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Paragraph Writing Review by Jennifer HarrisonRebecca Celsor
The Write Foundation
2457 Comal Springs
Canyon Lake, TX 78133
I have yet to find a parent yet who does not find it intimidating to teach writing to their students. Even if writing comes naturally to the parents, there is a fear that they will fail to fully equip their students. The Write Foundation provides tools for families to feel confident at all stages of writing instruction. Level 2 Paragraph Writing is a high school level program that is geared towards students who are already adept at writing simple paragraphs and can work independently. It begins with a review of the basics and then progresses, helping them fully master complex paragraphs, ending the book with a completed 5-paragraph essay. These skills prepare them for the next program: Essay Writing.
It is important to note that The Write Foundation has five distinct levels to fit students’ needs. They provide a simple assessment to help determine which level is best suited to each student’s abilities. They are committed to helping families find the right fit so that students can build their writing skills on a strong foundation. It is impossible to write a good essay if you do not know how to form a compelling paragraph. It is impossible to write a good paragraph if you are unable to write strong sentences. Students must build on a proper foundation and this program helps students do that. My early high school students are strong writers, so we started with Paragraph Writing.
Paragraph Writing has 30 lessons, and each lesson comes with two optional schedules to allow students to complete a full lesson within 5 days or 10 days. If students respond well to the curriculum and families have the time to dedicate to the program, the 5-day schedule easily fits into a standard one-year schedule. I like that it gives so much flexibility. From the beginning, families can choose to take a gentler approach and make it a two-year curriculum plan. Even if families choose the one-year plan, the fact that each lesson includes plans for a 5-day and 10-day option means that when a week is particularly challenging, there is room to slow down for that lesson and then get back on track.
The program comes with student worksheets and Writing Instructions, compiled in two spiral notebooks. The student worksheets are loose-leaf and hole-punched, ready to be organized into an 8-tab binder. The loose-leaf pages also include recommended reading lists for students ages 12-16. The books on the list are scored according to the challenge level. I was impressed with the quality of the literature chosen for the book lists. They also have suggestions for helping students get the most out of reading. There are some extra pages of helpful material such as games for writing, poetry, spelling, and more.
Each lesson contains 11 sections. Some sections take only a few minutes to complete, while some might take half an hour. Allthe lessons’ sections can be completed within a week without difficulty. For students with a good grounding in grammar, some sections will be a review, and therefore lesson times will be even shorter. The program does reinforce mastery of basic components such as adverbs, adjectives, etc. For those feeling a little rusty with grammar, this is helpful. For those who are already grammar-savvy, a review is still nice for keeping things fresh, and the material includes some games to help make the review fun.
Lessons begin with teacher-led instruction sections. I like that the lessons are designed for students and parents to work through together. There are fill-in-the-blank pages or other focused worksheets for students to fill out during these sections. When working together like this, I can instantly tell how well my student understands the material, rather than finding out after they turn in failed papers that must be redone. I also appreciate the discussions that arise when we read our lessons together. After the instruction sections are completed, students have independent work assignments on which to stretch their muscles. These must be completed before continuing to the next lesson.
Each lesson includes a section on poetry. The instructions are simple, and the assignments are easy. I love that it is not overwhelming or intimidating, as some students can freeze up at the idea of writing poetry. The poetry lessons are gently introduced. I was pleasantly surprised to see this element in the material, but this program is much more than just the mechanics of writing a paragraph. Poetry, Reading Lists, Grammar, and more are all part of creating a well-rounded writer and a well-rounded student.
The program comes with particularly good explanations for grading students’ work. There are general guidelines and rubrics, as well as specific items to look for in each lesson. If parents are still not confident in their ability to grade students’ work, The Write Foundation provides grading services at the rate of $5 per paragraph or two paragraphs from the same assignment for $7.
The full program is $75, plus tax and shipping fees. The digital version is $50, this would include a lot of pages to print and a lot of time, which might not be cost-effective.
The Write Foundation offers five levels of programs, each designed to take one to two years for students to master. Students could begin the program around age 8 and continue throughout high school. If you would like to see if it could be a good fit for your family, their website offers two free sample writing lessons per level.
The lessons sometimes feel a bit scattered. For example, Lesson One includes 14 worksheets that cover notebook organization, a brain puzzle, recognizing the checklist for writing paragraphs, what not to include in a paragraph, how to create appealing titles, the basic components of a paragraph, how to highlight papers, how to brainstorm material for a paragraph, how to create a block outline, some practice work on these topics, and then two paragraph writing assignments. This approach is standard throughout the book. However, the randomness of the different topics could be an excellent approach for students who might get bored easily. It is also impressive how much is covered through this approach. Amid solid paragraph-building, students also learn about myth, hyperbole, similes, and more. It is a full language arts curriculum.
Each lesson includes the optional instruction to complete a Mind Bender®, but this requires the purchase of an outside book. While the guide does say they are optional, the lesson instructions list them formally as assignments in each lesson.
There are some formatting issues in the loose-leaf pages, with table rows spilling over onto the following pages and some minor spacing issues. I would prefer the author use commas a little more freely, for clarity’s sake. But this is a personal preference. For example:
“Using a mainly a thesaurus, look up the better adjectives for the weak adjectives on the following chart: big, happy, tired, old, good & green. For the word green also use other words for the color green such as emerald or sage.”
I am also a little uncomfortable with some of the phrasing. But again, this is a personal preference. From Lesson 27:
“Threat: If you do not follow the correct structure or have a scanty outline with minimum information, you will not only rewrite the outline, but you will also have to rewrite the essay. Make sure you have at least 3-6 words per line of your outline. If you follow directions and write an outline that follows the correct structure and has plenty of information included, then you will please your teacher.”
Aside from these minor issues, I feel the program completely prepares students for writing full essays, increases the quality of their writing overall, and instills a familiarity with writing several different forms of poetry. Most of all, I love their motto, which beautifully points out the purpose of everything we teach them:
Dedicated to equipping God's children with the ability to communicate His Truth to the world.
-Product review by Jennifer Harrison, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2019