For a few weeks now, Miss L has been working with Writers in Residence , a product from Apologia Educational Ministries for this review. It has been a fantastic fit!
Miss L is currently 9 years old and really enjoys writing, so I was not sure this would be a good fit for her. After all, writing programs tend to be directed at students who don’t like to write all that much or are struggling with it. This one? It is a good fit for all students, I think. Whether they like to write, love to write, or would rather it just all disappear for good. By drawing on the student’s personal memories, life, and imagination for writing material, this program pulls the student into the process of becoming a writer.
When you purchase Writers In Residence Volume 1 Apprentice set, you will receive two books. One is the all-in-one student text and workbook. The second is the answer key. You do need both of these for this program to work its magic.
The student text and workbook is where the student does most of their work. The student reads and writes in this one book. The work on their writing assignments here, their grammar work, their editing work, everything! It came with a plastic spiral binding on it. It is huge! Miss L did not want me to take the pages off of the spiral to put them into smaller sections to work with but honestly, it would be a whole lot easier to work with. The book is about 3 inches thick! There is a ton of fantastic information and reading and exercises here.
The first 30ish pages of the student text are “how to use this book.” Read these. Period. It is such good information and it makes the program all pull together in your head. I learned a whole lot reading this section and highlight some parts that I found enlightening. Do this first. Then, dig into seeing what else is in the book.
“Grammar doesn’t create content. But it can create beauty.” (p. xxvi)
“Overemphasizing correct spelling often results in students using only words they can confidently spell. This creates a boring and stilted writing style that is far below what the child is capable of thinking, imagining, and talking about. In the process, the child’s voice is lost, not captured.” (p. xxiii)
Thinking as a writer and building the skills of a good writer are the goals of Writers In Residence. The whole book is designed to help the students begin seeing everything around them, all that they have experienced, as something to tuck away for later use. Beginning to think as a writer, to use words differently, to structure sentences differently – all these are worked on in this book.
Writers In Residence contains five units. Each unit focuses on a different type of authentic writing style. These are:
1 – When I Was Young (I Remember): uses Cynthia Rylant’s When I Was Young In The Mountains as a literature example
2 – Very Truly Yours (I Imagine): uses Patricia MacLachlan’s Sarah, Plain and Tall as a literature example
3 – My Family Hall of Fame (I Investigate): uses Roald Dahl’s Boy: Tales of Childhood as a literature example
4 – My Favorite Author (I Think): has an expert writer example but I cannot locate the authorship of it
5 – The History of Me (I Remember): uses excepts from Beverly Cleary’s A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir, Sid Fleischman’s The Abracadabra Kid, and an essay by Mary Pope Osborne titled “All-Ball”.
6 – Zap! Pow! Kazam! (I Imagine): the expert model was written specifically for WIR and does not give an author
I really appreciate the focus here on quality literature from well-known authors as examples for what is being taught. In addition to these, there is an interview prior to each unit with a Christian author. These include Bill Myers, Amy Green, Irene Howat, Jason Lethcoe, Amy Parker and Phil Vischer. (We have gotten some new reading material by looking up these authors at the library. We didn’t know any of them before this!) This authenticity and focus is so helpful in encouraging young writers.
Each unit works through a set pattern. There are four modules in each unit and within each module there are a number of activities. These are well-designated and the instructions for each are clearly written, as well as clear indication of when there are corresponding answers to be found in the answer key. Within each unit, there are repeated elements that help keep the students focused. These elements are:
- Introduction to the unit
- rubric for the final product of the unit
- writer’s questions for each module of the unit
- sneak peek of what will be learned for each module of the unit
- the writing assignment specific to each module (these build on each other to create the final product of the whole unit)
- expert model for the module
- student samples
- writer’s toolbox with specific strategies expert writers use
- graphic organizers for working through the mini-assignments
- The Sandbox – an assignment that helps students experiment with various writing strategies
- vocabulary to help build a stronger usage of words
- word sleuth encourages students to add to their word collection the words that they don’t know
- module checklist is a specific rubric to help the evaluate the student’s work within the module
- writer’s workshop is a module in each unit that focuses on sentence structure
- review your progress sections encourage self-evaluation and sharing of the student’s work
While each unit has the goal of creating a completed piece of high-quality writing, there are mini-assignments throughout (see the list above) that work to teach the student strategies that good writers use. To accomplish this, student might work on grammar, spelling, vocabulary, brainstorming, or editing in the course of the mini-assignments throughout any given model. These all come together with the main piece of work being edited in small, bite-sized pieces. These bits are so small, the student doesn’t even necessarily realize how much change is occurring in their piece as they work on it. Sometimes, these mini-assignments do not have anything to do with the piece for the unit. Sometimes, they are breaks from that writing. It all works together seamlessly.
There is a schedule in the front of the student text to help you plan out the work for this program. We are not following it because, honestly, Miss L likes to work on this and is moving a bit faster than the pacing in the book. I have found it to be easy as pie to just work at the pace the student is setting.
Writers in Residence quickly became a favorite part of the school day for Miss L. She works hard at the assignments and enjoys writing. She seems to be enjoying learning how to be a better writer and seeing the instruction add to her abilities. Her first piece of writing that she finalized using WIR was published on the blog a couple of weeks ago. Please go read When I Was Younger to see how the first unit piece came out for her.
There is much to really like about Writers in Residence . If you are looking for a writing program, I highly recommend checking out Apologia Educational Ministries and read more review from the Review Crew by clicking on the banner below.
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