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A few months ago the Growing With Grammar folks released their new writing program – Winning With Writing. Since Growing With Grammar has been such a success in our homeschool, effectively getting her grammar skills up very fast our first year, I was very anxious to start Winning With Writing. We haven’t found a writing program that we found both effective and easy to use until now with WWW. Satori’s writing skills have really blossomed this summer, and I know that WWW has played a large part.

The kind folks helped me select which level of book to start with and even sent me a free book to review. This does not affect my review however, and I am not affiliated with them other than this free book. I wanted to get through the program enough to be able to write an informative review, and we will be starting Lesson 14 next week, when we officially get back to serious schoolwork again. Although we have only three month’s worth of a very relaxed summer under our belt, this blog post will detail our initial thoughts and experience.  I definitely plan to blog again this fall once we’ve gotten more into the program.

What Is Winning With Writing?

The Winning With Writing (WWW) program is a complete writing program with 8 different levels, from Grade 1 through Grade 8 (named Levels so that students can work higher or lower without thinking they are behind/ahead). Each level has 36 lessons, which corresponds to a typical 36-week school year, with each lesson comprised of five days. The first day introduces the concept with a short exercise. The next days expand on the concept with more exercise work. Toward the end of the lesson, the student may be exploring and experimenting with their own writing. The books are divided up into two semesters – First Semester and Second Semester, dividing the books so they are easier to handle. All lessons and written work is included in these books, it is the ultimate open-and-go curriculum. They are spiral bound so they lie flat, which we like very much. The Complete Set, which is the best deal, is only $25.99 for the two semester workbooks and two semester answer keys.

Which Level?

I was up in the air about starting with either Level 3 or Level 4 though, but with the help of their customer service and the fact that Satori does not yet effectively write in paragraphs helped me solidify my choice – Level 3. Level 3 starts the student in Paragraphs by Lesson 13 in the First Semester and expands on various paragraph types throughout the Second Semester, expecting one paragraph work at that time. Level 4 assumes 3-paragraph work in which Satori would not be ready at this time.

A complete Winning With Writing Scope and Sequence can be found on their website to aid you in determining your child’s appropriate level.

Level 3 Table of Contents

(You can see the Table of Contents and Sample Lessons for any Level on their website)

What We’ve Learned So Far in Level 3

As Satori has an insatiable appetite for writing, so the first few lessons of Level 3 have been a review. Pretty much everything we’ve covered so far she has enjoyed learning and has consequently utilized the concepts in her independent writings. Shortly after learning the basics such as Word Order and Sentences, the program gets into helpful writing skills like descriptive verbs, adverbs, and adjectives. Her writing is filled with such descriptive parts of speech, and I thank both Growing With Grammar (we also use Level 3) and Winning With Writing for that.

New for Satori that we haven’t learned in any other grammar or writing programs was learning about Similes and Metaphors. I’ve noticed she is now spicing up her writing by using such techniques.

Varying Sentences lesson has been helpful, as children at this age typically write short choppy sentences.  We learned that using different sentence lengths makes the story easier to read. She cannot stand to read early reader books as they have such short sentences, she calls it “bad literature”, lol. Even I’m learning to improve my own writing. 🙂 Satori’s own writings include a nice combination of long and short sentences, so I’d say she took these lessons to heart as well. For another peek into the program, you can see 18-pages of sample lessons.

As you can see, the lessons are short so reluctant writers shouldn’t have any problem getting the program done each day. Some “Days” only take us a few minutes however, so we’ve been doing 2-3 lessons each workday.

After every five Lessons, there is a 5-day Lesson review, covering the previous five lessons.

Best Deal – the Complete Package

If you get the Complete Package (adds $2 for both answer books) or order the Answer Keys separately ($3), you’ll get smaller spiral-bound books with the answers. Maybe in the early grades you may not need answers, but I find the Complete Package such a great deal that we will probably get the whole set going forward.

There are no tests included such as they offer in the GWG program, but it’s easy to see if concepts were indeed learned just by looking at my daughter’s writing.

Ending Thoughts

We really look forward this fall to continue using Winning With Writing – the only writing program we’ve found so easy to implement with its open-and-go ease! It’s very structured so age-appropriate writing skills are gained quickly. The lessons are all laid out so there’s no excuse not to get to writing each day. I think that this program could even possibly be used independently, perhaps Satori will use it that way at level 4. The price is great, their shipping fast, and the lessons absolutely painless to include everyday.

As mostly classical homeschoolers ourselves, writing is one subject we stray from the recommendations of just doing narration and dictation for writing for the grammar years (grade 1-4). Writing brings such pleasure to Satori that I am happy to help her along with the skills to write even more.

