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5th Grade Writing - what is enough?


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My DD is almost 11 and is in the 5th grade. Writing was a bit of a struggle last year but I think there was a big leap in maturity over the summer because it's much easier this year. 

I began the year doing things in a more Charlotte Mason-ish way with copywork and oral and written narrations. I posted here about a month ago asking for some advice. I had a feeling that it was too easy for where we were. Over the last month I've moved away from the CM model and moved more in the direction of the advice from TWTM. We've been working on outlining and writing summaries from the outlines. I also added in W&R Fable because I bought it last year. It's actually for 4th grade. DD is doing that without any complaints and it seems pretty easy for her. 

I think her writing is actually pretty good. I'm having her write something everyday (we school 4 days a week). 

Should we stay where we are for a few months because it seems to be going well? Or maybe try the next level of Writing and Rhetoric? I'll admit that I'm skeptical about progym programs. I've looked at WWS but I've read that it's a challenge for most 5th graders. WWE and FLL were big failures here. My daughter has always struggled with doing 3 sentence narrations. I thought about Writing Strands because it's cheap and I've always heard about it. 

I can't bring myself to spend so much on IEW. 

I think DD is actually more like a 6th grader right now in terms of her maturity. 

DD's writing shows that she can craft interesting sentences and create good paragraphs. I didn't do much instruction there. I think it's been absorbed through reading and listening to good literature. 

I'm torn between thinking that at her age writing daily is the best thing for her versus trying to the next step. 

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32 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

My DD is almost 11 and is in the 5th grade. Writing was a bit of a struggle last year but I think there was a big leap in maturity over the summer because it's much easier this year. 

I began the year doing things in a more Charlotte Mason-ish way with copywork and oral and written narrations. I posted here about a month ago asking for some advice. I had a feeling that it was too easy for where we were. Over the last month I've moved away from the CM model and moved more in the direction of the advice from TWTM. We've been working on outlining and writing summaries from the outlines. I also added in W&R Fable because I bought it last year. It's actually for 4th grade. DD is doing that without any complaints and it seems pretty easy for her. 

I think her writing is actually pretty good. I'm having her write something everyday (we school 4 days a week). 

Should we stay where we are for a few months because it seems to be going well? Or maybe try the next level of Writing and Rhetoric? I'll admit that I'm skeptical about progym programs. I've looked at WWS but I've read that it's a challenge for most 5th graders. WWE and FLL were big failures here. My daughter has always struggled with doing 3 sentence narrations. I thought about Writing Strands because it's cheap and I've always heard about it. 

I can't bring myself to spend so much on IEW. 

I think DD is actually more like a 6th grader right now in terms of her maturity. 

DD's writing shows that she can craft interesting sentences and create good paragraphs. I didn't do much instruction there. I think it's been absorbed through reading and listening to good literature. 

I'm torn between thinking that at her age writing daily is the best thing for her versus trying to the next step. 

What would the next step be?

What's in the next level of Writing and Rhetoric?

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26 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

My DD is almost 11 and is in the 5th grade. Writing was a bit of a struggle last year but I think there was a big leap in maturity over the summer because it's much easier this year. 

I began the year doing things in a more Charlotte Mason-ish way with copywork and oral and written narrations. I posted here about a month ago asking for some advice. I had a feeling that it was too easy for where we were. Over the last month I've moved away from the CM model and moved more in the direction of the advice from TWTM. We've been working on outlining and writing summaries from the outlines. I also added in W&R Fable because I bought it last year. It's actually for 4th grade. DD is doing that without any complaints and it seems pretty easy for her. 

I think her writing is actually pretty good. I'm having her write something everyday (we school 4 days a week). 

Should we stay where we are for a few months because it seems to be going well? Or maybe try the next level of Writing and Rhetoric? I'll admit that I'm skeptical about progym programs. I've looked at WWS but I've read that it's a challenge for most 5th graders. WWE and FLL were big failures here. My daughter has always struggled with doing 3 sentence narrations. I thought about Writing Strands because it's cheap and I've always heard about it. 

I can't bring myself to spend so much on IEW. 

I think DD is actually more like a 6th grader right now in terms of her maturity. 

DD's writing shows that she can craft interesting sentences and create good paragraphs. I didn't do much instruction there. I think it's been absorbed through reading and listening to good literature. 

I'm torn between thinking that at her age writing daily is the best thing for her versus trying to the next step. 

