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"During the first few weeks of the preschool, I distilled a general rule about the relationship between problems and solutions"


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The subject line is from "Teaching Needy Kids in Our Backward System," a memoir by Zig Engelmann. I am teaching my own child, not a needy or underresourced one, at home. I might not have expected this book to have a lot of good advice for me, except that Engelmann is also the author of "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" which impressed me a lot a year ago, when I used it with my 5-year-old.

Here's more of the passage:

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During the first few weeks of the preschool, I distilled a general rule about the relationship between problems and solutions; a rule so obvious it's invisible (which is probably why I had never read or heard it), but one that has great power in the design and revision of curricula. If you know exactly the problem children have with something you're trying to teach, and if you express the problem in detail, your statement implies exactly what you need to do to solve the problem.

When I think about math tutoring sessions (just with my kid) that have gone well and that have gone poorly, I think I can see what he's getting at. Engelmann illustrates it with an example that gives an inkling of how "100 Easy Lessons" was formed:

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For instance, if children sound out the written word run but can't say the word, the statement of exactly what they can't do implies the remedy. "Children say the individual sounds correctly and say them in the correct order, but they cannot say the word at a normal speaking rate."

This statement of the problem does not imply a reading task but a language task that does not involve written words, simply the sounds of words. "Listen: rrr uuu nnn. Say it fast ... Listen: mmm aaa t. Say it fast ..."

Using the notion of finding the simplest possible example to start with leads to a sequence of short practice sessions that occur over many lessons, starting with easy words: "Ham burger. Say it fast. ... Elle funt. Say it fast." More difficult words would be those that were presented as sounds: "sssiiit. Say it fast."

Does it have the ring of truth to it, to anyone else?

Edited by UHP
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Sorry, but no, this doesn't match my experience.

First, "preschool" here was loads of read-alouds, lots of outdoor exploration, imaginative play, building toys, playing games, some educational videos and lots of picture books from the library. No formal academics at all. So waiting to introduce formal academics until the child was developmentally ready for it helped avoid a great deal of problems here. 😉 

Once we did start homeschooling more formally, I did have one DS with mild LDs (stealth dyslexia). My approach to problem-solving with him was to spend a lot of time observing and pinpointing exactly what seemed to be the problem for him, and tailor the solution to his need. I spent a lot of time in prayer, in talking with homeschooling parents who had older children who also had learning issues or delays, and also a ton of research.

Sometimes the Lord directly inspired me with how to address the problem.

Sometimes it was something another homeschooling parent shared with me from their experiences that was the key.

And sometimes the solution was from my research.

Also, there were numerous times when it just took TIME for the child's late-blooming brain to develop in certain areas before there was any chance of moving forward from the problem area -- in those cases, the solution was a combination of wisdom, patience, and very gentle persistence. Wisdom to know when it was time to set the problem area aside so that it didn't become "insurmountable" in the child's mind; patience to wait and watch for when the right time to try again, and gentle persistence to try again (often with a new technique or explanation, which took more patience and persistence on my part to go research for those new methods, and to evaluate them in light of my child and his needs).

But, that's just my experience. Thanks for sharing your experience. It's always nice when doing some reading/research to find something that speaks to you where you are, and inspires you for the future. 😄 

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

First, "preschool" here was loads of read-alouds, lots of outdoor exploration, imaginative play, building toys, playing games, some educational videos and lots of picture books from the library. No formal academics at all. So waiting to introduce formal academics until the child was developmentally ready for it helped avoid a great deal of problems here.

Thanks for your thoughtful reaction, Lori. It doesn't deserve a knee-jerk contradiction, but what you write gives me an excuse to quote more of Engelmann, in fact the very next paragraph:

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Even during the first year, the preschool had a lot of visitors and received a fair amount of publicity.

 He is talking about the "Bereiter Engelmann preschool," in 1964 in Urbana IL.

