I am fairly new to the CM style of education and was wondering about the writing. Is copywork and written narration all there is to writing? Is there an instructional program that should be used? I guess I am so used to seeing all of these writing programs and it always looks so complicated. They say that there are all different kinds of writing to teach, especially if a child is going tollege. What about how to organize a paragraph? How to write an essay? I don't remember any of this when I was in school - is this something I should 'teach'or does it come naturally from copywork, narrating and just plain reading and seeing examples?
Confused about the writing in SCM(14 posts) (8 voices)
Great question. With the CM method, composition is an integral part of all the subjects and not treated as a separate item. So, yes, you would use written narration as the main tool, but you can approach it from different angles to cover the various kinds of writing. For example, you might assign a written narration on a history book's portion that should be written like a newspaper article, or a diary entry, or an interview. You could assign an essay from a literature book, asking the child to compare the main characters. As the child gets older (7-12 grades) you can focus on one thing at a time to help him or her improve those written narrations.
I think the main reason Charlotte did not like using a separate composition/writing program was because the assignments were usually asking the child to write about things he didn't know a lot about or didn't care about. By using written narrations as our composition tool, the child is writing about something he just learned and, hopefully, if he is enjoying the book, also cares about.
BTW, I've just ordered a short workshop on Teaching the Essay that might be a good tool for moms to use as they guide their children through written narrations of that type. It's written by Robin Finley, the author of Analytical Grammar, and includes a CD. I'm eager to dive into it; and I'll try to post a review as soon as I finish looking at it. (She has one on Teaching the Research Paper too.)
I just finished listening to Teaching the Essay, and I think it will be very helpful to moms who are preparing a child for college and the essay writing that is required there. Robin talks you through the formal 5-paragraph essay and breaks down the process step by step. Part of the audio CD consists of excerpts from her teaching a class of homeschoolers, using the same process. She even organizes the assignments by day, explaining what you and your child should do each day as you work your way through.
Three stories are used as examples in the teaching process: The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe; Wheldon the Weed by Peter Jones; and Bargain by A. B. Guthrie, Jr. With the first story the student receives a lot of the parts of the essay given to help as he learns the process. With the second story the student is required to do more of the process by himself; and the third requires even more, until the child is ready to write an essay from the beginning to the end independently. (Unfortunately, I did notice several typos in the stories.)
Robin even gives a checklist (rubric) for the child with points assigned to help you evaluate the essay. And she tells you how she handles content errors vs. mechanical errors (spelling, punctuation, and capitalization).
It is definitely a "formula" or "recipe" process that simplifies essay writing. If a child were planning to attend college, this resource would be quite helpful and save him a lot of time in the long run. He would have a great idea of what the professors are looking for in a formal essay and how to tackle one (an essay, not a professor!) competently and confidently.
The audio CD workshop is one hour long. The day-by-day teaching process is arranged for 14 days, approximately. Upon completion of the materials, Robin recommends assigning one essay per month for review and practice.
I just saw her at the HEEA homeschool convention! Her booth was very busy, but I did take a brochure. I think I am going to wait and do the AG next year. This year we are just singing Grammar Songs for fun.
Thank you for the info, she looks like she has the answers for our older students. :)
I used this program with my two teens. (18 & 14) I found it to be good information, succinctly done - as with all of the Analytical Grammar's materials. We (my children & I) created a kind of flow chart for the author's method of doing a literary essay, which they found most helpful. If anyone would like that flow chart (it's in pdf format) send me a private message. It won't be at all useful if you aren't using the Analytical Grammar method of writing a literary essay, though.
My eldest has never felt confident with her writing skills, although she's been narrating since the age of 6. The Five Paragraph methods have given the courage to stretch her writing skills quite a lot. My middle guy has been blessed with the Gift of Gab, nevertheless the format method has been helpful, without being restraining, for formal essays.
OK - I'm picking this thread back up. I've been wondering about this topic myself lately. :D
So, let's say we give our students a written narration assignment of our choice. Do we do this at the beginning of the week and then work on whatever area needs help (like grammar, punctuation, etc.) the rest of the week to achieve a "final copy" at the end of the week? Or what??
Thanks for your input.
Cindy in VA
Wow...I was logging on for the specific reason of researching information on this topic and it happened to be the most recent post...God is so good...
We have been doing Writing Tales with our 10 year old son and he really dreads it every day. We finished up Language Lessons and thought we'd try this to finish up the year; and begin Jr. Analytical Grammar next year. I was wondering if any of you long time CMers had advice for how 'relaxed' or how 'involved' writing needs to be at this stage. I noticed on the curriculum guide that written narrations are suggested to begin in 7th grade and was wondering if we need to even do any formal writing at this point. Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
In reply to MJ, my eldest is 10 and I do not use a formal writing program with her. If it makes any difference, I am a writer.
