Writing & Rhetoric Book 2: Narrative 1 Student Edition
Includes 10 lessons utilizing fairy tales, myths, and parables. Skills covered include main idea, dialogue, description, and conflict. Both books are about 140 pgs.
What! Another writing program? It's easy to imagine such a question popping up since we do have a number of excellent writing programs already available. This one is a worthy addition. First of all, it follows the classical model for teaching writing (and rhetoric) skills. What exactly does that mean? It means a program that is, in essence, a step-by-step apprenticeship in the art of writing and rhetoric. It's a program that believes that imitation is the foundation for learning writing and at the same time provides an easy to use framework for starting with models of good writing, building a "conversation in the head" (in other words, content through discussion and writing exercises), and for following the persuasive writing system developed by the ancient Romans. This system - the progymnasmata (progym, for short) - takes the student from simple retelling skills through the more and more complex skills of reporting, narrating, praising, comparison, persuasion, and defense. Modern writing borrows heavily from these skills, but the underlying methodology is distinctly different. Modern writing courses emphasize mastering the writing process and gaining experience with the different forms of writing. Accordingly, they often start with a blank sheet of paper and a brainstorming session. The progym, on the other hand, starts with well-known and excellent writing models (also known as classic literature).
Secondly, this program is user-friendly with virtually no teacher prep needed and the possibility of a minimum of teacher-student interaction (although interaction is always a plus). The publisher is the same one who has given us Latin for Children and Latin Alive! They know how to do user-friendly (and appealing). Even if you had no inkling of the meaning of a classical writing program, this would be an excellent choice. The Student Books provide instruction and examples with plenty of space to write. The Teacher Books have identical pages to the student books but add grey boxes which provide additional info, writing samples, answers and talking points. The two books are designed to be used together, and I think it would be unwise and difficult to try to use one without the other.
The lessons follow a pattern. The teacher reads through the text followed by a subsequent reading by the student (in upper levels, the student reads through the text examples). Narration (Tell It Back), discussion (Talk About It), and comprehension (Go Deeper) are all part of this initial look at the source material. Then starts the writing exercises (Write & Discuss). To give you an example of these, from one lesson in Book 2, copywork, dictation, sentence play, copiousness (using synonyms), and amplification (rewriting). Later in the lesson there is a time for reading/presenting the lesson's written work and separate Speak It exercises. It's suggested that this writing series would alternate with a grammar program (although no recommendations are made).
Each book is a semester's worth of writing instruction, with a total of twelve books planned. In a perfect world, a student would start in 3rd grade and complete the series in 8th grade. If your world isn't quite perfect, this series could be started anytime up to 5th or even 6th grade (in my opinion). Students beginning this program should know how to identify and create a complete sentence. It is possible to enter the program at upper levels but requires careful evaluation of the student's writing experience and the scope of the level. Some familiarity with the Progym series would also be helpful. You may wonder how this series interfaces with Common Core. The publishers note that their program "covers a host of these standards." But they further note that "while these goals are worthwhile, the Progym derive their strength from the incremental and thorough development of each form of writing. The Writing & Rhetoric series does not skip from form to form and leave the others behind, but rather builds a solid foundation of mastery by blending the forms."
Optional audio CDs are also available for each volume, which feature Dr. Christopher Perrin, his wife, Christine Perrin and/or others, reading the fables, myths, historical narratives and other source material used in the books aloud, to either add an auditory dynamic to your lesson or help auditory learners enhance their understanding of the material. Packages are available for most levels. ~ Janice
These materials offer complete coverage of both writing and grammar.
We bought Book 1 and loved it, so we continued with Book 2, then we found out that there are more than two chapters talking about Jesus in Book 2 and citing the Bible as factual. So does Writing and Rhetoric intend to be secular or not?
Now that we are nearing the end of Book 2, I think CAP was wise to limit the book to 10 lessons. Book 2 requires more "original" writing than Book 1: Fable, so my son needed more time to complete each lesson. I would throw the "Typical Teaching Week" out the window (and homeschool moms are generally pretty good at that) and use observation to guide how many days you allot for writing.
Changes from Book 1:
The reading passages (parables and myths) are longer with more advanced vocabulary and proper nouns. It's probably a good idea to read through the passage to determine pronunciations before doing the lesson. I tended to do no preparation with Book 1.
The "Go Deeper" sections are longer, with more questions and even a written component most lessons.
The "Writing Time" changes focus from substitutionary writing to more original writing. In Book 1, the student works on summarizing, expanding, and amplifying. For Book 2, they start with having the student identify the Beginning, Middle, and End of a story. The writing components then have the students amplify with extra description or dialogue, changing the point-of-view, or inserting a new section to the middle or end of the passage. Some lessons have 2 large writing components.
We are in the midst of Lesson 10, the final lesson. My son has been working on it for 2 weeks already. There are 3 stories to amplify, and well...it's just taking a while.
I started using some IEW material for my daughter (1st grade, Bible Heroes) and decided to apply the key-word-outline to this program. I sat with my son, talked through his ideas, helped him structure a KWO to structure the paragraphs, and instructed him to use the KWO to write his paragraphs. This really helped him keep track of his ideas, while also preventing some run on sentence problems.
I still love this program and we will continue using it to inspire imagination in writing. At the same time, I'm not sure that it is totally complete as a writing program. The word play is fantastic, yet the program has weaknesses since it does not teach how to structure writing or writing mechanics.
It would be wise to require some outlining, drafts, and then writing a final copy if you notice your student is taking a really long time completing their paragraphs. While it may seem like you are adding work, I think taking that extra time to help them develop their structure will save them time in the long run.
My son is a late-birthday 3rd grader. If I had to do the program again, I would space out the lessons and teach some structure and mechanics in-between lessons. The program is designed for "one semester". That might be possible for a 4th grader who really loves writing. Because W&R: Narrative I is not a complete Language Arts curriculum, I hesitate to say it is definitely a 1 semester program. I could easily see using this over an entire year, 1 lesson a month while inserting other writing assignments in between.
over 5 years ago