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To people in traditional education, especially early childhood education, the program was judged singularly odious and inhumane, even though it worked well and the children liked it. Near the top of a long list of allegations about our approach was the contention that the early emphasis on academics would damage the children and stunt their development. Another was that the program wasn't consistent with the natural way children learn. The recommendations were that we shouldn't try to instruct the children but use play, manipulatives, and informal situations to pique their curiosity and provide them with opportunities to discover, rather than "forcing" instruction on them.

He goes on to show this point of view a lot of scorn. His writing is very combative and in places resentful. His life story is about fighting for a certain education reforms and losing that fight.

Engelmann got started by running a preschool and his lifetime focus was on "needy kids" and also on "low performers." I got interested in this stuff close to the end of my daughter's time in preschool. I'd like to think of her as above average. But reading past the resentment and looking at his concrete suggestions and insights about how teaching and learning work, they seem to me to very plausibly apply in my very different situation.

2 hours ago, Lori D. said:

My approach to problem-solving with him was to spend a lot of time observing and pinpointing exactly what seemed to be the problem for him, and tailor the solution to his need. I spent a lot of time in prayer, in talking with homeschooling parents who had older children who also had learning issues or delays, and also a ton of research.

I don't discount the prayers or the research. But "lots of time observing, pinpointing problems and tailoring solutions" for one student is very relatable to me, and maybe not too far from Engelmann's advice. "If you state the problem in detail, your statement implies exactly what you need to do solve the problem," though you might be saying that the solutions that worked were sometimes more counterintuitive than that.

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9 hours ago, UHP said:

Does it have the ring of truth to it, to anyone else?

No? I tend not to view learning as a "problem" in need of "solving".  I think approaching teaching like that puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on little kids.  

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5 minutes ago, MissLemon said:

No? I tend not to view learning as a "problem" in need of "solving".  I think approaching teaching like that puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on little kids.  

I might not mind the language of "problems" and "solutions" as much as you do. But I also don't view learning as a problem; instead, teaching is a problem. My 6-year-old didn't understand one of my explanations—now I have a problem of finding a better explanation. She doesn't have any problems at all.

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What he's talking about is the task analysis part of direct instruction. Break down a task into its parts and teach each part directly. This is important to understand especially for children with certain disabilities. If you're going to teach something directly (eg phonics), it's important to really know what the child can and can't do.

However, there is a downside to always relying on direct instruction. It means that there's stuff you miss out on, a richness that gets lost, because you only teach what's been preplanned. I think a mix of direct instruction (eg phonics) and open-ended learning is really important. When your child asks, 'why does the puddle make a circle when I throw a rock in it?', it's better to answer 'let's find out!' and explore different size rocks and puddles and so on, rather than give a direct answer which shuts down further thought, side explorations, and interest.

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I think it's a balance.  When I volunteer, figuring out exactly what the students don't understand allows me to tutor more effectively.  Once I learned to recognize a particular subtraction error as 'Students have been taught to subtract the small number from the big number, so they don't regroup and instead invert the problem' then I could help them think through exactly what they were supposed to be doing.  I also think that expecting kids to naturally develop an interest in academics, particularly underserved kids, may be asking a bit much.  I read an interesting article that posited that kids figure out what is interesting by seeing what the adults in their life do - at our house we read and prep food from scratch, for instance, so my kids are more likely to think that's things are worth learning.  The article argued that some kids need to be 'taught harder' because the idea of showing initiative to explore something unknown and figure it out isn't something that they see modeled.  Meanwhile, other kids have been taught to pick up something and ask 'What is this?' or try to figure it out themselves.  