IMO, oral narration is an absolutely wonderful and sound foundation for writing. I've seen my children's storytelling skills improve with narration practice, and I know their spoken-language skills will translate into good writing skills later. And, I am convinced that reading good literature provides the taste and ear for good writing.
I focus on good books and oral narrations for our writing lessons in these early years. Telling an interesting story in a coherent way is much more important to me than knowing the parts of speech or writing a 3-point paragraph at the elementary age.
I also think that nature journals and making observations in nature and in daily life lead to good writing later. The ability to concentrate, notice details, make connections, know historical references...all the good things that are covered in the early years of a CM education that don't seem to have anything to do with writing will provide rich fodder for later writing.
It's okay, imo, to build the habits of observation and narration now in the early years with the confidence that these skills will lead to way to strong writing skills later. The technical lessons of writing will fall into place later when they are needed.
And it's also okay to introduce formal writing early if it suits you and your family. I respect other parents who use writing programs with elementary-age children, but I don't personally see the need for technical writing lessons at this age, unless the child is asking for them.
I'm still researching this, but it seems like a child just beginning to do written narration (10yo and up) should be allowed to "find his feet" without our using his piece to show him what he did wrong. Does that make sense? It's hard to put in writing. (Ooo! I suddenly feel a sympathetic pang with these students! :-) ) I would tend to put more emphasis on the content of his narration rather than the mechanics of his writing/composition structure at this age.
Charlotte said that once the children got to Forms V and VI (grades 10, 11, 12) we could begin using their written narrations as the basis for composition fine-tuning.
Forms V and VI. In these Forms some definite teaching in the art of composition is advisable, but not too much, lest the young scholars be saddled with a stilted style which may encumber them for life. Perhaps the method of a University tutor is the best that can be adopted; that is, a point or two might be taken up in a given composition and suggestions or corrections made with little talk (Vol. 6, p. 193).
As Esby mentioned above, some students are eager for this fine-tuning at a younger age. Charlotte described the key as a student who is "old enough to take naturally a critical interest in the use of words" (Vol. 6, p. 274).
So based on those comments, I would be inclined to forego any formal composition instruction until either the child is eager for it or the child reaches high school. In the meantime, give him plenty of opportunities to practice organizing and getting his thoughts onto paper. Let him do written narrations on passages that interest him. You can work on mastering capitalization and punctuation during these years, but don't mess with composition lessons.
Thank you Sonya and Esby...THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! I feel a burden lifted. It amazes me that as I read more and more CM methods my heart says YES, but getting my mind to totally surrender is more difficult...She really was right when she said that habit is 10-fold as strong as nature...UGH...Not only did I receive a 'public school education', but my mom taught in ps for 25 years...so purging those methods from my brain is proving more difficult than I thought...
I thank God for the support and encouragement (and of course, wisdom) I get from this site and all of you who take the time to respond in this forum.
God's blessings to you,
OK - just to clarify for myself (as someone who has "attempted" writing instruction in many different ways for many years) we should let them practice putting thoughts down on paper for a while before getting into the "nitty gritty" of composition. Even then not very heavily.
If you were coming into this later, such as myself with a 6th, 8th and 9th grader, how much time do you think you'd give it?? :D To give you some perspective, we have dabbled off and on in CM for many years. Some things more seriously than others. Now I find myself dabbling more on than off. The area of "writing" I haven't given much thought to in a CM fashion. Well, now I am. My children have been giving oral narrations for a long time. Some do better than others. We're working on it. Written narrations, not so much. Out of the 3 I have left at home only 1 is comfortable putting pen to ink, so I have kinda avoided written narrations. Anyhow, that turned into a mini novel but wanted y'all to have a little more information before you came back with a reply. :)
Cindy in VA
Good question. I don't like giving time deadlines and grade expectations. I'd rather just give a process and allow everyone to work through it at the best pace for each child. (This is where we all recite together one of my favorite sayings: "Teach the child, not the curriculum." ;-) ) So off the top of my head, I would probably approach the goal in this order:
- Comfortable putting her thoughts onto paper
- Punctuation and capitalization
- Accurate usage of English language (for example, Ben and me v. Ben and I; who's v. whose)
- Held accountable for correct spelling
- Paragraphs and run-on sentences
- Grammar issues (for example, agreement in person and number, misplaced modifiers, consistent verb tense)
- Style improvements (for example, active v. passive, unnecessary words)
That's just my opinion, mind you. But maybe it will give us a starting point. As each child is ready, he or she can move on to the next stage. Actually, it would be the parent moving on, I guess, and pointing out those areas of improvement so the child can work on them.
