Eye On Curriculum
EXCELLENCE IN WRITING
For some reason, teaching writing is or has been perceived to be an arduous and formidable task for most. I recall, with dread, introducing my classroom students to the Writing Process - a nebulous construct that was meaningless and impractical for many students. Planning (mapping), prewriting, revising, editing, and finalizing the draft seemed to be a logical and systematic approach, but unfortunately it lacked the elements of a scheme or strategy a child could easily follow without constant supervision and continual qualification. Will the frustration ever end?
Enter Excellence in Writing - a formula, a procedure, a checklist providing specifics for writing that forms a template that can be overlaid onto any writing genre - creative writing, essay writing, report writing, or research writing. Bev Rempel, who spearheads Excellence in Writing, knows from personal experience the power of this program when she introduced it to her 12-year-old son who was, not surprisingly - being a boy, a reluctant writer. With this tool, writing for him became doable and not the intimidating task he had come to expect.
With only a foundational understanding of simple grammar, children using this program seem to catch on to the essence of writing very quickly. The secret to success of this program is its reliance on modeling and imitation together with outlining. The procedure is simple and straightforward. A paragraph, on any topic either supplied by the program or selected from literature by the parent, is the model that the child extracts key words to form an outline which, in turn, is transformed through paraphrasing and summarizing into an imitation of the paragraph in the child’s own words. As the child advances in writing skill, 24 stylistic techniques are incrementally incorporated into the lessons effectively enhancing the child’s writing structure and style. These techniques include adding clauses, substituting challenging vocabulary, poetic devices, rearrangement of sentences, among others.
This program is adaptable for all ages and abilities. In the early years, writing is replaced by simple outlining and narration until the child is able to write independently. Outlines, checklists, and evaluation forms supplied in this program provide the guidance and feedback for both parent and child. The writing process goes from being a subjective analysis to an objective one because it is self-evident whether the child has performed the required tasks or not. In university before beginning classes, I recall taking a 3-day study skills course in preparation for studying and writing at this level. Not surprisingly, Excellence in Writing utilizes the very same principles and approach that I learned in this course. Here is a program with a relevant and very practical end use.
To get started on this program, attendance at a 2-day parent workshop or week-long parent/child workshop is recommended - though not essential. The alternative is either purchasing the Teaching Structure and Style Workbook and Syllabus and going it alone or purchasing the Teaching DVD’s that provide a guided approach for the child. Our family has used this program and as a teacher and parent I highly recommend it for children of all learning styles and abilities. One caution though - it is a dramatic change from the traditional approach to teaching writing and it may create some discomfort for you and your child.
Other similar programs to consider include:
WriteShop -Kim Kautzer and Debr Oldar
Format Writing -Frode Jensen (Jr High and up).