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Opinions of CAP W&R?


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I'm using Fable with boys in 2nd and 4th grade this year.  It's written primarily for classical school classrooms, so we do some tweaking along the way (plus it's aimed at 3rd-5th grade, so my 2nd grader is on the young side).  We don't do the copywork and dictation portions, partly because they're in the teacher guide that I don't own, but mainly because we already do WWE which in my opinion is better at those specific skills. 

We usually split a lesson over three days of the week.  First day I (or perhaps a child) read the story out loud and we orally do the "tell it back" (narration), "talk about it" (comprehension and making connections) and some of the "go deeper" sections.  It takes us less than 20 minutes.  The second day we finish "go deeper" and do the sentence play stuff - there's some gentle grammar in here and a great chance to dwell on how word choice affects the mood of a piece.  If "a dog" stole a bone from a butcher's shop, you don't know much about it; if "a ravening hound" (my son's description!) did the stealing, it probably happened in a rather different way than if a "teacup poodle" did it.  We keep the mood light and they enjoy the oral banter instead of writing the bare minimum they can get away with.  The final day we actually pick up a pencil and they write their own versions following the directions (amplify, summarise, change the animals, etc), with me scribing for the second grader when his hand begins to tire.

Because of the way we're doing it, I could have just purchased a single student book instead of one per kid, though a recent thread here suggested that for some of the later levels you do actually need the teacher book as well.

Both of my boys are academically capable and seem neurotypical, but they have very different strengths and personalities.  One of my boys is a budding writer/artist, very creative, loves to invent stories and has a natural sense of how to tell one.  The other is a budding engineer, loves facts, thrives with WWE summaries but hates creative writing and all his stories have tended to come out as summaries in the past.  I'm finding this works for both of them.  There's enough structure that the engineer knows exactly what to do, and enough freedom that the dreamer can fly.  We plan to go on to Narrative I next semester and Narrative II after that, but I won't do Chreia and Proverb with them (book 4) because it teaches the 5 paragraph essay and I think third grade is far too young and even 5th grade is younger than necessary.  People who've used it for longer than I tend to say that the difficulty level ramps up with Chreia and that at that point it's better to be on the older end of the recommended age than the younger end.

I take the opportunity to synch things with our history cycle wherever possible, so it was handy for me to know that there is a history progression woven through the Writing and Rhetoric books.  Fable and Narrative I come mostly from ancient times, Chreia and Proverb from the middle ages, etc.  It's unlikely to fit anyone's history program perfectly, but if you're on the fence about whether to start this year or next it might make a difference.  There's a scope and sequence here: https://dev.classicalacademicpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/WR-ScopeSequence_2017.pdf

It might also interest you to know that SWB has outlined a condensed progression using the six upper level books with tenth and eleventh graders as part of her Writing With Skill pathways cheat sheet: http://downloads.peacehillpress.com/samples/pdf/WWEandWWSexplanation.pdf

Fable has been a pleasure to use this year.  If you go that road, I hope you love it just as much!

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I just started Fable with my very verbose 3rd grader and so far we love it! The program talks about how we can expand/amplify a sample of writing by adding details and shorten/summarize a sample by taking the details out. That simple concept has been super helpful for my dd to learn to summarize (amplifying has never been difficult for this one lol)

She's a natural writer, so I don't know how a struggling writer would do with it.

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I have mixed feelings about it despite using 1 or more books with three of my four kids so far.  

Oldest DD used the first three books in the series starting at a bit later age than some.  We focused heavily on needed spelling remediation in 3rd grade, then did Treasured Conversations in the first part of 4th grade, then did W&R for the rest of 4th grade and all of 5th grade.  It was a great fit for her at the time - some creativity required while still having good instruction about what to do within those creative assignments.  By the start of 6th grade I was interested in fast-tracking her toward more typical academic writing, so we did a year of WWS, which she did not enjoy at all, and then I enrolled her in a local writing class the following year.

Oldest DS was absolutely "allergic" to the idea of any creativity in writing at 3rd/4th grade age, and just hated the idea of writing about fables, myths, etc.   After TC for him, we went to IEW.  However, in 7th grade after finishing a short essay writing program in the first half of the year, I needed something to fill half a year, so I got the 7th book (Encomium and Vituperation) and he was able to jump in there.  The later books seem to require less "creative writing" as the focus is on various types of essays rather than stories.  It was a fine way to finish the year but he found writing the same format of essay to be a bit boring for an entire semester. 