We recently read Pinocchio (unabridged version) and once I got to the part where he goes to the Land of Toys where the naughty little boys had all play and no work or school, Satori asked if any of the boys could write in their journals if they wanted. I said they could if they wanted to, but they probably didn’t want to write. Satori then insisted,

“Writing Is Play!”

I suppressed a chuckle. 🙂 She honestly does start writing as soon as she wakes up in the morning, and at times throughout the day, and ends the day writing. I buy her tons of journals and composition books. After every story she reads, or I read aloud, or we listen as an audiobook, she gleans ideas to incorporate into her stories.

Here is a sample of one of Satori’s stories that she wrote yesterday. I did not edit any of her spelling, grammar, or wording. The only thing I did was divide it into paragraphs, which she hasn’t started yet in her independent stories.  To write this book, she did a bit of wolf research by googling about wolves and how they live. This story is about a pack of wolves with six siblings (their mother already pregnant with another litter) and their adventures.

Mother Wolf

Chapter 1 (Prologue) – Birth

Her baby stirred. She had six. She glanced at the pack again. She would miss them. She knew what the names were. Karren, Carrie, Silvy, Silly, Kathry, and Sildyah. She carefully looked around, seeing a little cave. She rubbed a twig against another twig, and put rocks around it. She put sticks underneath it, and layed grass where she was going to lay. She sat down and didn’t mind the pain.

The pups crept under her neck where it was warmest and safest. Her husband layed more grass, and sat beside the pups. The pups were very safe, though their parents both looked after them.

That night, lightning struck the cave top, but the cave was strong. “Close your eyes and go to sleep,” the mother said in her most softest, smothing, and loving voice.They did, and went to sleep, while the parents watched.

Chapter 2 – Morning

In the morning, the sun was shining, and the birds were singing, and the flowers were blooming. It was such a beutiful sight. Although, she didn’t care.

They set off on their journey for water and food. When they’ve gone a couple miles, Sildyah found a big lake. It had plenty of fish, and a lot of deepness. They taut the pups how to fish, swim, and wash themselves. But first they learned how to walk. They ate their breakfast and milked. Then they went back home, eating and hunting in the forest.

Kathry and Silvy were the first ones to be home. “Come on, dadda! they squeaked in their little high voices. He golloped to the black and the brown pup. The others were white, silver, gray, and silverish-gray. The pups sat by the faint fire close to their mum. Father Wolf went hunting for deer for lunch. Silvy got worried.

Soon he came home. He washed himself and joined the feast. After, the pups mum washed them. Mummy, the pups called their mum.

They heard a sound of an eagle! The male ran to his pups and cudled. He got closer. She layed her head on the pups, while they crept under her belly. Their father snarled and six little ears poked out. He snatched the eagle, and threw it into the forest. The eagle came back with his mate. He had a broken wing. “Oh please! Keep as a pet.” said Karren rubbing against the eagle. “You can stay if you won’t eat my pups! You’ll eat fish!” He said in his lowest and deepest voice. The female (eagle) was to admire, and the male a maid.

The male made a broom out of straw and sticks. He also made a pot of clay and toys out of wood. Mr. Wolf taut the pups how to write by using the maid feather and berry juice. The maid even made a strong house made out of stones. They used wood for paper.

One day, whille Carrie was watching the storm, she noticed a different pack of wolves. She wanted to see the heard again. But mum was pregnant with four pups.

 

Okay, that’s about all I could copy-type. I gave up and started taking photographs of the pages. Satori fluttered about all worried that no one would be able to read it then. She begged to type it herself, but I know it would take her forever to type. So here’s the photographed pages.

(I don’t expect people to read the whole story, this is more like documentation on her writing progress.)

 

 

Here’s a few of my favorite passages of the story:

“By morning, they were in America. They collected money and even the sailor’s shillings! They ate fish and arthropods, mice, and clams.”

“When they got back, Silvy head the same wood crunching under her little darling paws. Kathry snatched a grasshopper. The pups moved back to their protective parents.”

“He was the last, and she nursed him, and fed him, and snuggled with her youngest lad. Silden felt that soft feeling. Love. Love is the first thing you need in your life. It is the strongest feeling in the world.”

Last night Satori was writing in one of her journals and asked me what a willow tree looked like. When we googled images of willow trees, she said that she’d have to change her story a little.

This is her story she wrote late last night. I typed out her exact words after each picture, spelling and all. (She cranks out a few of these type of stories a day sometimes.)