Last year my oldest was in fifth grade, and I had a lot of uncertainty about his writing.  I decided I needed to bring an objective outsider into the picture, but I did not want to outsource a full, time-consuming, (expensive), class.  I started signing him up for Lantern English classes, and I have been so pleased and reassured. 

Each Lantern English correspondence class only lasts 8 weeks, so it is easy to shore up one skill and get an outside perspective without a long-term commitment.  They get one lesson and assignment a week, and in our experience, at the lower elementary level they take up to an hour total, and at the upper elementary level they take closer to 2 hours total.

I tend to pair up the Lantern English classes with another curriculum to round out our weekly writing.  Last year, DS did Lantern English and an Evan Moor Text-Based Writing workbook.  This year DS is doing Lantern and WWS 1.  During the next Lantern term, all my boys are taking one of their literature courses which focuses on different ways of writing about literature (summary, creative, expository, and opinion writing).

I love that Lantern English (and Evan Moor and WWS) give DS and I shared writing vocabulary.  I focus most of my instruction and support during WWS assignments. DS and I spend a long time perfecting those.  Lantern, OTOH, I let DS handle independently.  I want to see what quality of writing he can produce on his own.  I then go over the feedback and revisions he receives with him to help him learn from them.

Lantern has been a great resource for DS as a writer and me as a writing teacher.  I have now enrolled my other boys as well because I have been so pleased.

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19 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

Last year my oldest was in fifth grade, and I had a lot of uncertainty about his writing.  I decided I needed to bring an objective outsider into the picture, but I did not want to outsource a full, time-consuming, (expensive), class.  I started signing him up for Lantern English classes, and I have been so pleased and reassured. 

Each Lantern English correspondence class only lasts 8 weeks, so it is easy to shore up one skill and get an outside perspective without a long-term commitment.  They get one lesson and assignment a week, and in our experience, at the lower elementary level they take up to an hour total, and at the upper elementary level they take closer to 2 hours total.

I tend to pair up the Lantern English classes with another curriculum to round out our weekly writing.  Last year, DS did Lantern English and an Evan Moor Text-Based Writing workbook.  This year DS is doing Lantern and WWS 1.  During the next Lantern term, all my boys are taking one of their literature courses which focuses on different ways of writing about literature (summary, creative, expository, and opinion writing).

I love that Lantern English (and Evan Moor and WWS) give DS and I shared writing vocabulary.  I focus most of my instruction and support during WWS assignments. DS and I spend a long time perfecting those.  Lantern, OTOH, I let DS handle independently.  I want to see what quality of writing he can produce on his own.  I then go over the feedback and revisions he receives with him to help him learn from them.

Lantern has been a great resource for DS as a writer and me as a writing teacher.  I have now enrolled my other boys as well because I have been so pleased.

Thanks. I'll check out Lantern. 

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For next year, she might enjoy Cover Story -- gr. 6-8, 1-year program. It does have creative writing in it, but also a variety of types of writing and assignments, plus some grammar that directly relates to varying sentence structure for style and variety, or grammar as related to revising/proof-editing -- finding and fixing errors.

In the meanwhile, I don't think there is any problem with spending some time building confidence where you are and with what you are currently doing with writing that is working well. If the Lantern classes are not a fit, you might look at adding a little "breadth" to what you are doing.

Evan-Moore 6 Trait Writing workbook (see here for table of contents and sample pages). Just throw in a work page every so often on a topic you might not have focused on before, or a topic you have covered, but from an angle you haven't seen it from before. I'd recommend going with the grade 6 book.

Or, Killgallon Paragraphs for Middle School -- again just throw in a page or two every so often for variety of topics and perspective. SWB suggests this one as one of several options before going to her WWS series in later middle school. Note: this may feel like a kill-joy if she's already composing solid sentences and paragraphs.

Edited by Lori D.
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33 minutes ago, purpleowl said:

What is it about progym programs that makes you skeptical? 

I'm not sure they are the best way to teach children how to write according to modern standards. I'm also unconvinced that programs claiming to be based on the progym are actually modeled on the ancient programs. That's the same issue with all curricula that are supposedly "classical." 

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30 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I'm not sure they are the best way to teach children how to write according to modern standards. I'm also unconvinced that programs claiming to be based on the progym are actually modeled on the ancient programs. That's the same issue with all curricula that are supposedly "classical." 