I also don't think early academics is a problem if done in small doses and the kids remain unfrustrated.  Some kids are going to struggle to learn something that they easily grasp later, and it takes a lot of discernment to figure out when 5 minutes of struggle will yield great results and when it will lead to a kid deciding that they are bad at something so it's not worth working at.    I'm not sure that it's particularly beneficial for many kids, although if you can teach reading competently and know the kids are about to get dumped into a school where they are unlikely to be taught reasonably, it's probably worth the frustration.  It's not mentioned in the excerpts that you posted, but part of my thinking is that the underserved kids that I worked with were missing so much general knowledge that they needed exposure to things that could be done through more informal instruction.  They don't have placemats with maps of the US and world and their parents don't explain why so much Asian food involves rice while most European food involved wheat and they don't know the various musical instruments or the animals at the zoo...and when taken on field trips to see some of this they haven't been taught appropriate behaviors for different settings, which is another type of non-academic instruction that needs to happen.

I think that kids learn a lot through play, although not necessarily academics.  My issue with doing lots of early academics (as opposed to 15-30 minutes a day) is that kids only have so much bandwith.  I've seen little kids regress at one skill while they try to move forward on another, which is fine.  But, it's not worth sacrificing a lot of social interaction or gross motor skills time to spend it all on academics.  I also struggle somewhat with the way that we always seem to feel like kids need to be doing the next level's work to prepare them for the next level.  I think it's important to give advanced kids access to materials and instruction that actually let them learn something.  But, we seem to drift towards learning to read in preschool so they're ready for...learning to read in K, then learning to write sentences in K so they're ready to write sentences in 1, and it continues until everybody needs to take college classes in high school so that they're ready for college.  This is said as somebody who has advanced kids and has volunteered with public school kids - there's a difference between targeting materials that are the right level and pushing kids through material that they aren't ready for.  

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22 hours ago, UHP said:

If you know exactly the problem children have with something you're trying to teach, and if you express the problem in detail, your statement implies exactly what you need to do to solve the problem.

I do agree with this though I probably wouldn't phrase it exactly this way.  

I find that it's important to pinpoint the problem.  Many times what looks to be a problem with one thing is actually a problem with something entirely different.

ETA:  I'm talking about in general, not in relation to early academics.

Edited by EKS
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@bookbard I'm glad you mentioned "task analysis," it's new ed jargon to me and rewarding to search on.

3 hours ago, Clemsondana said:

It's not mentioned in the excerpts that you posted, but part of my thinking is that the underserved kids that I worked with were missing so much general knowledge that they needed exposure to things that could be done through more informal instruction. 

I know what you mean by this. One of the themes of the book is his opinion (to me, with compelling evidence) that he knows how to teach such kids reading and arithmetic in preschool. He feels a moral urgency to implement it, like Ignaz Semmelweis felt to stop childbed fever.

But in some absolute sense your description of underserved kids as "missing a lot of general knowledge" applies to everyone. Advanced kids and grownups are missing a lot of general knowledge. Maybe some of the same techniques can be used to teach kids who are behind and kids who are ahead.

11 hours ago, bookbard said:

However, there is a downside to always relying on direct instruction. It means that there's stuff you miss out on, a richness that gets lost, because you only teach what's been preplanned. I think a mix of direct instruction (eg phonics) and open-ended learning is really important.  When your child asks, 'why does the puddle make a circle when I throw a rock in it?', it's better to answer 'let's find out!' and explore different size rocks and puddles and so on, rather than give a direct answer which shuts down further thought, side explorations, and interest.

I look for moments like this and try my best to improvise when the opportunity is there. But I don't think of them as part of instruction or education at all, they are just an aspect of our relationship. If she told me (or showed me) that she is not in the mood to experiment with waves, the last thing I'd want to do is tell her to sit up straight and pay attention because this is part of school.

I don't think that's what you're suggesting, but I do actually have a budget for that kind of hectoring. Maybe 90 minutes worth of attention and enthusiasm I can expect from her each day in structured "lessons" — up from 20 minutes one year ago, maybe it will go down again when she's 13. But I think a lot about how she can get the most out of those 90 minutes.

