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Put That in Writing - Level 1, Mastering the Paragraph; Put That in Writing - Level 2, Mastering the Essay Review by Renee Knoblauch

Steve and Shari Barrett
Barrett’s Bookshelf

Writing is a subject that I am not comfortable teaching my children. It seems ironic since I do not mind writing myself. I am excited to have finally found a thorough writing curriculum created by Steve and Shari Barret and their Put That in Writing - Level 1, Mastering the Paragraph and Put That in Writing - Level 2, Mastering the Essay.

When purchased as a bundle, it costs $125.00 which includes: Put That in Writing-Level 1 Mastering the Paragraph Textbook, Level 1 Answer Key, and Test Bank, Put That in Writing - Level 2 Mastering the Essay Textbook with Answer Key. Each level can also be bought separately.

Both textbooks are spiral-bound books. The Answer Keys and Test Bank are stapled together and are three-hole punched to put in a binder or folder.

Students will need a notebook or a binder with paper to complete the exercises for both levels. The textbooks are non-consumable. Parents can copy the resources in the appendix and other resources needed for the lessons. Teaching schedules are provided for both levels along with some variations to fit any schedule. All the information to get started is provided in the teacher section.

Both levels are a “skill level” rather than grade-specific course. The recommended level to achieve the best results for Put That in Writing-Level 1 Mastering the Paragraph Textbook is seventh or eighth grade. Put That in Writing-Level 2 Mastering the Essay Textbook is suited for high school students. Level 1 can also be used by high school students if some remedial work is needed. It is recommended that students already have a solid foundation in basic grammar before starting.

Put That in Writing - Level 1, Mastering the Paragraph and Put That in Writing - Level 2, Mastering the Essay both have resources in the appendix. Both levels have evaluation forms, (Level 2 has a variety of evaluation forms) different charts, edit checklist, information, and resources to assist you and your student. Some of the resources vary depending on the level you are using.

Put That in Writing-Level 1 Mastering the Paragraph has thirty-six units and can be completed in a typical thirty-six-week school year using a five-day schedule. There are five exercises within each unit. Each exercise has a variety of activities. Different concepts of paragraphs are taught in a three-week cycle. The first week in the cycle your student starts to create paragraphs. During the second week, they write a timed paragraph following some guidelines. In the third week, they will edit their already graded paragraphs following a set of instructions. The student editing their own work will be beneficial for them to improve and recognize their own errors. You will also be grading the work they do with the evaluation forms provided in the appendix.

The units start out with some basic concepts and then get more complex. As the lessons progress students learn how to add variety to their sentences. The lessons will teach sentence writing guidelines, paragraph basics, descriptive paragraphs, research, documentation, ownership of ideas, narrative paragraphs, process paragraphs, comparison paragraphs, cause or effect paragraphs, analogy and defending a position, character analysis, and other concepts for effective writing. There is an emphasis on research throughout each unit. Students will learn how to plan out their writing throughout the exercises. Grammar drills are embedded throughout the exercises.

Also included is some information for the student on plagiarism. I was glad to see this information included as it is important to emphasis the seriousness of plagiarism before they start college or a career. It is so easy to just cut and paste with no thought of the consequences with the ease of the internet today.

Put That in Writing - Level 2, Mastering the Essay has a similar format as Level 1. It starts out reviewing Level 1 in the first three units. If your student is struggling in those three units, it is recommended you review the content from Level 1 before continuing any further.

There are a variety of schedules for a typical forty-eight week, thirty-six, and more advanced students can complete this in a twenty-four-week period.

The exercises in each unit build upon one another. They do not recommend that you skip around in the lessons. The essays progress in a three-unit cycle throughout the curriculum. After you have completed the review in the first three units you will jump right into writing essays. The goal is to be able to write an essay of varying length which depends on the topic and the target audience. They will also be creating several types of introductions and conclusions in their essays. The essays are laid out to be linear and put their thoughts in order, so they make sense with conveying the topic. You will have them responding to essay questions, prompts, and articles. The APA formatting and documenting style is used with double spacing throughout the essay, one-inch margin, and easy-to-read fonts and size. The student will be evaluating their own work to correct mistakes. The teacher will also need to evaluate and grade.

There are a variety of essays form historical figures, comparison, narrative, cause and effect, précis and abstract, deliberative, judicial, ceremonial, political discourse, judicial discourse, epideictic discourse, and response essays. There are also essays that have time restraints. The variety of essays covered is impressive. I have not seen any writing curriculums that are this thorough and versatile in a variety of writing styles. This will be challenging and will prepare the student for writing in both college and their careers.

Level 2 has more exercises than Level 1 in each unit. It will take the student more planning than writing just paragraphs. They will have to do some of their own research and use different materials. There are suggested topics, but there is freedom to substitute the essay topics and questions.

The answer key for both levels includes answers to every exercise. The layout for the answer key is in portrait orientation format with two pages of answers on one page. I found the font size extremely small and would have rather have it formatted on a full-size page with a larger font size for easy reading. This is really my only complaint that I have with the curriculum. Level 1 has master copies of the quizzes and final exams within the Answer Key, and Test Bank booklet.

I like that the program is laid out as a step by step program that makes teaching it easier. The tasks in the exercises are broken down in doable concise steps that flow well. Planning the lessons are simple as I just need to look over the lessons prior to make sure I understand the concepts being taught in each lesson. There are a few exercises that the student will need an encyclopedia, a biography of choosing, and some suggested topics that require books.

Parents will need to understand the grading forms included in the appendix when evaluating the student’s work. I like that there is a structured evaluation process already. I find grading a writing assignment difficult and this gives me a consistent format as I evaluate the assignments.

My eighth-grade son has been using Put That in Writing - Level 1, Mastering the Paragraph. I was a bit worried that he might feel a bit overwhelmed with the five-day schedule as we have not used writing as a daily subject prior. We both found that scheduling it throughout the school week five days was very manageable. If we have scheduling conflicts, we just pick it up the next day.

After several hiccups with previous writing curriculum my son is ready to write. One is the curriculum itself is laid out extremely well. He likes the layout and how it guides you through everything from doing a grammar drill to making an outline of a paragraph you read. He told me, “the exercises are explained in a way that is not too complex and each one is broken down in bite-size information.” I really appreciate that he is independent up to this point in the lessons with little help from me. He goes over his work after each assignment and fixes any errors, so we do not get behind. I check his work so we can nip any issues immediately.

 I am really pleased with Put That in Writing - Level 1, Mastering the Paragraph, and plan to continue with Put That in Writing - Level 2, Mastering the Essay afterward. I have no doubts that my son will be prepared for his future and have mastered writing after working through both levels.

Product review by Renee Knoblauch, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2019