April 21, 2016

Writers In Residence ~ All-In-One Curriculum for Even the Most Reluctant Writer {Curriculum Review}

Writing is a subject that Little Britches struggles with. He just doesn't enjoy it, and creative writing is usually the most dreaded--he simply doesn't have the confidence to write down any ideas he has. He's my reluctant writer, and it's a challenge to find a program that will work for him--he's also an auditory learner. Enter Writers in Residence from Apologia Educational Ministries--a program that was designed with the reluctant writer in mind. I was interested to review the product to see if it would be a curriculum that Little Britches would enjoy or at the very least, not avoid.
Writers in Residence from Apologia: Product Review
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Product Information

Writers in Residence is a new to the market Language Arts curriculum from the always fabulous Debra Bell and Apologia Educational Ministries. This is a writing focused curriculum, to gently help your student find their own writing style through a narrative lesson plan which enables your child to work very independently through the program. Writers in Residence (which I will refer to as WIR in this review) incorporates lesson in grammar, side by side with the writing elements. One of the ways that this program teaches your child about writing, is by showing them REAL writing by some big name authors in the Christian book world. 

Writers in Residence is geared for grades 4th-8th, includes an All-in-One Student Workbook and an answer key, which provides directions and rubrics to help you know how to grade your child's assignments. The Writers in Residence complete curriculum retails for $89.00, but it is possible to get additional student workbooks if you are looking to teach more than one child.

We were given a copy of the Writers in Residence complete curriculum to use with Little Britches.

How Did We Use It?
When the WIR arrived, I was surprised at how BIG the book was! It's nearly 2" thick and it has a great big spiral binding, which is ideal for workbooks. Because there isn't a teacher's guide, I decided to spend a day just going through the introduction to get a feel for how the program works. There are 20 pages just in the introduction! The main portion of the introduction is "How to use this book". This section literally shows you the purpose behind the book. How it's separated, how to make it work for your child, how to use it in co-ops, teaching method/philosophy, assignment cycle, thoughts on spelling, the role of the parent/teacher, grading, and even an end goal...and that's only a few of the things mentioned!

The next section kicks off the actual book, so I continued to look through it. There were pages with mini author bios of the professional authors included in the program, the six traits of writing, an introduction to the writing process, and a suggested daily schedule (yay!). At this point Unit 1 begins--and it starts with a Meet the Author interview. This is a nice touch and makes real writers more approachable. 

From this point on, we stuck to the suggested daily schedule for our lessons--with some modification as needed. I didn't require Little Britches to do all the reading--and we worked through it together. As of right now, we finished Module 4 and will be starting Module 5 when we come back from Spring Break. We did it at least 3 times a week, with me allowing some extra time for a few of the writing assignments.

Here are some pictures from our work:
Review on Identifying the Nouns in Sentences

deciding whether to do his memory sentences chronologically or topically

Adding predicates to complete the sentences

Adding subjects to complete the sentences
Rough draft of the first memory writing assignment--his special place is a Summer Camp he attends each year

Practicing vigorous verbs

Part of the Unit Review

End of a Module Rubric to check off all the completed assignments

His ongoing word collection--I think I need him to check his spelling on a couple.

What Are Our Thoughts on the Product?

Little Britches: "Well I don't like writing. But this one isn't too bad because I don't have to write stuff every day. And I already know a lot of this grammar, so those exercise thingys are easy to do. So far, I think I like this curriculum the best, because I don't have to write every day. But I don't love it. Or enjoy it or anything."

There you go. That statement helps me analyze the program. And for the record, I don't think he'd EVER admit he enjoyed writing. LOL. This truly is for the reluctant writer. The approach is gentle, and so far has not had them have to come up with things out of nothing. They are given guides and reminders that very few writers come up with things from scratch. There are a lot of boy friendly aspects of the program--a lot of prompts about them writing about super heroes and archenemies. Perfect for the 4th-8th grade genre of kids! 

I really appreciate having this as an all-in-one open and go curriculum. I can simply grab the big workbook and have everything we need. The daily schedule is a wonderful guide on how to do each module in pieces--and it's in both the student workbook and the answer key. 

Speaking of the answer key--I like that the program encourages the student to check their own work. I can open the answer key to the assignment he's working on, and he can determine for himself how he did. I love how it fosters independent learning.

The narrative style of the workbook is very good and makes it a good read-aloud for any parents helping their child. I am glad to know they have designed this as a biblically based framework for children to learn how to communicate and write properly. 

I found the assignments to be very straight forward and easily understood. They were short which Little Britches appreciated. He liked having the rubric to check off the things he had done and to see what he had left.

I really liked the addition of the word collector activity. At first, Little Britches wasn't very hot on the idea, but he got into it and started collecting words from other schoolwork to write down in his word collector at the end of each module. 

I absolutely think you can use this book for multiple children in multiple levels--because it's written in a broad sense. The grammar activities are perfect for review, or new learning. The writing assignments are personal, so they will be different for each child. 

Anything I don't like? Honestly, no. I haven't found anything I don't like about the program at this point. I love the ease of use, and lack of time consumption for completion. I would have loved to do a curriculum like this myself in school actually--and I'm not a reluctant writer!

Will we continue to use this product?
I definitely think we will. It's consumable and I think it will be a valuable jump start on writing for Little Britches. I can easily pick back up our other writing curriculum at any time when we are done with this one--and he might even do better on it thanks to this Apologia product.

Would We Recommend This Product?

I do think that Writers in Residence a good fit for the reluctant writer--but really ANY writer should enjoy the creativity and scope of the program! The exercises are short, and the writing topics fun and interesting for the grade level. The program adds in excellent grammar instruction as it relates to writing properly, and guides the student to expand their vocabulary with the "word collection" exercises. This is a good fit for someone who wants to be more of a guide rather than a teacher of this subject, as the student workbook is very much capable of being used independently. The program is very open and go--because it is an all-in-one workbook. If you have multiple students in the 4th-8th grade level, you can get each one a book, and then work together through it--or allow your older children to move at their own speed because it really IS written to to encourage independence.

The program is not something I will recommend for a family that isn't Christian focused, because this is a curriculum with references to God, and refers exclusively to Christian authors for the interview portions. 

Want to Know More?

We reviewed Writers in Residence from Apologia Educational Ministries. You have read our thoughts on the product, but what did everyone else think about it? Check out the rest of the crew reviews!
Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
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While Little Britches still doesn't love writing, I think that this program has definitely given us a change from other styles we have used. I will be curious to see how it goes as we continue using WIR, and will hopefully add an update to this review closer to the conclusion of the curriculum. I will also be following Apologia to see when the proposed next volume of the Writers in Residence series will come out!

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