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@UHP

It does have a ring of truth to it for me. Many times, an adult can struggle to communicate to children what they need to do. It seems so simple. We tell kids "add these numbers" or "read this word" without always explicitly explaining what adding is or how to do it or how to read a word.
By the time we are adults some "preliminary" skills are fundamental and deeply understood by the teacher/adult almost on a subconcious level, it is so blatantly obvious that we can blind to how many "sub-skills" are required to intelligently add some numbers or read a word.

But if you say "integrate this function over this region" people are more easily able to appreciate that there are a lot of sub-skills required to correctly calculate that integral.

Direct Instruction programs have been a huge help for my family. Two of the main benefits are that they are wonderful teacher-training tools as well as lesson plans. I find it easier to add on to or to extend the exercises in a DI program than to try and make up a quality program myself, because I often over- or under-estimate what kind of support a kid will need to complete the sub-tasks and tasks correctly and to learn the intended skill from them. The lessons in the DI programs we've used are so well scaffolded and the individual tasks are so well thought-out.

There is no "busy-work" in the programs that we've looked at. Every assignment--whether oral or written is leading to something specific. It's easy to accelerate the DI programs in a homeschool situation because 1-1 the lessons go quick--around 20 minutes instead of an hour for a class.

Like you, we were also impressed by the teacher manual pages of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, though we didn't use the book itself, we applied the same techniques to a more comprehensive phonics scope and sequence with superb results! So far all of the kids have learned to read well and it's taken anywhere from 6-14 months. The lessons are fast-paced, carefully sequenced and they've enjoyed it immensely.

While, we're perfectly comfortable teaching mathematics, we really needed lots of guidance for the language arts because we want the kids to have strong language skills. I just wasn't jazzed about the ELA stuff and we were desperate that the kids learn to excel at and love language things.

We had considered using the Reading/Language Arts program put out by the author but decided against it due to cost. However, we do use Reasoning and Writing (an actual DI program) for a combo of logic and composition and have been very happy with it! Where other programs give you lots of theory and a few assignments, DI programs give you lots of assignments and you live the theory through executing the lessons.

We are a household where both parents work outside of the home. The scripted nature of the DI programs ensure that we're able to confidently deliver the same caliber of teaching no matter who is teaching the lesson at that time. It allows Hubby and I to know precisely what the kids are learning/expected to know and what steps to take to get them there. The kids love the DI programs--they feel like games. They succeed at them and they always want to "do the next lesson"--which is good. You want the kids to want more. Stop before they're bored or overwhelmed and end on a high-note.

For the commercial DI programs, the Teachers Guides, while optional, are helpful in that they show the breakdown of each skill and where it's taught and how often. If a kid is really enjoying a particular exercises, or if they need more of a particular exercise, we're able to tell when to begin supplementing it easily. We can make more activities that mirror what the kids like or need.

As the teacher, I can apply what I've learned from teaching the DI programs to anything. I find that if I teach the program faithfully a few times, then I am empowered to teach without it later.

You can apply the DI principles to other subjects as well, because it's just the principles that enable you to teach something so that the learner can master them.

@bookbard I disagree that with DI you can only teach what's pre-planned. For the most part, DI is typically used on teaching skills and facts--ie, foundational/fundamental information and skills. However, you can apply the exact same principles to learning and mastering content in science and social studies as well. In my experience, using DI (the principles or a published program) doesn't prevent you from exploring an answer to a students question. That's an extreme version of making the curriculum the master.

If kids want to know why throwing a rock into a puddle makes rings, you can absolutely say "let's find out." if you want to. Using DI doesn't prevent you from not using it in basic life situations.

OP, I may have to read that book myself.

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2 hours ago, mathmarm said:

I disagree that with DI you can only teach what's pre-planned.