Middle DS used the first three books in 3rd grade through the first half of 4th grade.  It was a great fit for him at first and he loved the creativity, but his desire to be creative tended to go off the rails and cause it to take waaaay longer than necessary to complete assignments.  There might be a prompt like, "Describe what the man looked like," which would be a precursor to writing an expanded version of a story.  But then this DS would want to spend a long time really thinking hard about what the man would look like, and probably writing way too much unnecessary detail in his description of the man because the prompt did not give a guideline on the maximum allowed amount of description. I decided to try IEW for him after this experience, because I felt like it would keep him a bit more reigned in.  😁

I think the other thing that as a parent/teacher made me less inclined to continue long term with the series is the number of books (starting with the the 4th book) focused on odd writing formats that students rarely encounter in other academic settings, and the fact that an entire book is focused on each of these formats.  I like programs with more variety in styles of writing and types of assignments, generally speaking.

 

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I have used the first three books, starting in 4th and now finishing #3 in 5th. We really like it, but it's good to know a few things about it.

First, there's definitely a very deliberate progression of difficulty. It's an easy gentle start with Fable, which also combines the best of CM techniques like oral (and in later books, written) narration, in addition to the progym idea of imitation. The amount of writing starts small and grows as the child is presumed to be aging into that expectation.

Second, I would call this an excellent curriculum for playing with words, and having fun practicing. There is ample opportunity to read stories and change them, rewrite them, condense and lengthen, etc. This is not like the "check list" approach of IEW, so what you want will depend on how formulaic your child needs it to be.

Third, you don't need to do every single exercise in each book. The goal, which is very transparent, is to practice a specific set of skills, and you can see in the table of contents and scope and sequence what those skills are and what lessons cover them. That way, if you are trying to do W&R along with a grammar program, like we are, you sometimes might need to skip a lesson in order to finish a book in a semester. But if you are careful about checking the TOC and noting your child's progress, it's not a problem. Also, I have heard many people say that Chreia and proverb was not as good - I don't think that should sink the program. We plan to skim that book to understand the skills and then move on. I have really enjoyed the program and don't want to let that apple spoil the bunch.

Fourth, this is not a "submit a book report and get a grade with points given for the following" type program. It's practicing and playing and enjoying writing. I don't feel the need to drastically cut and require harsh edits before high school, unless the child isn't doing the work. But if you start to feel like you need more red pen, you can always do that, as each lesson has a large final writing assignment. Or you could add in a Lantern semester program so someone else can add the red pen. At the 5th-7th level, I want them to practice and learn. I don't want them to start hating it because they hate seeing every small error circled.

Personally I think it's an engaging way to do the progym. I looked at MP's version and thought it spent a lot of time identifying and labeling the parts of the fable, like "the reversal" etc. ..but it seemed to me that this was like turning writing into a vocab exercise. I don't know. This is just one of those personal things - it rubbed me the wrong way. I want my kids to like writing and enjoy it and they generally do with this program, that breaks into bite size pieces that gradually get larger and more complex. 

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My third grader is in Narrative 2. I would consider him a reluctant writer when it's assigned but not a struggling writer. He has ADHD and does great with the routine of the varied output, if that makes any kind of sense.

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15 hours ago, Gobblygook said:

I really like the levels from Fable up to Chreia or Refutation. After that, the source reading material gets so long that my kids were spending more time reading than actually writing. 

What did you change to at that time?

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My girls are nearing the end of book 8 (Comparison). I really like the series overall, and I have seen the girls' writing skills develop as they've been going through it. They have been able to transfer skills to writing in other areas (e.g., history) where they don't use one of the prescribed formats.

However, for these last couple of books (7 & 8), my oldest has not enjoyed writing very much. She dislikes being assigned a topic that she has zero personal interest in, with only the limited amount of info that she's read in the workbook to draw from. She is also unhappy with the specific directions on how to structure the essays. So for her, I am leaning toward stopping the W&R series and giving her writing assignments that I develop myself. 

My middle child is still happy with W&R, and I plan to continue to books 9 & 10 with her next school year. 

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