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Writing With Ease: Strong Fundamentals

042781A new series on teaching writing, from the author of The Well-Trained Mind.

In Writing with Ease, Susan Wise Bauer lays out an alternative plan for teaching writing, one that combines the best elements of old-fashioned writing instruction with innovative new educational methods.

Writing with Ease, the first in a three-volume series, outlines a complete four-year program for elementary-grade students. Drawing on her fifteen years of experience in teaching writing, Bauer carefully walks parents and teachers through a sequence of steps that will teach every student to put words on paper with ease and grace.

Designed for elementary-aged writers and for older students who still struggle, Writing With Ease builds a sturdy foundation of basic skills for grades 1–4 (or levels 1–4 for the older student who needs more work) all in the same book. Diagnostic tests within the book will help the parent to determine where the child needs to start and which workbook the child will need.

You can use the text by itself as a guide, then choose your own copywork and dictation; or you can buy the workbooks, which do all the work for you.

Publisher’s description at Peace Hill Press.

“Highly, highly recommended.”–Homeschoolreviews.com

“The Writing With Ease (WWE) text, with or without the coordinating workbooks, provides parents with a tool to help their students develop competent analytical writing skills. The $29.95 text is targeted for students in grades (levels) one through four. This corresponds to the “grammar stage” in the basic timeline used in The Well-Trained Mind, the popular classical education “how-to” book co-authored by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. Two more installments in the text series, Writing With Skill for grades five through eight and Writing With Style for grades nine through twelve, will be forthcoming. The terms “year” and “level” are used because not all students will begin this program in first grade.

The WWE text begins with 25 introductory pages that explain why typical writing programs are ineffective, the three stages of writing that span 12 years or levels, how to use the text, and a brief section to assist you in determining where in the text your student should begin, if not at the beginning. Susan Wise Bauer’s main point as to why conventional writing programs fail is that they don’t begin at the beginning (i.e., the very basic task of teaching how to put articulate ideas on paper). In addition, she asserts that students must become competent in the conventions of writing before they can hope to become competent writers. Filling up a page with words does not make one a competent writer….

Now, on to the meat of WWE. After a few pages of a suggested approach for preschool and kindergarten years, specific lessons for year one begin. The weekly routine is as follows: Day 1: Copywork, Day 2: Narration Exercise, Day 3: Copywork, Day 4: Narration Exercise. Over time, copywork assignments grow in length and complexity; students begin to use their own narration for copywork; and specific target skills are introduced. The first week focuses on capitalization and end punctuation and using complete sentences. Copywork may consist of two short sentences; narrations are based on just a few paragraphs. By week 36, copywork sentences are 10-12 words in length, and narrations are four or five brief paragraphs.

For each chunk of weeks, narration and copywork exercises are included for the first model week. For example, Week 4’s exercises (for the weeks 4-10 set) come from Alice in Wonderland, and Week 28’s exercises (for the weeks 28-35 set) come from Little House on the Prairie books. However, for all the other weeks, the parent/teacher must gather the literature samples for the narration and copywork assignments. You are encouraged to use sources from a variety of subject areas, and you are told to find sources that contain specific teaching elements. For example, for weeks 29-35, you are told to choose sentences of 10-12 words for copywork and narrations of 4-5 paragraphs from history, science, and literature books. You should select copywork sentences that contain the following elements: proper names and titles of respect, lines from poems, commands and statements, questions, and exclamations. These kinds of guidelines are provided for each level.

Using the program in this manner is very economical because you can use sources you already have on hand. In my opinion, it is also very organic and has the best potential to create meaningful learning experiences because the student will be engaging in-depth with what he is reading in many subject areas. However, this does require a degree of effort on the part of the parent. Don’t let this put you off from utilizing this wonderful writing program, because a great option is available: companion workbooks. According to the Peace Hill Press website, there are two workbooks currently available (for the first two years) to complement the WWE text.

I had the opportunity to review Workbook One, which is for the first year of instruction. The reading selections are drawn from such engaging and high-quality sources as The Railway Children, Winnie-the-Pooh, and The Velveteen Rabbit. These are the kind of stories we would normally read to our children. Teacher instructions, source passages, and student pages are provided for every single lesson for $34.95. In addition, if you don’t want your student to write in the thick workbook or tear out pages (or if you’re planning to use the workbook with more than one child), you can purchase a set of just the consumable student pages for $11.95. Workbooks for the upper levels are in the works.

The following levels of WWE follow a similar pattern with increasing length and complexity of passages and more sophisticated elements of mechanics and usage to observe and imitate….

Logical writing, an expression of logical thinking, is a valuable skill regardless of one’s level of academic achievement or career path. If you desire to help your early elementary students become competent writers and would appreciate a very direct, organized-yet-flexible, and economical approach to that goal, you would do well to consider The Complete Writer: Writing With Ease.–” The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

Purchase at Peace Hill Press, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble; or order anywhere books are sold.

Peace Hill Press • 2008 • ISBN 978-1933339-252