Hmm, I don't know if we're thinking the same thing here. What I mean is this - when you use direct instruction, you, the teacher, has decided on a pre-planned objective and the goal is to meet that objective. Which is fine, except there may be other, just as good objectives which never get met. This can lead to a very narrow curriculum - if your entire curriculum is DI, which isn't the case for the OP, but can be the case for some schools, who teach in a call and response fashion and have very specific and narrow outcomes.

The complete opposite - where you have no objectives and don't teach directly - isn't going to be ideal either unless you're an unschooler, who believes that when you're ready to learn something, you'll learn it (and even then, isn't that the objective that perhaps doesn't get met? I struggle with unschooling or child-led learning where there actually are expected objectives, even if they're unconscious, because I feel it isn't fair to the child. There's a school I know like that - they're not explicit about what they expect until the session is finished - that, to me, is almost cheating). 

I was trained in applied behaviour analysis, explicit teaching, direct instruction. I think they're great tools for the teacher to understand and to be able to draw upon, but there are good reasons why there's been a resurgence in inquiry based methods. One of the obvious reasons is increased interest and ownership of learning by the child. And another is the potential for richness, for depth, when a child embraces a topic and makes it their own. 

I used to teach teens with intellectual disabilities, and used DI to teach phonics so they could read. But I also gave them the opportunity to write poetry and choose their own interest projects and I found by allowing them to spend time on these topics (other teachers - what's the point of these kids learning about volcanos?) they developed intellectual flexibility and deep lifelong interests which were just as valuable as learning to calculate change from $10. 

 

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3 hours ago, mathmarm said:

We had considered using the Reading/Language Arts program put out by the author but decided against it due to cost. However, we do use Reasoning and Writing (an actual DI program) for a combo of logic and composition and have been very happy with it! Where other programs give you lots of theory and a few assignments, DI programs give you lots of assignments and you live the theory through executing the lessons.

I'm very curious about this! A year ago I browsed some of the math programs advertised on the "NIFDI" website — just what comes up when you search the web trying to find out about the authors of "100 easy lessons." But they were available from only one publisher, very expensive (maybe priced for schools making bulk orders?), and I thought I they would disappoint me by being too hard to adapt to a one-on-one situation. But it sounds like that's what you've done for writing? What is it like?

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8 hours ago, UHP said:

I'm very curious about this! A year ago I browsed some of the math programs advertised on the "NIFDI" website — just what comes up when you search the web trying to find out about the authors of "100 easy lessons." But they were available from only one publisher, very expensive (maybe priced for schools making bulk orders?), and I thought I they would disappoint me by being too hard to adapt to a one-on-one situation. But it sounds like that's what you've done for writing? What is it like?

We purchased the older editions 2nd hand online. We have RaW C-F, and have 1 child who has completed C and D. I have a child working in Level C currently.

Keep in mind that I'm not well versed in a lot of home school curriculum, but some things that really impressed me are that the students are systematically taught to check their work. The writing tasks often have checks written and after the students write, they go through the list of "Checks" to determine if they've done all the essentials.

In level C, there is a textbook and workbook for the student. All other levels have only a textbook.

Level C focuses on narrative writing primarily and has 110 lessons, every 10th lesson there is a test. So Lessons 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, ..., 100 and 110 has a test included.

Level C starts with having students supply the subject to sentences based on pictures.
Copying sentences, or writing sentences based on picture prompts. I honestly felt that it was too easy at first, but Hubby and I'd decided to give the program a chance and I'm glad that we did. My kids really like the picture based exercises.

For most of the writing tasks you're given a series of pictures with a list of vocabulary words and a task (ie Write a sentence that reports on the main thing each person did). Level C starts off

  • teaching the students to discern what information is given vs implied in various illustrations,
  • Students complete or copy sentences about the pictures
  • teaching students about subjects and predicates (but without the jargon of "subject" and "predicate")
  • giving pictures and having students identify the sentence which describes the scene the most (the main thing the person did)
  • teaching you to write in the past-tense (but without the jargon of "past-tense")

Starting in lesson 9, RAW-C has students compose sentences based on pictures and check their work. There are 3 criteria:

1) Does each sentence began with a capital and end with a period?
2) Does each sentence tell the main thing the person did? (You've practiced this in lessons 1-8, and the illustrations make it clear)
3) Did you spell the vocabulary words correctly?