Antenniana

June 1, 2011  | written and illustrated by Satori

Chapter 1 – In the Forest

Antenniana was a 9 year old girl. She had rich pale black hair, and eyes as blue as the sea. She was an orphan that lived under a blossoming branch of a willow tree. If you were there, you’d usually find her under another tree in a carpet of flowers. She wore gloves and a ballarina dress. She ate from a plum tree, beirry bush, and the river that was always flowing with fish even in the winter. She slept on top of the willow tree.

One fine morning as Antenniana woke up, she heard some footsteps. Quickly she loocked back, it was a man, and he said “You must go to the orphanage at once!” Without anyone reminding her, she climbed down, and took his hand. They walked to a city called Irilly. A strange, tall, big, and red biulding made out of bricks. It had 479 windows. A charming blue door, and a women was looking out a window.
She came down and opened the door. It was romantic inside. It had a shadaleer lit with cadles, a red, orange, fancy couch, and a very decorated chair, and a desk with lamp and a dwors.

Chapter 2 – In the Orphanage

We have recently finished grade two of two grammar programs and are starting grade 3 in both. Some may think I’m insane for doing so much grammar. Is it paying off? I am seeing some descriptive adjectives and adverbs, as well as mostly correct use of quotes, commas, and  sentences. Pretty much anything we learned in grade 2 grammar is demonstrated in this little story. I think she surpassed her first grade writing knowledge that she learned, except for not using paragraphs. As for spelling, I think it’s pretty good for a six year old. We have done two levels of All About Spelling a year now and are more than halfway done in Level 4 (grade 3-4ish).

We have not focused nearly as much on actual writing program. We finished Write Source grade 1 and all we did this spring was learn different types of writing. Not much official writing practice was done.

We are starting Grade 2 today in our homeschool at Fox Mountain Academy and will be concentrating on building appropriate paragraphs going forward. Hopefully by the end of the summer, we’ll have some well-written paragraphs!

One of my biggest homeschooling concerns currently is how I should take advantage of my daughter’s writing enthusiasm.

We’ve been studying lots of grammar, using both Growing with Grammar Level 3 and First Language Lessons 2. They’re very similar in their scope so far, with GWG being more visual/written and FLL being more oral/memorization. Since we’re on Level 3 (grade 3) of GWG, we’ve started diagramming with that program first. We just started this week in fact. Satori loves it.

I don’t mean for this whole story to be read and scrutinized, but here’s an example book that Satori writes almost everyday. She wrote these pages in the first hour of her waking up one day this week.

Neither First Language Lessons or Writing With Ease has taught us what a paragraph is though, so you’ll have to excuse the solid blocks of sentences. In fact, I’ve heard that FLL/WWE doesn’t teach paragraphs at all in their first four years of books. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong. Growing with Grammar will be introducing paragraphs to us in their Level 3, 1.20 lesson, which coincidentally, we’ll be hitting tomorrow. The writing program we use – Write Source Grade 1 – covered paragraphs, however, in these early grades, they don’t require (or expect) children to be writing multiple paragraphs. So Satori has no concrete experience with writing paragraphs.

What I have noticed is that anything I do teach her, does actually come out in her writing! In Growing with Grammar we’ve recently learned Direct and Indirect Quotations and conjunctions. I am seeing both of these concepts properly applied in her writing. I guess our emphasis on grammar is paying off! I even see new vocabulary words being used. On this page, she used the word “knob”, which we learned in one of our Geography terminology picture books means a small hill.

I’ve also noticed usage of adverbs, which is a new part of speech we learned a few days ago in First Language Lessons.

Later that day, she wrote more pages and finished the whole book. You can find blank books like this on Rainbow Resource. I think that’s a bit expensive for just one book, but she loves them. We also quickly go through these smaller books for a more reasonable price.

But there’s more to quality writing than grammar and conventions. She has a pretty good writing voice. She often asks her reader questions in her writing. I want her to learn more of this as well, so I’ve been educating myself everyday. Here’s what I’m using.

BraveWriter – Writer’s Jungle

In my opinion, this is too expensive for what you actually get if you purchase it at the regular price ($79 for a download), so I was glad to find it 50% off at the Homeschool Buyers Co-op. I started reading it a few weeks ago and am halfway through. It isn’t a curriculum, but a 246 page manual that guides the parent in approaching writing. It debunks several popular writing misconceptions and has given me the courage to perhaps tackle writing (gasp) on my own with my daughter, using no curriculum. I’ve refrained from purchasing her Arrow subscriptions, but eagerly read other people’s thoughts. I’d like to finish this book first and then decide whether to buy the Arrow subscription, which I think should also be less expensive.

