just right now. The difference in where he was last year in general and this year is huge. We used EPS's paragraphs series, IEW and Kilgallon over here to work on writing. This was over 4th and 5th grade.

At this point, I opted to outsource writing because he needed an outside voice for writing feedback.


Edited by calbear
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Lori's post is awesome. ❤️

If you stick with WWS I'd slow it waaaaay down and do lots of hand holding. I'd probably repeat most of the lessons borrowing passages from other books you're reading anyway for extra practice and time for it to sink in. 

Fwiw, if he were rocking summaries he'd be in the wrong book. 🙂 It takes time and repetition to master a skill. 


To contrast, my 7th grader is using WWS 1 this year. She's a decent writer but prone to a bad attitude. I put her in WWS so SWB could be "the bad guy" and I could simply commiserate over the audacity of assigning 750 words. (Apologies, SWB!) She feels stretched in a good way without being overwhelmed and I'm happy with her progress.

Edited by SilverMoon
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Oh...I just remembered that there's an excellent resource called Outlining by Remedia Publications. It's meant for remediation like Paragraphs is for middle schoolers, but I found it perfect for using for a younger student upper elementary student. They really broke things down very clearly.


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Agreeing with everyone else's posts, especially Lori's. 

A couple of thoughts:

- the samples of your son's work look very good to me. In 5th grade, I had to MAKE my boys write at least 4 sentences in a summary.

- if you wanted to leave WWS for a year or two, you could have your son keep making outlines and writing summaries on his own (like from his science or history lessons). I believe SWB says 4-5 sentences for a summary in 5th grade.

- I don't have WWS, but I've looked at the samples, and the passages to be read and summarized are not easy. They are long and complicated. There would be no harm in using easier books or shorter passages to help him summarize more effectively.

- as far as mistakes go, yes, there are going to be mistakes at this age. Pick 1-2 things to point out to him from each summary he writes, so as to address the errors but not overwhelm him.

- if it helps, you could have your son type his summaries. For one of my boys, typing greatly improved the quality of his writing because his hand would get too tired holding a pencil. I'm not sure if that is an issue with yours, but just a suggestion in case.

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I don't have anything to add on the specifics of WWS--I agree, but I am going to point out a resource that was HUGE for one of my kids, and I wish I'd tried it earlier. It's intended to be therapy, but it's very cool because it has a coherent way of assessing where your student is in narrative development (leading to writing/reading of all kinds). Additionally, if there are breakdowns at any level of understanding, there are side products to get those particulars back on track. It was life-changing here.


Flagship product for your child's age: https://mindwingconcepts.com/products/thememaker-quick-start?_pos=2&_sid=7dd9236d3&_ss=r

Product for a typical hard spot (critical thinking): https://mindwingconcepts.com/search?q=critical+thinking (And there is another more in depth product for this problem too!)

These materials are excellent, and if you need to talk to the author, you usually can. They sometimes offer free webinars on the various products and how to use them, and they have a lot of articles on their site that can be helpful.

It's not a curriculum--it's a tool to use with any reading and writing.

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Thank you all so much for the input and advice! It is hard to know sometimes what is "on level" or "normal" when homeschooling, even if those aren't super important markers, it does help to know when to keep pushing and when to chill out a bit.

After talking it over with my son, we are going to keep using WWS as he does enjoy it, but just slow it down quite a bit and take multiple days for hard assignments.  Lori D your examples of writing steps are very helpful, and I will also start using these when writing in history/science to give him some structure to follow to aid in writing summaries. 

I think I have decided to only focus on grammar/spelling in his WWS work, or other assigned work in Language Arts, and to not worry about it overly much in his history/science. Does this seem like a good balance to strike? I don't want to ask too much at once, but to want him to keep writing across subjects - especially as writing is the only real output for those two classes we have this year.

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