You complete this same exercise for next several lessons.

In Lesson 15, students copy a short paragraph and check their work. There are 3 criteria:

1) Does each sentence began with a capital and end with a period?
2) Did you indent the first line?
3) Did you start all the other lines at the margin?

Students are taught that paragraphs are groups of sentences that tell about the same topic. The first sentence is indented and all other sentences start right at the margin. For the next few lessons, students are composing original sentences based on pictures and copying paragraphs.

Now, I will admit that the sentences and paragraphs are straight-forward. At first they seemed under-whelming but the exercises are where the "meat" is at. We also used the Spelling by Sound and Structure Rod and Staff series--the word lists weren't the most challenging, because the exercises themselves were the main teaching tool. the Reasoning and Writing level C is similar.

In Lesson 19, students are given an illustration, a set of vocabulary, a topic sentence and told to complete the paragraph by writing 3 additional sentences and check their work. There are 2 criteria:

1) Does each sentence begin with a capital and end with a period?
2) Does each sentence tell the main thing the person did?

Since the students focus is now on copying/completing a paragraph, the spelling expectation is secondary, but I still require that they spell each vocabulary word correctly.

The book keeps moving like that. In Lesson 21 kids have to write a sentence for a group of people. They begin learning to write paragraphs by introducing the group of people, then giving more detail about each person.

In Lesson 23: they're assigned a paragraph to write but they aren't given any written checks--the checks are in the Presentation Book that the teacher is holding. However, Jr. knew exactly what to look for because he'd been trained to check his work for several lessons.

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435877349_RaW-CL25.thumb.jpg.6265aa316fc04e285c0eb3732a322efa.jpg

A trio of janitors cleaned an empty classroom. Pam thoroughly cleaned the chalkboard with some cloths. Ben stacked the chairs on the desks neatly. Joe swept all the trash to the front of the room with his big push broom. The whole classroom looked spic and span!

 

In Lesson 25, students are introduced to the grammatical terms: Subject and Predicate though they have been using them in their writing exercises  since lesson 1.

As the lessons progress, students learn to punctuate dialogue, rules of capitalization, how to write good description, how to vary the order of sentences. "Tom ate breakfast after his morning run." vs "After his morning run, Tom ate breakfast."

In story telling, they learn to set a scene by describing where characters are and what they're doing, set up a problem and resolve it. The final story is in lesson 99. They write a story based off of a single picture and they have 5 checks.

We really like that applied grammar is integrated into the writing program and that the students are systematically taught to check their work. What I've experienced is that it prevents that situation where kids learn grammar in the abstract but don't apply it to their writing. The writing instruction is  very systematic, but that works really well for our family. Jr. loved the narrative writing so he actually asked for more picture-based writing prompts.

Around Lesson 50, you begin inferring what happened in the pictures and writing about it. Jr. struggled at first but then he "got it" and he loved the inference exercises throughout the program. The exercises are based on a series of 2-4 pictures.

For example: this is final exercise in lesson 89.

1557017873_RaW-CL89.jpg.a35b3c866ab6770af72d4c64b94d2818.jpg

Students would write a multi-paragraph narrative to tell the picture and check their work. There are 3 criteria for this exercise

1) Does each paragraph have no more than one person talking?
2) Does your first paragraph tell where the characters were and what they were doing?
3) Do the rest of your paragraphs give a clear picture of what the characters said and did?

Each lesson has multiple parts. Students are editing paragraphs in their workbook before

You also have students write the end of stories that you read to them based on a images in their textbook. The whole system is just really well thought out and put together in my opinion. 