Ah. I agree with you that they aren't actually like the ancient programs, but that doesn't bother me - I am fine with the path they do take. 🙂 When I started using Writing & Rhetoric, I wasn't sure whether I would like the overall program, but I figured I would stick with it as long as it did seem to be working. My girls are almost finished with book 7 and it has continued to work well for them, and I've seen their writing skills develop. But I don't think there's a single best way to teach kids to write.

Outlining is introduced in either Chreia & Proverb (book 4) or Narrative II (book 3) - I can't remember which - but you said your daughter is already doing that. Chreia & Proverb is a switch toward essay writing. Not sure if that is helpful info for you as you try to figure out where to go from here.

Also, you said you're having her write every day - does that include writing for other subjects as well?

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Well, considering that SWB only recommends rewriting outlines in 7th grade and up, and that she has 5th graders doing one-level outlines (I'm assuming you are doing more than that), then I would say she is ahead. I would have no problem camping out where you are for a while and just enjoying it. After a while, she could work on adding more details to the outlines so that each paragraph is fuller/longer, or make the rewrites longer (not sure how many paragraphs you are currently doing). Sounds like she's doing great. :)

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4 hours ago, purpleowl said:

Ah. I agree with you that they aren't actually like the ancient programs, but that doesn't bother me - I am fine with the path they do take. 🙂 When I started using Writing & Rhetoric, I wasn't sure whether I would like the overall program, but I figured I would stick with it as long as it did seem to be working. My girls are almost finished with book 7 and it has continued to work well for them, and I've seen their writing skills develop. But I don't think there's a single best way to teach kids to write.

Outlining is introduced in either Chreia & Proverb (book 4) or Narrative II (book 3) - I can't remember which - but you said your daughter is already doing that. Chreia & Proverb is a switch toward essay writing. Not sure if that is helpful info for you as you try to figure out where to go from here.

Also, you said you're having her write every day - does that include writing for other subjects as well?

I have her write about history and sometimes other subjects. For example, she's reading a book about science in cooking and made a sourdough starter and I had write about how to create a sourdough starter today. 

On Tuesday, she read about the history of the domestication of dogs and wrote about dogs in ancient Egypt. 

I just bought W&R Chreia today. 

13 minutes ago, hollyhock2 said:

Well, considering that SWB only recommends rewriting outlines in 7th grade and up, and that she has 5th graders doing one-level outlines (I'm assuming you are doing more than that), then I would say she is ahead. I would have no problem camping out where you are for a while and just enjoying it. After a while, she could work on adding more details to the outlines so that each paragraph is fuller/longer, or make the rewrites longer (not sure how many paragraphs you are currently doing). Sounds like she's doing great. 🙂

I thought that TWTM recommended outlining and writing a narrative summary based on the outline at least twice a week in 5th grade? IDK - I always learn something new when I re-read TWTM and realize I misunderstood something before. 

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7 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I have her write about history and sometimes other subjects. For example, she's reading a book about science in cooking and made a sourdough starter and I had write about how to create a sourdough starter today. 

On Tuesday, she read about the history of the domestication of dogs and wrote about dogs in ancient Egypt. 

I just bought W&R Chreia today. 

I thought that TWTM recommended outlining and writing a narrative summary based on the outline at least twice a week in 5th grade? IDK - I always learn something new when I re-read TWTM and realize I misunderstood something before. 

I thought that outlining/ note taking was an upper elementary skill too! But I recently checked and saw that WTM doesnt recommend it until 8th grade. Now I'm confused all over again. 

I have my kid write about history and science but where possible, I try to make it creative. Like, write a letter imagining that you are a certain figure in history. Or write a newspaper article about X event in history. Those are fun for him to write, and fun for me to read. 

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Outlining and narrative summaries are definitely upper elementary skills, but at least in SWB's audio writing lectures, rewriting from the outline doesn't happen until 7th grade. I haven't checked my WTM book, though!

In a way, it doesn't matter. Sometimes it's more about what the child is ready for.

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I know I'm late the to the party, but I'd stick to doing what you're doing, if you're both enjoying it 🙂

On 10/16/2020 at 4:22 PM, Ordinary Shoes said:

I'm torn between thinking that at her age writing daily is the best thing for her versus trying to the next step. 

I'd say that at her age, writing daily is the best thing for her 😉 . That, and discussing what she wrote with you. It sounds like she doesn't struggle with it, so keeping it chill and enjoyable seems like the best thing you can do. 

At the end of the day, the purpose of writing instruction is that she can communicate coherently in writing 😉 . It sounds like you're getting there. 

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