Friday, April 13, 2012

TOS Review - Write with WORLD

One of the areas that we have struggled with a little (sometimes more than a little!) in our homeschool is effective writing.  Believe it or not, some homeschool students don't like to write, or at least they think they don't like to write.  My boys make that claim, and I keep looking for help in changing that.  That's why I was looking forward to the opportunity to review a new writing curriculum from the publishers of God's World News and WORLD Magazine.


The first thing I noticed as I looked through Write with WORLD for the first time was that it's non-consumable! (That's one of my favorite words when used to describe curriculum!)  It's full of eye-catching images with a news-magazine feel, and the teaching material is in Capsules which are usually just a couple pages long.  Each unit guides the student through a process of thinking, organizing ideas, and planning what to say in order to produce effective writing.  I thought that it really treated the reader more like a journalist-in-training than as a student - like the ideas and opinions they write really matter beyond just getting a grade.

Here's a little of what I read in the introductory pages of the text that caught my eye, and I felt this was the approach I wanted for teaching my reluctant writers the skill of writing well:

See, many writing curricula teach students to understand the basic building blocks of writing - sentences and paragraphs.  But that requires little thought. Like many of you, we learned early on the parts of speech... All were important lessons, but none of them made us great writers.  None taught us how to be thoughtful: we had basic tools but did not know how to use them...
...We understood thoroughly the concept of a sentence, but did not know what made one sentence weak and another great... We could put words on a page but possessed little skill for explaining the choices we made when we put pen to paper.
This is not just a collection of tired writing prompts and grammar lessons.  This is a a curriculum that encourages 'thoughtful arrangement of details, ideas, and words', comparative reading, and engaging in a process of asking questions and making educated decisions about what to write and how.  The very first Unit simply asks the student to look at the pictures in the text and start asking some of their own questions about those pictures. Wondering about the story behind the image. There is very little 'pen on paper' to start with; instead they are learning idea development and critical thinking. I liked this gradual approach to getting those thoughts onto paper.  You see, my middle school and high school boys both have a decent understanding of parts of speech, grammar and punctuation, and paragraph and essay structures.  But they don't like to write.  They don't want to write, and they groan/procrastinate/avoid the writing assignments in their Language Arts workbooks.  But writing is an essential skill, and one they do need to learn, even if they are not planning to be authors or journalists.   By using this approach, I hope that they will be more willing to get some of their thoughts organized and set down on paper, so that they can be effective communicators.

Landon (7th grade) got to try out some of the lessons, and although he kept his written answers as short as possible, he was relaxing his resistance to writing assignments and allowing himself to think more creatively and critically.  He's not ready to be enthusiastic and writing yet, and I'm not going to try and turn him into a novelist, but I do think that this approach has a good chance of encouraging him to channel his thoughts and ideas into effective writing.


We reviewed the year one portion of a two-year writing program geared for middle-school students.  The publishers also have plans to have a website available (slated for September 2012) for users of the curriculum, with the intent of providing an online publishing opportunity for student writers, and additional writing subjects to augment the workbooks.  I am looking forward to seeing what the website will have to offer, what the second year of the program looks like, and I think this curriculum will find a place in our homeschool for the next couple of years!

What we liked best:

  • non-consumable, so it can be used with more than one student
  • no 'fill in the blank with a canned easy answer' assignments.  These assignments ask a student to think and give their opinion, and learn how to do that in writing.  There are some quizzes and reviews that utilize a multiple choice or match the answers format, but certainly not every unit.  
  • the parent/teacher edition offers lots of information on grading, evaluating, and critiquing the student's work.  There is a general and a detailed overview for each Unit, with suggestions for encouraging and engaging the student, and providing helpful feedback.
  • timely and flexible topics of interest to young teens

Other thoughts:

  • At first, I expected to see "answers" in the parent/teacher edition, and it took me a little while to adjust my expectations.  After all, I like that this is a program for encouraging individual thought and creativity, so it's not really possible to provide the "right" answer to opinion questions.  Basically, the teacher edition is filled with suggestions and encouragement for effectively teaching the material, not filled with the answers.  

After trying Write with WORLD on for several weeks, my plan is to use it for both of my middle school students next year. Landon is reluctant to write and is a young man of few words, and Kennady wants to write her stories and share them with others, and I think they would both benefit! Especially given the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other and perhaps even 'compete' a little in the process. I would love if there was a high school version of Write With World, but I guess that's still a few years down the road.  But I've actually started toying with the idea of using this as a basis for a basic skills writing course for Spencer, who will be a senior next year but has spotty experience with writing.Photobucket

Would your students like to Write with WORLD? Here's what you need to know:

Year One consists of a teacher and student book.  The student book has 16 lessons divided into 4 units, teaching comparative and critical reading, writing fundamentals, narratives, reporting, reviewing, critique, and opinion.  The textbook is non-consumable, so each student would need a notebook for their written work.

You can find out more by visiting the Learn with World website, where you will find lots of information, a sample lesson to download, and ordering information.

Year One and Year Two can be purchased separately for $95 each, or in a two-year combo for $165.  The price also includes web access.

Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog for more information, and to read other Crew member reviews.

Disclaimer: As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, we received a complimentary pilot version of the Year One curriculum in exchange for our honest opinions.


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