Thursday, November 11, 2010

Review: The Write Foundation

Writing can be very subjective. Furthermore, teaching writing can bring tears to eyes, of both teachers and students. While some kids seem to just have a knack for writing, others sit blankly at the paper completely lost. My two children are polar opposites when it comes to writing.  It has made me realize what a difference a writing program can make.  In my early homeschooling years, I didn't really teach writing.   I just told my daughter that writing is like talking on paper.  And she talked a lot.  It all came quite naturally and we just refined the process through practice.  My youngest is completely different.  Writing seems one of the most unnatural things to him.  He needs to be specifically taught.

The Write Foundation is designed with kids like my son in mind.  It is a very systematic approach to writing and focuses on learning through repetition.
The Write Foundation begins with the writing process, how a student formulates a topic, then a thesis, then supporting points, and by incremental teaching drills in the basics. In most grammatical subjects, we have found that failure is almost totally because the basics have not been learned 
The Write Foundation writing curriculum is a result of 8 years of successfully teaching homeschooled students in a one-day-per-week co-op setting. It has been adapted for a homeschool and used by numerous homeschooling parents to give their own children the tools of how to quickly organize and write an  essay with excellence.
 Three program levels, targeting ages 11 - 17, are available from The Write Foundation.. Level 1: Sentence to Paragraph, for ages 11-13, starts with basic sentence structure and progresses to a two-paragraph paper.  Level 2: Paragraph Writing, ages 12-15, begins with the structure of a basic paragraph to moves to four-paragraph papers, concluding with an introduction to the five-paragraph formal essay. Level 3: Essay Writing, ages 14-17, covers a rewrite of a three-paragraph parable through composing a five-paragraph essay in 30 minutes.

The Write Foundation curriculum was initially written with a classroom setting in mind, though it is very adaptable to individuals.  While it takes a bit to figure out the format of the lessons, it is pretty much a "grab-it-and-go" curriculum after an initial time investment.  An  introduction, taken directly from the curriculum package, is available for viewing on the website.  There are also sample lessons provided for each level.

I initially had trouble deciding what level to review, which required a call Rebecca Celsor, the program developer, to discuss my options.  Ms. Celsor seems to understand students like my son and together we determined that my reluctant writer wasn't quite ready to start Level 1. We then refocused on the needs of my 13-year-old daughter, a prolific writer.  To my surprise, Ms. Celsor also seems to understand gifted writers and the final recommendation was the Level 3 Essay Writing.  In my experiences, I've found that writing teachers focus on one end of  writing ability or the other. It was refreshing to be able to discuss the needs of both of my children and be understood clearly.

Each level is available in three packages.  Package 1 includes materials for Lessons 1-30.  If you intend to go through the program slower or only want to purchase one semester at a time, a Package 2, Lessons 1-15, or Package 3, Lessons 16-30, are also available.  I received Curriculum Package 2: Essay Lessons 1-15, in addition to a digital version Essay Additional Resources CD for review.

It took me a little while to figure out the structure of the program.  Because it is written for the classroom, there are references to Teacher Presentations (TP), instructions, and student worksheets (WS) in the introduction.  After some time, I ultimately realized that the worksheets of the students are largely meant to follow along in a fill-in-the-blank fashion during the instruction.  The Teacher Presentation (TP), located on the CD resource, cover the same material as the instructions in the manual and are simply additional resource for a classroom environment.

The lessons are designed to be taught only once a week for 1-2 hours, depending on level and individual lesson, with the rest of the work completed each day for the remaining of the week.  While this is ideal for a co-op, it did require some modifying for individual use.  Fortunately, this is very simple since the lesson is broken down into separate components.

The curriculum reminds me of another popular curriculum in that seems to take a formulaic approach to writing with a highly structured approach, along with a Checklist, and a No List to be used by the student.  Several times the curriculum instructs to not skip steps, as each one has a purpose, even if that purpose isn't immediately apparent.

Some of my personal pros of The Write Foundation:
  • After an initial time investment, the lessons are easy to follow and deliver.
  • The lessons have variety and regularly include more creative assignments, such as poetry and MindBender® exercises.
  • Expectations/assignments are clearly laid out.
  • Tools are provided for students to check/edit their own work.
  • Tools are provide to the parent to properly grade student work.
  • The focus is on organization and structure.
  • Friendly and knowledgeable customer service.
Some of my personal cons of The Write Foundation:
  • The use of fill-in-blank worksheets to be used during instruction  is too schooly for our family.
  • While a pro in some aspects, the formula approach may feel stifling to creative or advanced writers.
  • Initial difficulty in figuring out the program is frustrating.
  • I would have preferred to have the information on the Additional Resource CD, which I found useful, to be included within the Instruction Manual.
  • While quite adaptable, the program is written for a co-op situation. (Note: This would be a definite pro if you are teaching a co-op class!)
 If you are a real grammar and mechanics stickler, you may be turned off by some of the minor errors in the introduction and instructions. At first, it made me raise an eyebrow. However, since the focus is more on structure rather than the nitty-gritty, I ultimately decided that it didn't detract from the essence of the program.  The program is designed to give reluctant writers the tools for writing and to take a subject that is often subjective and present it a systematic way. It certainly accomplishes this.

As I mentioned, my daughter is not a reluctant writer.  While this sort of program would be very effective for my son if he were at this level, I was curious how it might work for my daughter?  Unfortunately, I haven't been able to use it long enough with my daughter to determine the effectiveness.  Since she has already done some essay courses and routinely writes essays for other subjects, much of in the Level 3: Essay Writing is review for her.  However, one thing my daughter does need practice on is thinking through the structure of her essays. As natural as writing is for her, writing an outline and truly thinking about the structure of her essay, beyond an opening, three supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion, could use some practice. Looking ahead into the future lessons, I can see how the tools provided will help refine a strong writer's work. I am particularly interested in the direction of the second half of this program, with the student ultimately practicing writing an essay in 30 minutes. I see lots of promise with The Write Foundation, for both reluctant and strong writers.

Each complete level of The Write Foundation is available for $100.  The complete package includes the Instruction Manual for Lessons 1-30, a complete set of Student Worksheets and the Additional Resources CD. Alternatively, a package including the materials for either Lessons 1-15 or 16-30 may be purchased for $65.  For more information, visit The Write Foundation website.

Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result in my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew. I was provided the product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I have received no other compensation.

I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.

1 comment:

Denise said...

Really great review, Heidi! You explained so well and included all the necessary information.