Viewing 9 posts - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)
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  • MichelleG

    Hello all,

    I am at a loss as to how to teach writing.  I have two boys, 15 and 11.  Both have their learning struggles.  I have tried written narrations.  For a variety of reasons that I won’t bore you with, this hasn’t worked out very well.   Suffice it to say, hearing literature and verbally narrating have not morphed into decent written narrations.  Not in the least.

    My 15 yo can write a paragraph, but doesn’t really get what a correct sentence is supposed to look like, and can’t organize his thoughts super well.  (Never has attempted an essay.)  My 11 yo has those problems and many more.  We are a reading family – lots of read alouds, and my 15 year old reads at least a book or two a month consistently.  I would guess that both are a grade level or two (or more??) behind in writing and spelling.

    I’ve just bought Essentials in Writing, which is a video enhanced workbook.  A large chunk of this is grammar the we definitely could use.  Another large chunk is dedicated to laying out what different types of sentences look like (simple, compound, complex), which is also something we need to learn/relearn.  The issue I have with this curriculum (EIW) is that it looks dry, like it’s going to be a struggle to get and keep them interested.  Also,  each level looks like they just repeat themselves, so it would be hard to do it year in and year out.  I don’t want my guys to hate writing in the end.  So while doing one level one year of EIW might really help us along, I still feel like I need a PLAN to teach writing, a PATH, a WAY. Does that make sense??

    I’d like a curriculum and not just ideas.  I love ideas as much as the next gal, but unless it’s laid out, it doesn’t really get implemented.  BUT, I’d like something that isn’t torture for my kids (and me)!  It can be a little dry here and there, but I would love to find something that we look forward to overall, that just teaches succinctly how to write basic stuff.  And I’d like something that has BOYS in mind!  Boys who could not care less about writing things well.  So many writing programs look to be awesome if you had the wind at your back by way of a zealous, loves-to-write-already GIRL!

    We have tried IEW.  I know there are many that love it, I just don’t.  It’s just me.  I own Bravewriter and haven’t read it yet (summer reading for mom).  But this seems more like an idea book, not really a plan/curriculum.  I also feel like with a 15 almost 16 year old, I need to get with it, and not try and lay out some long-fangled, theory based deal.  I think I’ve exhausted myself a hundred times researching writing programs.  If anyone has had any of these same issues and has anything to offer I’d be very appreciative!



    Rachel White

    Simple solution: How about sell the EIW and outsource it:

    Wendi Reed, Writing ER- one year at Big River Academy

    Excelsior- one semester writing courses by Erin Sipe

    And Essay Workshop semester is at Excelsior, too.

    Also at Classes by Beth has a summer intensive and a one year Essay class.


    I think you should try Jump In by  Sharon Watson. Check the samples to make sure your oldest wouldn’t find it too juvenile. It’s directed towards middle school age but it sounds like your oldest would benefit from its instruction.

    We are using the high school version with my daughter this year and it is going well. It’s titled The Power In Your Hands. It isn’t dry and it is broken down into quite doable lessons. Jump In is broken down even more. You could use it with both boys and move your 15 year old on to The Power In Your Hands next year. That will still give him plenty of time to cover all the forms of writing needed for college as TPIYH can be scheduled over one or 2 years depending on your preference. Either way, he will be done with it in plenty of time.


    Thank you both so much for responding!  I will look into the above mentioned.  I’ve also been reading old writing threads on this forum.  If anyone has anything else to add, I’ll look at that too 😉


    Please take a look at Michael Clay Thompson’s Language Arts

    my only downside is that it is pricey, but I will tell you how I teach it and then I just need the teacher’s books.

    My son age 11 has dyslexia and was completely lost in language arts. He would do the worksheets and I couldn’t read them. He wouldn’t get it and would need me to help him through most every bit. I tried 5 different types of curriculums and nothing clicked until this one. This program was actually written for gifted and talented kids, go figure. LOL

    Anyway, the grammar book reads almost like a story, which I read to the kids. I have a document camera and a dongle.. This allows me to project the book onto my tv screen and so I read it while they follow along. It looks almost like a child’s book the print is so big and not much there and yet with the visuals, it makes it click. Anyway, this book should be used everyday for about a 4-6 weeks. Mainly just read and discuss and there are a few practice things that I just cover up the answers and have them do them orally.  By the time you are done with this book, they should be able to distinguish all 8 parts of speech, parts of a a sentence, type and function of said sentence, and point out any phrases and name which kind it is. WOW, right? As if this wasn’t enough, to solidify it and keep it in their brains to never be forgotten, they analyze 1 sentence a day after that. Takes literally 5 minutes and grammar is done!

    I thought this sounded too easy and yet I was desperate and so I tried it and it worked. My 11 year old dyslexic son can do all those things. Does he get  some wrong, of course. Heck, even some I have to look at the answers, but he is getting the majority and that is what I love.

    Now, the vocab is intense! However, it is his favorite. It is all about Rome and Caesar and I thought how boring, but he loves it. He likes learning the new words and catching them being used in the stories. Whenever he hears a vocab word, he yells out its meaning making it a kind of game. He is learning latin stem words. which has made a huge impact on his spelling.

    The poetry he could do without, but I throw it in since it takes such a short time.

    The writing focuses not so much on fiction and story prompts, but challenges them to research and write proper sentences, proper paragraphs, and a proper essay.

    We are finishing up Paragraph town and I am quite happy with not only the quantity that he has been able to do, but the quality.

    Our next year will be Essay Voyage and it seems to ramp up this year, So I would say jump in at paragraph town probably for your age kids. It would be pretty easy for your 15 year old, but then getting something out of them is better than none. His stuff is age grouped and isn’t based on grade. if you look at his high school aged stuff, it would be college level for when I was in school.

