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Writing & Rhetoric Book 1: Fable Program Review by Jennifer Land

Paul Kortepeter
Classical Academic Press
(866) 730-0711
2151 Market Street
Camp Hill, PA, 17011

The Writing & Rhetoric Book 1: Fable Program is a one semester writing program for students in grades 3 or 4 or even older. The program consists of a 150 page paperback Student Edition worktext, a 150 page paperback Teacher’s Edition of the book, and a collection of accompanying audio files for each of the fables presented in the book. It costs $37.95 for the set, which is a considerable savings over buying the items separately.

This program is the first in a series of 12 books put out by Classical Academic Press to teach students to become excellent writers over the course of 6 years. The goal of the series is to train students to become masterful writers through forms and models of excellent writing.

This program teaches students to take a deeper look at classic fables. There are 14 lessons in this book. It is recommended to be predictable with lesson planning and presenting the information, so they recommend teaching each individual lesson over the course of three or four days each week.

There are 6 sections in each lesson. This gives students a basic foundation and framework for all lessons they will complete in this series. No matter which lesson they are completing, the basic format is the same for almost all of them, with the exception of Lesson 8, which solely focuses on main idea and choosing a fitting moral.

For the first section, students are introduced to and are able to read the fable for their lesson. The first fable introduced is “The Lion and the Mouse.” Audio versions of all of the stories are available with this program if a student does better listening to someone else reading, or they are welcome to read with a partner. During lessons 12 and 13, they are actually working on creating their own fables, so there is not a new one introduced there.

Second, in the Tell It Back section, students use narration to recall and retell the story in their own words, taking care to put the events in their proper order. Students are encouraged to use many of the same vocabulary as the original story used in their retellings. They are given the first sentence from the fable to get them started.

In the Talk About It section, students discuss things from the story using the critical thinking questions in the book. Students are asked to analyze what the author meant and to see how it also applies to their own lives.

After that, students do the Go Deeper section and look into how the story was actually written, including the moral of the story, as well as looking at the actual words that the author chose and answering questions about how they could have been written differently or why certain phrases were chosen. This section covers main ideas, vocabulary, and character traits.

Next, students work the Writing Time exercises in which they work on copywork, dictation, sentence play, summarization, amplification, copiousness, writing, and rewriting. This is a time when students really dig in and apply what they have learned so far into their actual writing assignments.

Finally, students complete the Speak It section. This is when students have the opportunity to read or act out their own work or the writings of others. This is a good way for them to share what they’ve worked on or enjoyed reading during their lesson for the week.

 I used this product with my 3rd grade son. My 5th grade daughter loved tagging along because she thought it sounded really fun and interesting. We completed the lessons using the schedule put forth in the book for a 3 day week for each lesson.

My son liked hearing new fables that he was unfamiliar with. His favorite was Lesson 9, which was “The Shepherd Boy and the Wolf.” I liked that this lesson tied in with Psalm 23 to tell about the role of a shepherd and what he was expected to do for his sheep.

For parents and students who enjoy a work text approach to writing, this is a great option. It gives your students a way to work on assignments fairly independently as it is written to them. There is space in the actual book to write their answers, revise sentences, and choose answers when given multiple choice questions.

The lessons are entertaining, but very thorough. They are much more in depth than I was expecting for this grade level, especially for an introductory book of a series. It may be too intense or too deep for some younger users and best suited for slightly older students than listed, particularly if your students are not as familiar with the classical method of instruction.

In all, I have been very impressed with the program. It encourages students to explore fables in a critical, yet creative way. They are able to analyze short stories and apply them to their own lives. My son was able to learn new writing techniques through the examples in this book and it has translated over to other writing assignments he’s done since we began this program. He’s actually retaining this new information, and that is exciting!

—Product review by Jennifer Land, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June, 2016