And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. Isaiah 54:13 KJV

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Writing for Middle School #middleschoollanguagearts

When Apologia Educational Ministries sent us a copy of  Writers in Residence Volume 1 Apprentice to review, we had some initial reactions. I started highlighting all the parental information in the beginning of the very large student book. Apple was surprised by the sheer size of the book! Speedy rolled on the ground laughing at his sister's new HUGE writing curriculum. With 576 pages, this is a BIG book.

The 18 page "Quick Guide" for parents is a great read. I highlighted something on every single page. It includes the best methods for using this curriculum, how to evaluate writing, and just inspiration from Debra Bell herself. I spent a good deal of time combing over the pages before I let Apple begin the book. This section is phenomonal. I only wish it had been put in the separate "Answer Key" book that we also received. I think that would have taken a little away from the size of the Student Text and Workbook. Also I keep the Answer Key with my books, and it would have made that section easier for me to reference when needed. 

"Writers ponder, write, retract, discuss, meditate, pray, rewrite, rethink, revise, stew, walk away, return, throw away, start again, eat chocolate, rewrite...and onward." ~Debra Bell, Writers in Residence

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
This book includes a "Suggested Daily Schedule". Do those make any other mamas extremely happy? I love when books include a schedule because it alleviates some work on my end. The suggested schedule in this book is for 4 days a week which is just perfect for us. This Volume 1 book is intended to be completed in one school year so it includes 32 weeks of plans. Oh happy day! It gives leeway for weeks that include a holiday or don't work out the way we intend!
As I mentioned earlier, the answer key is a separate book that is 144 pages. It offers an answer key, rubrics, and checklists. Before each unit, you evaluate your student's work based on the checklist for each section. The rubrics are used to evaluate their writing projects. This program makes it as easy as I think it can be for the teacher. I really appreciate the rubrics and checklists because I find evaluating writing to be very hard! I feel like I'm usually way too critical. Since these give very clear guidelines and a point system, I can easily evaluate the activities. In fact, it is suggested that each activity not be given a "grade". Instead it is recommended to use unit reviews and the mastery tests for the student's actual grade. 

Since Apple is going into 7th grade next year, I've wanted a program that would encompass spelling and grammar without them standing alone as subjects. It feels like she should just be practicing those skills at this point rather than learning and memorizing. Writers in Residence intends to teach those areas and more through practice. It will be fulfilling not only the need for a writing curriculum but also the other areas of language arts (except literature). Apple thinks that makes this huge book worth it!
This volume focuses on writing through ideas, memories, investigations, and stories. It is a gentle approach to writing that takes uses several activities to work up to each actual writing assignment. The work is divided into 6 Units. There is a "Spotlight on a Christian Writer" prior to each unit. Apple was very excited that the first spotlight was on Bill Myers, an author she recognized from reading the TJ &  the Time Stumblers books. Each unit is subdivided into modules. There are 24 modules within the 6 units. The study is completed with a final review. 
Within the modules, students work on grammar through short activities. For example, there was a passage from a C.S. Lewis book, and the student used it to practice capitalization rules. I'm not sure Apple even recognized that as a grammar lesson because it was something easy that she enjoyed. The entire book is filled with those little lessons to reinforce grammar rules. The students also write sentences or a passage and then go back to it later in a different way. I think this method doesn't feel as laborsome as writing a rough draft and then another rough draft and then a final draft. They are doing the same work, but it is presented in a unique method.
Apple has enjoyed working through Writers in Residence. During our review period, she was able to complete the first unit and one project to the final draft stage. She is happy that this will be one of her primary books in the fall. I think this curriculum fills several needs for us, and I'm also happy to have it on our shelf for 7th grade. I'm looking forward to future volumes from Debra Bell and Apologia!
See what other members of the Crew thought of this All in One writing curriculum:
Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
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