    I love how his stuff is arranged to be taught. The grammar book is for the first 4-6 weeks and nothing else. I would read at least 8 pages, but would finish a section if I was a page or two away. I school 5 days a week and it takes about 15 mins.

    Once you finish it and start the daily sentences, then you start the vocab and I break it down into 2 days this makes the lessons be about 15-20 mins long. first day I read half the lesson and day 2 I read other half, we do not do all the activities. I quiz on day one as a pre-test but if they pass with 90 or above then they do not have to take it again the next day. (this is a motivator in and of itself) I then give them the quiz every day after until they make a 90 or above. (again natural motivator to learn them so they do not have to see the test every day)  They have never had to take it a third time.

    Day 3 I do poetry and I read at least 7-8 pages, but try to finish the section if possible. This takes about 10-15 mins. I assign the poetry assignments as optional only.

    Days 4 & 5 I do the writing book and again half the lesson per day and then they have an assignment that I would have them work on and I would give them usually 4 days to turn in. I give it the once over and explain any corrections needed and then they are to make corrections and they have 2 more days to complete that then I grade the paper.  Slowly, but surely the simple mistakes are not happening anymore and their writing is evolving into actual writing. LOL btw, I only just started really grading them, before I just wanted to get them putting something on paper.

    Anyway, lessons are short and because it gets mixed up between the vocab, poetry, and writing they don’t seem to get to bored with it all.

    We are reading Harry Potter books together and lots of their vocab words are in her books, so now he even hollers out the word meanings during that as well.

    Remember this is a boy who has dyslexia and he really doesn’t mind any of these except the poetry…. an yet, he wrote a poem that was to show personification and apostrophe using vocab words if possible. (in case you don’t know because I didn’t until this book, apostrophe is when you speak with the object you are personifying or treating as a human when it isn’t) Here it is… just for kicks and grotesque and vivid are his vocab words.

    O poor Marigold, how did you loose your head?

    Your stem is standing tall and strong

    and yet you look so grotesque, so wrong.

    Your green is so vivid.

    Your yellow so true

    and yet when I see you

    my emotions turn so blue.

    I see death coming to claim you soon

    so farewell I say to you.

    I hope and pray the afterlife

    is so very good to you.


    Made me laugh anyway.

    Hope this helps you and best thing is no worksheets!! I feel this is more laid back like CM approach and yet it is intense, but fun.

    I forgot to mention the genius of it all is how he works in the vocab words into grammar and poetry and writing and how he works the poetry into all the other subjects etc. So students are being exposed to all the concepts daily and aren’t even aware of it.




    Wow, thanks so much for taking the time!  I will re-read all you wrote when I have more time to really dig in.  I’ve looked at MCT’s website briefly, but didn’t really get it — I will definitely look again now that I have a better explanation of it all.

    I don’t know if I mentioned it above, but my 11 yo I believe, is dyslexic too. He reads at about a 2-3 grade level, cannot spell, and has learned to print and write in cursive, but doesn’t enjoy a lot of written work (gets fatigued easily with the task of writing).  With this son, I always feel like I don’t even want him to do a copious amount of writing when his spelling is so bad.  We are remediating spelling with All About Spelling Levels 1-4 and some simple dictation sentences.  But I still need a writing plan for him and his brother, so I’m so appreciative that you posted about MCT.

    Thanks again so much for the generous response; I will absolutely check it out!



    I am with you; writing is difficult to teach!

    We start with oral and written narrations, then move to Jump In Writing in about 6th grade. I feel like this gives them a very good idea of how to structure their writing, and they enjoy it. My 7th-8th grade kids move to Writing with Skill when they are ready to start the essay writing process.

    I teach a group of high schoolers, and have had very good success by just using youtube videos and breaking down the writing process as simply as possible. Go back to what Hemingway called, “one true sentence” through copywork.  When they have a grasp of how to communicate a simple declarative sentence, then you can show them how to expand their style with sentence combining.

    Essay writing is simplified when students understand how to write an effective introduction. Once they understand how to lay out a paper through a well-written introduction, essay writing becomes much, much more simple. I like these videos that were designed for ESL students:

    And this professor is fun to watch as well:

    Hope those will help somewhat and I just want to encourage you. Keep exposing them to good writing and keep challenging them to work at it. Writing is really a process and involves re-working your original many times over.  If kids can accept that and be open to revision, they can write successfully. “To write is human, to edit is divine.” 🙂


    Graphic Organizers!!!

    They have been a Total Blessing!!

    Start with the “hamburger paragraph ”

    Then memorize 5 transition words or print off a list.

    Now Hand out a simple graphic organizer for a compare contrast essay.  Fill it out with them.  Then do one “hamburger paragraph ” per day….. be sure to put in those transitions you’ve memorized.

    Next pick a Persuasive Graphic Organizer….and do the same thing all over again. 😊



    Thanks so much for all the great tips above!  Returned the EIW — wish them well, but it just wasn’t for us, and I’m going to really look into the things mentioned here.  I’ve also realized (duh!) that I may need to use different things for different kids — my 11 yo really just needs a lot of help with spelling and actual writing a lot more right now than he needs help with narrative type writing (he’s a fantastic verbal narrator, so I’ll be satisfied with that for now).  My oldest is needing to get to the essay and fast, but I must say I’ve upped the written narrations since posting, and I think I have more to work with than I thought.

    Again thanks again all of you so much for taking the time to post (old writing threads too!) — I don’t post a lot, but I read weekly and APPRECIATE this forum so much!


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