The scaffolding is genius--I'd never seen a writing book quite like this and neither had Hubby. I haven't used the A and B levels so I can't recommend them, but we've had good experiences with Level C.

Of course, I'm not a curriculum expert. There might be programs of a similar caliber or quality out there somewhere but I don't know about them.

Additionally, the last 10 lessons of the program focus on general writing skills, not so much on narrative writing. By the end of Level C, students write passages about a specified topic, write declarative sentences based off of a question and answer, they revise their work, write letters (friendly letters and complaint letters)

By the end of lesson 110, students have mastered how to correctly use various bits of grammar. They routinely apply the grammar correctly in their writing! They write passages with dialogue and include dialogue in their stories correctly. They can correctly use nouns, pronouns, verbs and adjectives (more if you layer in the additional teaching!) as well as identify them by name.

The Reasoning and Writing books are well-constructed and so it's easy to add things in if you and your kids want. My kids often want more and so we're able to have the best of both worlds. We get the foundation placed in a systematic and highly intelligent way, my kids learn and master the basics and we can go beyond that as we want.

We teach additional sentence patterns, all 8 parts of speech, and do additional creative writing prompts. But honestly, I think that the reason Hubby and I are able to do expand successfully is because we have RaW guiding us very concretely. If we drop all supplementation, we have a robust rigorous program still.

 

Edited by mathmarm
Inserting the other picture.
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@mathmarm I want to emphasize that this comments in this post are entirely tongue in cheek, but I couldn't help pointing out I was a bit alarmed at the idea of children running toward a burning building to save a dog.  It's only after the dog has been rescued that someone decides the fire department should be called.  

I'm a dog lover.  I believe dogs should be saved from burning buildings.  But it's a tricky question when saving involves children standing on each other's  shoulders and leaning in to an alarming cloud of potentially toxic fumes.

Also, shopping bag lady seems remarkably mellow standing so close to a burning building.  I think my inferential paragraph would be quite different from what was expected.  

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Looking again at the illustration I notice one of the key words is "groceries."  I'm wondering if groceries is the most significant word one can use in this situation.  I might replace "groceries" with "dog" or "lung damage" or "organic kale."   

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4 hours ago, mathmarm said:

We purchased the older editions 2nd hand online. We have RaW C-F, and have 1 child who has completed C and D. I have a child working in Level C currently.

It's very appealing. Thanks for all these details.

Looking around on amazon, maybe not where you got old editions, I remember how confused I was shopping for the DI math stuff last year. Can you give me a little guidance? There are (at least?) three things called "reasoning and writing C." I see a "textbook," a "workbook," and a "presentation book." What should I purchase if I want to give what you're doing a try?

For a couple of months I've been using this website's "Writing With Ease," which I'm not unhappy with but still has me unsettled.

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1 hour ago, UHP said:

It's very appealing. Thanks for all these details.

Looking around on amazon, maybe not where you got old editions, I remember how confused I was shopping for the DI math stuff last year. Can you give me a little guidance? There are (at least?) three things called "reasoning and writing C." I see a "textbook," a "workbook," and a "presentation book." What should I purchase if I want to give what you're doing a try?

For a couple of months I've been using this website's "Writing With Ease," which I'm not unhappy with but still has me unsettled.

Presentation Book is 100% essential. It's the teachers script for the lessons and instructions.
If you can't find the PB, you can't really make use of the C level of RaW.

I would find the presentation book first, then get the textbook and workbook to match the PB.

The components that we use to do RaW Level C (1991 edition) at home are:
(ISBN:: 0-574-15721-2) - Presentation Book
(ISBN:: 0-574-15725-5) - Textbook
(ISBN:: 0-574-15723-9) - Workbook

You can do without the Teachers Guide and Answer Key at this level. You have to kind of watch for the books. I hunted around eBay, Amazon, Abebooks and other used book stores and sites for these.