6+1 Traits of Writing by Ruth Culham

This is loved by public school writing teachers, but I’ve most definitely gotten my $18.95 worth out of the first book for primary students (grade K-2-ish). It goes into detail the 7 traits of writing – Ideas, Sentence Fluency, Organization, Word Choice, Voice, Conventions, plus the 7th trait – Presentation. It is chock full of actual student writing samples from from kindergarten to grade 2. It has given me tons of ideas on how to demonstrate great writing skills, as well as how to assess my daughter’s writing. Based on this book, my daughter is ready for the next book, 6+1 Traits of Writing: The Complete Guide Grades 3 and Up. That just arrived in the past hour and I’ll be reading it this weekend.

Next week I’ll probably order her book, Using Picture Books to Teach Writing With the Traits.

Also arriving on Tuesday of next week is the entire Michael Clay Thompson language arts Island series program! I’ve heard so much about this, it was all I could do to wait until I thought my daughter was ready. This program is designed for 4th graders, or gifted 3rd graders. We’re far from either. Needless to say I really thought I should wait a few more years, but enough people were happily using it with their younger ones that I decided to give it a look.

I also look forward to improving my own grammar and writing skills. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in an academic environment (it’s been 13 years since college) and I know I need to brush up on several skills. I’m also quite psyched after reading both the books mentioned above (Writer’s Jungle and 6+1 Traits), there’s so many ways Satori and I can improve our writing and make it more fresh and appealing.

I’m documenting some of the things Satori did today and last night. I find these fun to look through years later. Usually Satori wakes up before me and by the time I come downstairs, she is writing in a journal or in a blank book. Today was no exception. This page on “My favorite stuff” was so cute. She spells journals as “jurnles”, I’ll have to show her how to spell that, as it is one of her favorite stuffs.

I don’t correct any spelling/grammar in her independent creative works, but make mental notes on what we might have to work on. If she has a word she uses often in her writing, I might show her how to spell it. I’ll probably show her how to spell these words: different, journal, and coral. I think I’ll pass on anemones for now, I hardly know how to spell that one.

This week in our RSO science studies we’ve been learning about animals, last week it was mollusks and this week echinoderms. I realized that tide pools host many of these animals so we’ve been reading a few books on tide pools. Satori gets very excited when she learns new things. She took out her watercolor pencils and wrote and drew what she’s learned.

Here is a painting of Satori and I at a tide pool. We are trying our best to convince Daddy that we must visit tide pools in Oregon. I have never been to one and this is something I’d love to see. We have a big trip scheduled in May, but we were planning on going to the Grand Canyon. We’ll try hard to reschedule that for when we study Earth next year and get him to see that a tide pool would really be cool!

We also read a bunch of books and watched a few videos on coral reefs. She loves to tell the story about how when she went scuba diving in my belly before I knew I was pregnant. Luckily she turned out ok, even after two pina coladas that night!

I love her colorful reef picture.

Needless to say, our floor is covered with books and pictures and pages about corl reefs and tide pools this week. 🙂

 

First of all, I have to disclose that we haven’t been using our writing program faithfully every week. If you’ve been reading our blog, you’ll know that Satori writes on her own all the time. This morning she got up early and went straight to writing books on Australia and snails. It feels wrong to make her write more, but I’d love her writing skills to improve, so we’re going to be picking up our writing program and using it more. (I probably say this every few months…) We’ve been using Write Source for the past few years and will be finishing up Write Source Grade 1 this spring. We stray from the popular WTM’s classical education recommendations of doing copywork and narrations and not focusing on original writing. We cover the copywork/narration in other subjects, so we started using a program that covers actual writing, much like in the public schools. I know most people probably are happy with Writing With Ease (or other writing program or even none for first grade) and that’s fine. I’m just being thorough here for people interested in Write Source. 🙂

Write Source First Grade

We mostly just use the colorful Student textbook. The first part of the year we got all the Write Source grammar out of the way, so during that time we used the Student Workbook a lot. We’re done with the workbook, and now will be solely focusing on writing. (I’m not sure why we bothered with the grammar portion, we already do grammar in other programs.)

This week we learned how to review a Fiction Book. Here’s the textbook introducing a sample of a book review for a fiction book. This is the first time we’re getting some direction on how to flesh out a paragraph – we have a beginning, middle, and ending. I made sure Satori realized not to cover the book in great detail and give away the ending (shown in bubble tip), but just enough to get the reader to be intrigued and want to read the book.

