- Reviewed on Wednesday, September 3, 2003
- Grades Used: K-12
- Dates used: n/a
Disclaimer: I haven't yet used this, but I have read it and wanted to give my impressions since I haven't found too much about it online.
My first impression is that this is a wonderful resource, implementing nearly all the writing ideas I've ever seen in one book. The concept is a great one - being able to implement journal writing, book reports, reading records, teaching writing concepts, grammar, etc all into one program that can be adjusted to fit what you are teaching and any age. My second impression, though, is that this is not the most user friendly book, but it could be in subsequent revisions. Since another reviewer has already listed the elements of the books, I will just list a few more thoughts about it.
As stated by another reviewer, there really should be a quick start chapter that reviews everything that you should be doing. This was a valuable addition to the Spelling Power 3rd edition that made it much more user friendly. It's difficult to wade through everything in the book to get to that. I went through the book chapter by chapter and typed up a quick outline of what to do and this helped me immensely in understanding what exactly I should be doing. Then I logged onto the computer resources and found that there was actually a similar outline already typed up by the author. This should definitely be included in future versions of this book, but can certainly help current users implement the program.
WRITING STYLE OF THE AUTHOR:
The author is more technical, perhaps, than most homeschooling parents would prefer. Most would probably just like to hear how to do it and get on with it. I enjoyed reading all her research on the various methods and how she came up with her techniques to teach writing, but not all readers will. The author is a good writer, but I think the program would be more useable if it were revised and written for a less technical audience. I do want to mention, though, that after all her advice on teaching complete thoughts as sentences, I did find three sentence fragments in this book! I imagine that she will come up with a quick start video like she did with Spelling power, which will make this program much more user-friendly.
DIRECTED WRITING NOT CLEARLY EXPLAINED:
The first seven chapters give information and then at the end of the chapter gives you an assignment on how to start implementing that area of the program. It also lists books to read and web resources. However, chapters 8, 9 and 10, which cover the directed writing and coaching sessions seem to leave you hanging. There is no actual direction on how to implement the directed
writing sessions with your family. The chapters give lots of great ideas, but they really could have been enhanced by adding the your assignment, websites and books to read. I also didn't understand until I'd read it a few times that in order to implement the directed writing section, you have to have the grammar handbook appropriate for the grade level the author has recommended. That is where the meat of the grammar lessons are, not in the Writing Power book. Had I known the book was required, I would have purchased it so I could better understand the directed writing sections.
And now we will move on to the computer resources. From what I've seen so far, there aren't many. Mostly what is included is already in the book - blackline masters. There is very little else included, yet there are many references to the computer resources in the book. For example, the prescriptive grammar mentions many Activity sheets on the computer resources. It even says that once you see the activity sheets, you can easily create your own. However, as they are not included on the website, how can I see them? I found many references to the computer resources and was expecting hundreds of pages of activity sheets, journal joggers, directed writing activites, etc, yet I found none. Given that this book was release over a year ago, that seems to be a bit inexcusable as the price of the book includes these computer resources that are supposed to really help you in using the program.
WRITING TASK CARDS:
I do not own these (yet), but I do own the Spelling Power Task Cards. The Task cards make your work as a teacher much easier in selecting appropriate activities for your children. There are activities in the book, and to make them more user friendly, you could write them on the cards. However, the Spelling Power task card have many more activities than are included in the books, and I imagine the Writing Power task cards are much the same way. Also, since you really don't get much by way of the computer resources, the task cards would make this program much more user friendly.
All in all, I think this is will be a very good writing program. Writing Strands was boring to my kids, as were any other programs I looked at, such as WriteSource and Writing Apprentice. The biggest problem is that the writing wasn't relevant. Writing Power is a program that, with a little extra work from the teacher, can make the writing relevant and fun. I plan on using this program with my children this fall, with the help of the grammar handbook and writing task cards.
- Reviewed on Tuesday, July 16, 2002
- Grades Used: K-12
- Dates used: new off the press...received and read through
Well, here goes...I've read (read part, scanned some) through most of it.
If you thought Spelling Power was verbose and repetitive this is even worse. No, it is not a terrible buy. However, the author could have eliminated much of the overkill.
1) There is not any definite lesson plans.
2) Author places too much emphasis on writing (pre-writing activities and oral speaking skills) immersion, beginning in pre-school. This is going to turn many off. If you have late bloomers (especially where writing is concerned) like I do, you will have to just discard those ideas.
3) The book has lots of good ideas and fun ways to practice writing, but to be perfectly honest most of these are not necessarily innovative and many I've already read about in other books or know from experience. The great thing is you now have all of them in one convenient book or task box.
4) If you implemented this program as suggested, you would be spending about 2-3 hours a day on what the author considers writing skills: sentence practice, oral skills, reading, being read to, handwriting, composition, journaling, book reveiws, etc. Some of this we already do, but I personally don't want to spend several hours daily on writing activities.
5) As expected there are phrases such as Spelling Power is the only recommended spelling text (not verbatim but close). Not a plus with many of you.
6) The task cards are still backordered, so I cannot give any ideas on these.
Overall, Writing Power will make a good reference tool. It has some excellent forms. The writing ideas are varied.
The major drawback: 1) Wading through the commentary to find the method is going to be overwelming for many. There is no quick start chapter in this one. To be implemented one would have to sit down with paper and pen, creating a to do list and curriculum on your own. I think the author should have included some kind of master chart showing what a day might look like if you were to include all the various aspects of this program.
Plus: 1) Once you created a program, you would be able to implement writing across the curriculum.
I am going to briefly attempt a scope (for those interested):
Section I: Teacher's Manual
Ch 1. Writers are made not born (why teach writing and writing defined)
Ch 2. Establishing a Philosophy for writing (covers the various present and historical methods of writing instruction, making a case for why this approach is different. Also why most grammar instruction could be done away with.)Ch 3. Establishing Effective Teaching strategies (Multi level use, student needs, promoting self checking by the child)
Ch 4. Attitutude & Atmosphere
Ch 5. Reading Road to Writing (A case for read aloud, book reports, oral responses, building a home library)
Ch 6. Writing is Talk on Paper (Oral compositions, correction of improper speech patterns which may lead to poor writing, developing sentence sense)
Ch 7. Success from the Start (Foundations beginning in pre-school, narration, dictation, publishing work, penmanship, creative writing, story starters, journaling, spelling)
Ch 8. Directed Writing: Sentences (Mastery of sentence building skills)
Ch 9. Putting it in Paragraphs (Mastery of paragraph skills: narrowing subject, title, unity of information, activities)
Ch 10. Becoming a Writing Coach (motivation, evaluating by parent and by student)
Section II: Evaluation Tools (section of forms/checklists)
Section III: Prescriptive Grammar (punctuation/capitalization, sentence
writing)Section IV: Prompts & Projects (for book reports, book reviews, journaling, letter writing, reports, research)Section V: Discovery Activities (oral language skills, reader responses, story writing, etc.)
Section VI: Black line masters (writing paper, letter forms, brainstorming sheets, etc.)
The book comes with a card to register for a free additional on-line writing resource (or you can get a CD if you don't have internet access).
For those familiar with many of the more popular writing programs...this seems to be similar in format to say adding Easy Writing (sentence building) together with formal essay style writing (as found in... say IEW, Write Shop, Shirley, or Word Smith) plus creative writing (ala Writing Strands, The Write Stuff or Creative Writer).
Any specific questions, feel free to privately e-mail me.