The hardest part, probably, is determining when the child is "comfortable" putting her thoughts on paper. Writing is work. Sometimes it comes easier than other times, but the only way to improve is to keep trying and keep working. So we all need to keep in mind that "comfortable" doesn't mean "does it in her sleep." :-) In my mind, "comfortable" means "able to organize and remember her thoughts long enough to get them written down or typed without either of us dissolving into tears."
Does anybody have any other thoughts? (I can't remember the other thought I had . . . ;-) )
A wonderful way to learn any new skill to study the work of masters. To do this, look at a piece of writing and talk about what the author did with the piece. You can do this with literature, magazine features, newspaper articles, poetry, etc.
How did the author engage the audience? How did s/he organize the topics or story? Are the events told in a chronological order or in some other order? How is the story/essay/article paced? Are the types of sentences varied - and how does that work? Did the author use devises such as alliteration, repetition, rhythm, etc? Are grammatical rules sometimes broken and why? What makes the piece of writing boring or exciting? What was the point of the piece?
Compare the opening paragraphs of different stories or articles.
Also, it's important to remind new writers about editing. The first words that are written on the paper do not have to be perfect. It's okay to make a mess on the paper or computer screen before getting to a final piece.
Hi- I am new to posting here, but I've been reading posts for quite a few years.
I realize this thread is a year old, but Writing seems to be a topic that comes up often.
I had this saved from one of Jeannie Fulbright's email newsletters from a few years ago. This is the same Jeannie who wrote the Apologia series for elementary age children.
I thought this would be helpful to post, as some us might want a bit more structure for teaching writing, without using a formal curriculum.
Nanci in WA
The Composition Code by Jeannie Fulbright
I will explain the formula using a simple five-paragraph essay. The same formula can be used for shorter or longer essays. That means that the five paragraph essay could become the five page essay, adding more details, paragraphs and content for each "point" you make in your essay. You'll understand more as you read on.
Generally, the idea is that in the first paragraph, you state your thesis, then briefly give three reasons (points) separated by commas, and end with a transition sentence that leads into the next paragraph. Each following paragraph will highlight one point, then conclude with a concluding paragraph.
To help you remember the formula, it will follow this acronym: OPT 1REST 2REST 3REST C.
Opening Sentence: Your opening sentence will state your thesis and why. You will usually have the word "because" in this sentence.
Points: Tell what your reasons are; all your supporting reasons are stated simply in one sentence. Each reason will then be its own paragraph. Be certain to state the reasons in the order of the paragraphs.
Transition: Transition into the next portion of your essay, , which examines each of these reasons in detail.
Then you move into REST paragraphs. Each of the next three paragraphs begins with one of the reasons or points , followed by supporting evidence, and a transition.
1REST (1st Paragraph)
1st reason paragraph
Reason restated in different words:
Evidence supporting reason
Summary supporting opening thesis
2nd reason paragraph
Reason restated in different words:
Evidence supporting reason
Summary supporting opening thesis
3rd reason paragraph
Reason restated in different words
Evidence supporting reason
Summary supporting opening thesis
C - Conclusion
Conclusions are tricky. Some professionals say, “Don’t summarize.” Others say, “You must summarize.” Some say, “End with a thought provoking idea concerning your conclusions.” Others say, “Don’t submit any new ideas.” I believe briefly summarizing in different words and restating your thesis is a safe way to conclude. It’s also fine to end with a thought provoking idea, or question, as long as it is relevant and truly works with the essay.
Here are some ideas for your conclusion:
· Give a brief summary of the paper's main points using different words.
· Ask a challenging question.
· Use a relevant quotation.
· Compel them to act upon the information.
· Give a warning.
· Compare to other situations.
Here are some things you should avoid:
· Ending with a summary that sounds like your first paragraph
· Introducing a new idea or subtopic—unless it’s interesting, very relevant or thought provoking.
· Bringing up a minor point in the essay.
· Apologizing or making a disclaimer, such as, “I may not be an expert”
On essay test questions, there is usually a correct answer that was taught during the course. You will need to know the correct answer based on what was taught in class. Your numbered reasons will be limited to these answers, not your opinion. It's of utmost importance that you do not add to the reasons your teacher taught you in class. The professor is only interested in seeing that you know the correct answer. You conclusion can interject opinion, but should not stray from the main focus of the course.
Is this all there is to academic composition? No, this is simply the basic formula, the very beginning. Writing an excellent composition requires good organization of thought, minimizing words, using powerful verbs instead of adjectives (creative writing likes adjectives), removing qualifiers, using active voice, rewriting nominalized verbs, removing perfect tense verbs and knowing the particulars of style.
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