Now, to tackle the actual writing! Write Source follows a definite Writing Process: Prewrite, Write, Revise, Edit, and Publish. The text guides us through each stage, giving us examples.

Prewrite – Gather your details.

As always, Write Source gives us different methods on how to organize our thoughts. In this type of writing, they have a Details Sheet for us to fill out. The Teacher’s Edition text has a blank example, but we hardly ever lug that out, so I whipped up my own handmade version.

We went into our library and Satori chose this book, Very Last First Time by Jan Andrews. This is one of our FIAR books we actually never read, but I had just read it to her yesterday because we’re learning about mussels (mollusks). She read it back to me this morning. (I don’t have her read much to me, but she did a great job, so I’m thinking we’ll have to do this more often.)

Write – Write your first draft.

Using her details sheet, she wrote her sentences down on paper. It was super easy because it was already organized.

Revise – Change your writing.

After that, she reads her written review aloud to me and we discuss it. If I have any trouble understanding parts of her writing, we will add revisions in blue pen to make it clearer. (I didn’t take a photo of the page spread for Write/Revise, I’m sorry. I think I took samples in another blog post though.)

We then usually conclude the lesson for the day. Today we kept going. The next part is the Edit.

Edit – Check your writing.

Next we take a red pen and check for conventions (rules). For first grade, we check three things: Capital letters, End marks, and Spelling. We do this together.

Satori and I love to do the editing parts with the bright blue and red markers. It’s more fun to do these colorful marking edits together than if I simply took a red pen myself and slashed away.

Publish – Share your writing

Finally, Satori takes a new sheet of paper and makes a neat final copy of her writing.

We also add a drawing, but I forgot to snap a pic of her drawing today.

Here’s her final Fiction Book Review!

Next week we’ll be reviewing a Nonfiction Book as well as her favorite – Writing Stories!

Write Source Kindergarten

At the time of this post, someone was asking on the WTM forums about Write Source Kindergarten. This program is just the one book, which acts as both the workbook and textbook, all in color. Satori did this so long ago she totally forgot she worked in this book! She could barely even write or spell a proper, complete sentence, and that was just less than a year ago (looking at past blog posts). But it is a gentle introduction to writing.

As you see here, it already starts out with the red editing marks that we find so much fun to check for.

It introduces the Six Traits of Writing (found in many writing programs): Ideas, Organization, Voice, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, and Conventions.

As you can see, it’s very simple and works with simple sentences to ease the child into writing.

Back to Write Source Grade 1, here’s a sample page which goes into the Writing Traits in a bit more detail.

We’ve been pretty happy with Write Source so far, and will most likely use Write Source Grade 2. I’d then like to try a more challenging writing program, but I still haven’t figured out what we’ll be using next.

EDIT ONE DAY LATER…

I’ve had several PMs/emails/blog comments about what books exactly I was talking about, so I’ll post them here as well as update the blog. Keep in mind I think I’m the only WTM person that uses Write Source for the early grades, so just use your own judgement if you think it might work for your particular family! I’m posting the links to Rainbow Resource, where I ordered them. They also seem to have great prices for this program.

Kindergarten book – this book is both the text and workbook:

New Generation Write Source Kindergarten Student Book

First Grade

SkillsBook ($7.15)

Student Book ($28.35) – I think I refer to this as the Textbook.

Just wanted to share some of Satori’s free writes from the week. A few times this week I’ve been waking up to a new State Capital Chart where she writes the states and their capitals in a list. She knows them better than I do now. She also loves creative writing. A few days ago we started reading this excellent book The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich and we’ve both fell in love. It’s about a 7 year old Ojibwa girl, Omakayas, living on Madeline Island in 1847. This is particularly meaningful to me, as I’m half Ojibwa (Satori is 1/4) and I’ve been to Madeline Island.

Satori is so taken with the book she talked all night about writing her own Birchbark House book. She said she’d make it a bit different though, so her book is about Esacoma and her Burchbark House!

I haven’t read her whole book yet, but I was impressed. She’s been taking everything she’s learning and meshing them all into her book. We’ve been learning about early American History, geography, and of course, The Birchbark House.

 

In the actual story, Omakayas named her baby brother Chickadee. Well here he gets named Carloee.

The book is several pages long, and on the last page, she even included a pronunciation chart for the harder-to-pronounce names! 🙂

Another book she wrote this week is The Alive States of America. This is a combo of both books Scrambled States of America and The Little Man in the Map.

Of course it starts out with Kansas and some states being upset for being in the middle of nowhere.

Party time when all the states decide to scramble themselves! Anyone with the Scrambled States book will recognize these little state characters.