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Teaching the Story: Fiction Writing in Middle School Review by Susan K. Marlow

By Carol Baldwin
Maupin House Publishing, Inc.
2416 NW 71 Place
Gainsville, FL 32653

Learning to write well is essential. Homeschool parents are always looking for aids in teaching this most important subject. Teaching the Story: Fiction Writing in Middle School is a 138-page curriculum that engages middle-school-age students in the art of fiction writing. As a children's fiction author, I found this product amazingly complete, with lessons that spark students' imaginations while instructing them in the fundamental elements of story-writing: character, setting, and plot. The course teaches the importance of "showing" instead of merely "telling," and also takes the students through writing the first draft, editing, and revising their stories. The curriculum includes a CD with dozens of resources to print out and use as handouts, including tips on how to write in different genres (e.g., fantasy, historical, mysteries, and sports). The CD even includes a section of links to websites, where students can enter contests with their completed stories.

This program is clearly intended for classroom use. It is teacher-directed; each lesson gives clear objectives, teacher preparation and time needed for the lesson, and what should be discussed during the lesson. The classroom activities assume there are enough students for brainstorming, working together, and peer editing in groups. Everything about this curriculum yells "traditional classroom."

It would take a dedicated parent to adapt this program for individual homeschool use; I know I wouldn't attempt it, especially when there are so many great products designed specifically for the homeschool. However, the homeschool "co-op" is gaining popularity these days, and Teaching the Story fits right into this niche. I taught in a homeschool co-op for years, and I would have snatched this curriculum up in a hurry. You don't have to be a "teacher" to use it, either. Everything is laid out nicely, with clear and easy-to-follow instructions. Anyone with a heart to teach writing could learn right along with the students. Everything you need is included in the book and on the CD.

While it was a disappointment to discover that Teaching the Story: Fiction Writing in Middle School is not designed for individual homeschool use, it is an excellent choice for those involved in teaching writing at a homeschool co-op.

Product review by Susan K. Marlow, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2007