The 2001 edition has something called Writing Extensions. I don't know what that component is but we haven't suffered without it.

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2 hours ago, daijobu said:

@mathmarm I want to emphasize that this comments in this post are entirely tongue in cheek, but I couldn't help pointing out I was a bit alarmed at the idea of children running toward a burning building to save a dog.  It's only after the dog has been rescued that someone decides the fire department should be called.  

I'm a dog lover.  I believe dogs should be saved from burning buildings.  But it's a tricky question when saving involves children standing on each other's  shoulders and leaning in to an alarming cloud of potentially toxic fumes.

Also, shopping bag lady seems remarkably mellow standing so close to a burning building.  I think my inferential paragraph would be quite different from what was expected.  

Yes, it's definitely a fiction story that they're telling.
On top of being a well-designed writing exercise, it provides a teachable moment for any child who doesn't know better. Plus some modern history because my child didn't know what a payphone was so that was a fun discussion as well. This program was published back in 1991.

Jr. noted that Maria never once put down her bookbag.

The illustrations serve as a sort of visual rubric. Children know where to begin writing and what scene to leave off at. They are instructed to write what happened in the pictures, but not after. Their story would stop at the illustrations. For enrichment, we'd sometimes come up with an extra picture or two for the kids to write off of.

2 hours ago, daijobu said:

Looking again at the illustration I notice one of the key words is "groceries."  I'm wondering if groceries is the most significant word one can use in this situation.  I might replace "groceries" with "dog" or "lung damage" or "organic kale."   

As for "groceries"

The children would've already mentioned the dog from frames 1 and 2, they've been well trained to describe the scene and include what the characters are talking about. So "dog" is a given by this point in the program.

"lung damage" can be included so long as you weave it in logically.
If you want to say something like "The children were so worried about the helpless little dog in the window that they didn't think twice about the danger of burns or lung-damage. Ann and Mario raced toward the house to save the dog without a thought of pain or injury." you most certainly could. Most 2nd graders wouldn't but some of them certainly would.

 

This program teaches children to introduce characters and tell the main thing that they are doing. So, in this example children are expected to write  something along the lines of:

Mrs. Wilson carried some groceries and rushed over to the children. She said, "You saved King!"

Or

Mrs. Wilson came over to the children with her arms full of groceries. "You saved King!" she said with a note of wonder in her voice.

Or

Mrs. Wilson, her arms full of groceries, stared in amazement at the kids. "You saved King!" she cried happily.

By lesson 89 the children have practiced determining what information is given in a picture and what information is not given in a picture so in the bounds of this program it wouldn't make sense to say something like "organic kale" because

1) it isn't relevant to the story (children are taught to write about important things that must've happened.)
2) there isn't anything in the picture that lets you know she bought organic kale.

 

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2 hours ago, mathmarm said:

Yes, it's definitely a fiction story that they're telling.
On top of being a well-designed writing exercise, it provides a teachable moment for any child who doesn't know better. Plus some modern history because my child didn't know what a payphone was so that was a fun discussion as well. This program was published back in 1991.

Jr. noted that Maria never once put down her bookbag.

Okay, you have convinced me.  I think these exercises are adorable and fun.  My kids are much older, but I wish I had used this with them.  

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It's been true in my experience. I always wished that Zig & Co would've published more DI @ Home type stuff. If you want a good DI program, you have to buy a program designed for the school system outside of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons which is a really wonderfully designed program but it's not enough.
 

On 6/19/2021 at 4:01 PM, mathmarm said:

You can do without the Teachers Guide and Answer Key at this level. You have to kind of watch for the books. I hunted around eBay, Amazon, Abebooks and other used book stores and sites for these.

The 2001 edition has something called Writing Extensions. I don't know what that component is but we haven't suffered without it.

Just an FYI:
The editions aren't interchangeable for the writing programs. If you have a 1991 writing book, it won't work seamlessly with the 2001 edition and vice versa.

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