Do you have a student who struggles with writing….or find it challenging to teach? Debra Bell’s newest curriculum from Apologia Educational Ministries may be the solution to your problem! Via the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we’ve been using Writers in Residence for our writing, and I’m happy to share with you our review of the program.
We are fans of all things Apologia. We’ve quite happily used their Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal, the Apologia iWitness books, What On Earth Can I Do?, and Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics. We loved the quality, the learning experiences, the godly mindset and the creative presentations of each one. When I heard about the company’s new writing program, I was anxious for us to use it!
Writers in Residence is Debra Bell’s new writing curriculum designed for students in grades 4 and up. It is centered around the idea that God has gifted children with a voice to speak to the world and ideas He desires them to share, for their (and others’) good and His glory. This program, used in its entirety, will take them a long way in preparing them with those abilities while honing their language arts skills. It is a complete language arts program, that teaches grammar, writing, and sentence structure. But it’s anything but a dry grammar course. No, students learn all these language arts components while they write fascinating accounts of their own life experiences.
Through four different types of writing assignments (I Remember, I Imagine, I Investigate, and I Think), students engage in a variety of writing types. And these assignments are not only designed to teach various facets of language arts, they also enable children to discover their personal writing voice. In fact, this rich program teaches so much that is essential for extraordinary communication! In Writers in Residence, students will learn:
- The components of writing: plan, draft, revise, edit, polish
- How to generate ideas, choose words, organize thoughts, compose sentences
- To develop their own “voice”
- Editing, spelling, and grammar
- Writing tips from real authors
The program can be completed in 32 weeks (and a lesson plan is included), so it’s possible to finish it in one school year. It has two components, the Writers in Residence Volume 1 Apprentice Student Text and Workbook (for the student’s use–everything in one book!), and the Writers in Residence Volume 1 Apprentice Answer Key (for the mom/teacher).
First, I previewed the sections we’d be working on. The Suggested Daily Schedule was incredibly helpful, and most days (about three per week) I made the assignments listed there. Occasionally we needed a bit more time than was listed for a day’s lesson, but in general they were broken up in appropriate amounts for my son Jackson, who’s in eighth grade.
I’d assign Jackson the reading and exercise portions for the day, and most of the time, he’d do the reading on his own. Then, he’d do the exercises, which included everything from reading interviews with published authors who were interesting to kids, to brainstorming, to selecting vivid words, and more. There were also exercises where Jackson could put to work the things he was learning, and creative writing tasks apart from the writing assignment he was developing in the unit.
Because of the way the Writers in Residence student workbook is organized, each lesson and module builds on the ones before it, so writing and language arts skills in general are honed and improved as the student progresses. The Answer Key provides answers for various exercises in the book, so it can be pulled out by the parent when necessary. Many of the assignments the students work on are the original writing, but there are various exercises which will just have one right answer. Voila–the Answer Key!
What we thought about Writers In Residence
Above all, I truly value Apologia Educational Ministries‘s worldview. They absolutely seek to honor God in all their curricula. The sense I get from Writers in Residence is that while they are teaching skills to the students that they’ll require for effective communication, they’re also preparing them for the use of gifts and the calling God has for their lives. So in some ways, I view Writers in Residence not only a writing curriculum, but a tool that can be used in the discipleship of my son.
As a teacher, I really appreciate the organization of the lessons and the handy Suggested Daily Schedule included as part of the student’s workbook. As you can see in the photo above, each module is laid out in a 4-day lesson plan (although we generally worked on a 3-lesson-per-week schedule). This is fantastic for both the parent, who has a clear assignment list to work from, and for the student, who knows exactly what he’ll be doing each day. And, for those type-A kiddos who like to check things off their lists, there’s a real satisfaction in being able to check off each lesson as it’s completed!
It’s also a very thorough and complete program. Lessons on grammar, vocabulary, and the mechanics of writing are gently woven into the modules. Writers in Residence can very easily serve as a stand-alone language arts curriculum in a given year.
Parents will also love that, at the end of the course, their children will have a beautiful autobiographical record of some of their most important and beloved life experiences. Really, both the parents and children will greatly treasure this book, as a keepsake for years to come.
We did experience a few challenges as we worked through Writers in Residence. Perhaps it’s because writing is already something we do very regularly. I write frequently and Jackson, my eighth grader, also loves to communicate via the written word. He often sits down at the computer to do creative writing; it’s already a very natural process for him. I do wonder if the way that Writers in Residence breaks down writing to its very essence and mechanics might have been the challenge. Jackson is more used to just writing, rather than working step-by-step through brainstorming, rewriting for maximum effect, drafting and redrafting, and then creating the final product. I do think that the longer we worked on this process, however, the more used to it he would become, and the more proficient in working on each segment of writing. And really, isn’t this the exact process that high school and college students (not to mention professional writers) must use to create an excellent finished product?
Writers in Residence is a curriculum which can turn inexperienced writers into polished ones. Its focus on working through the process of writing, along with grammar and vocabulary, is very effective and just what will benefit students, especially as they head into high school. Its Christian worldview is the foundation for all assignments, and the grace with which assignments and the students themselves are interacted with. Once again, Apologia has created an exceptional product.
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