Writers in Residence
"A treasured record of your child(ren)s intellectual growth. The stories, essays, and reports your children create as they grow will become archives of their childhood. Have you ever thought of composition assignments that way?" I hadn't, but Debra Bell, author of Apologia's new writing program, Writers in Residence, considers this the underlying benefit of a well-structured, comprehensive writing program. She has provided a user-friendly, attractive, writing-based language arts program that you will be eager to incorporate into the memory-fabric of your homeschool.
I don't think I had ever thought of my children's compositions as anything other than something to get done: something to cover because it was important to have good writing/communication skills. My children were blessed with dedicated writing teachers at co-ops, but there was still a hit-and-miss aspect to their writing skill development. A program like this one makes me want a "do-over." I'm realizing now that writing is something more than just checking off requirements: at each step of the way, writing is a glimpse into my child's heart, mind, and soul.
Writers in Residence (such a great name!) is a multi-volume writing-based language arts program. Providing a traditional approach to writing (i.e. writing process, forms of writing, traits of good writing) and integrated language arts in truly homeschool-friendly packaging, this program is well-structured and organized, with progressive, systematic, and thorough instruction. Written directly to the student (parent's role is mentor and audience), assignments are easy to follow and interesting. Grammar is covered systematically and thoroughly, integrated carefully with writing expectations. The appearance is colorful and attractive although I will admit to not being a big fan of the HUGE (over a ream of paper) spiral-bound format. [I would be tempted to have the spiral cut off and each of the six units re-bound into smaller spiral-bound segments.]
The course is divided into Units, each of which have, at its heart, a writing project. The four modules in each unit break that writing project down into manageable chunks incorporating illustrative and skill-building exercises along with correlating grammar instruction (sentence structure, parts of speech, usage, and mechanics). The modules weave writing process instruction and practice (planning, drafting, revising, editing, and polishing) with traits of good writing instruction and practice (ideas, organization, sentence structure, word choice, voice, and conventions) while the assignments provide experience with different forms of writing. Student and professional examples are plentiful. Systematic review is included throughout. Interspersed between the Units are biographical/interview segments, Spotlight on Christian Writers, that focus on defining aspects of his or her writer's craft.
The heart of this program is the Student Text, a colorful, consumable worktext. Everything is here except the answers which are helpfully provided in the Answer Key. Students can work somewhat independently but need parents as an audience, for feedback, and to respond as an interested reader. Lots of questions that can be used for discussion are included. Writing tasks (I Remember, I Imagine, I Investigate, and I think, help keep writing authentic and purposeful. The instruction recognizes that while risk-taking and experimentation are required, at the same time much of writing is cyclical, repetitious, maddening, and sometimes inspired.
Each volume will typically be completed in a year (32 weeks with at least 3 days per week) but can be spread over a year and a half. To start as an Apprentice with Volume 1, a student should be reading chapter books independently and expect instruction in introductory writing (usually 4th - 6th grade but this volume could be used with older students who have not yet had comprehensive writing experience and practice).
Modules break the assignments down into manageable chunks. To give you an idea, here is the progression from Volume 1, Module 15, the third module in the opinion essay assignment: Rubric (checklist), Writers Questions (get your brain working), Sneak Peak (overview of module), Review Your Progress, Language of the Trade, Modify with Adverbs, A Handy-Dandy List of Adverbs, Work Those Adverbs, Connect with Adverbs, What's Your Style, More than one part of Speech, Mastery Test, Word Sleuth (identifying words for spelling practice), and Re-visit: Writers Questions. Obviously, the grammar target of this module is adverbs and integrating them with the writing project.
The Student Text is consumable and is meant to show the personal progression toward the goal of finished writing assignments that will ultimately find a place in the student's Writing Portfolio. This portfolio is a record of writing progress and gives your child a sense of accomplishment. You can and should share this keepsake with others. The Appendices in the Student Text are plentiful. An Apprentice Log includes module checklists, rubrics, a unit review and follow-up reports. Also included are Reviewer's Rubrics featuring the Traits of Writing, a Memory Chart, and Follow-Up Reports.
The Answer Key and Teaching Notes provides answers to those exercises and questions that have an appropriately objective response (including reviews). This means there are answers when one correct answer is required and also where a set range of answers is acceptable. The Answer Key does not provide suggested answers for open-ended or creative writing assignments. In other instances, the student is given examples and samples to help gauge appropriate responses. Also included with the Answer Key are suggested daily schedules 32 weeks/four days a week. Other information, helpfully provided for the parent/mentor in the Answer Key, is also available to the student in the Student Text. There are grading rubrics for each writing project as well as checklists for each module. By the way, the author does not recommend that parent/mentors provide letter grades. She feels that evaluating strengths and weaknesses of each piece is more helpful.
It is exciting to have this new program available. Readers in Residence, a companion literature program, has shared elements with the Writers program. Student Text 576 pg, spiral-bound; Answer Key 144 pg, pb ~ Janice