The Lost Tools of Writing

Teaching students to think and to communicate ideas. It's a large goal and a worthy one. It's also the classical way of approaching the skills of rhetoric to focus on the thinking that leads to good writing. Lost Tools of Writing provides a thorough break-down of skills, tools and basic principles to learn and use in the step-by-step process of developing the art of communication. After all, (in their words) "writing on paper, parchment, or a screen is only a record of something that has previously happened in the mind."

Level One sounds like a beginning and that is true perhaps optimally for a 9th grader although a middle schooler with some writing prep would be ready for the course and even an upper level high schooler would profit from the course if their writing instruction had been minimal.

This "beginning" is the basics of constructing persuasive essays and it is also a thorough coverage of all the basic classical tools of writing. Both students and teachers have always understood that there are some universal writing challenges coming up with ideas, putting ideas in order, and expressing ideas appropriately. Classical rhetoric consists of five Canons (principles/laws). The first three of these define the writing process or, in other words, provide solutions to these three universal writing challenges. Within Tools, Invention (ideas), Arrangement (ordering of ideas), and Elocution (expression of ideas) are explained and then incorporated into lesson exercises and assignments.

Aiming at "creative discipline" as well as "disciplined creativity," there are 28 weeks of instruction; three weeks for each of nine essays plus one introductory week. The four-day week has the general expectation that the teacher is meeting with students twice each week with the student completing independent work on two other days. Teacher contributions include concept presentation and development as well as discussion. Instruction is based on teacher/student interaction and support for the teacher is impressive. There are instructional videos for the teacher (available free from the publisher's website for the program's purchasers), lesson plans are thoroughly developed and extensive samples are provided. Additionally, there is a solid orientation to the "tools."

Level Two refines the study of classical Rhetoric by studying the Deliberative Essay and the Judicial Essay. These are more specific, more refined Persuasive Essays. There are eight lessons (essays) in this program and students will continue to work within the framework of the three Canons. Guiding/mentoring by the teacher is continued.

The Teacher Guide for each level is the teacher's companion and foundation. It provides a thorough explanation and introduction to classical writing and to the way it is developed in the Lost Tools. Then follows a proposed Plan of Action, a Year-at-a-Glance Chart, a Lesson Sequence, and (most importantly) the comprehensive Lesson Plans with samples and worksheets. An impressive set of Appendices (How to Edit with checklists, Guide to Assessment with rubric, Essay templates, On Mimetic Teaching (summary of type of teaching used in LTW), FAQs, Glossary, Essential/Recommended Resources, Lesson Summaries, and Sample Essays) complete the Guide.

The Student Workbook provides worksheets for the lesson exercises, essay templates, and Appendices (Self-Edit Checklists, Sample Essays, Glossary, and Lesson Summaries). In other words, the space the student needs to complete the preparatory assignments leading up to the crafting of each Lesson's essay assignment.

The Teacher/Student Set includes the password necessary (found only in the Teacher/Student Set) to access the instructional videos from the publisher's website.

Each student will need his/her own copy of the Student Workbook (not reproducible). The Teacher Guide is a very necessary component to this course. ~ Janice




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