kitchen table math, the sequel: Susan S on her summer writing program

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Susan S on her summer writing program

Well, I'll just tell you what I'm using for my 6th grader this summer. Some stuff may be appropriate for your child, but you would have to make the call.

The first thing I ordered this summer that I really like a lot is The Paragraph Book by Dianne Tucker-LaPlount. I got Book 1. It targets structure, but in a clear way (compared to the writing program he has been subjected to over the last couple of years.)

Another book I have been using is Writing Skills by Diana Hanbury King, book 2. It also does a good, quick job of targeting structural problems, but in a creative way.

Both books lend themselves to the after-schooler better than others. I am thrilled that I've found them.

2 big comprehensive ones that I have are the Shurley Method English Made Easy series (I have level 7.) This is a popular homeschooler text. I like it a lot, but my son is actually quite good at grammar so those sections are too redundant for us right now. What I do like at this point (we're only at the beginning) is the number of little paragraphs that he has to edit. It has that "sheet a day" format that is easier for me to assign as a parent.

Another big comprehensive curriculum is the Hake Grammar and Writing Series. I think it starts at grade 6, but a bright 4th or 5th grader would probably do okay.

These are the Saxon people, so if you're familiar with Saxon you know how to skip things that are mastered. The curriculum (homeschool version) also covers journal writing (in a way that makes sense) paragraph/essay structure, and the preparation a kid needs to write bigger assignments like, gulp, research papers. Typical of Saxon, it makes it all so easy. I love those people. They have saved my life.

I love the Grammar and Writing 7 that I'm using right now. It's clearing up a lot of confusion with my one son.

For stict grammar teaching, you can't beat Steps to Good Grammar by Genevieve Walberg Schaefer. Coherent and to-the-point, this book covers diagramming (as does the Hake) and has the answers on the opposite page. Even though the book is pointed towards middle school or older, I've used it with my grade schooler from the beginning. This book is why he is so good with grammar.

For spelling, I highly recommend Megawords. Catherine uses this series also. Megawords teaches kids the rules that your school won't teach. It's also a great after-school book.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents. Hope some of it helps.

Catherine here --

I mentioned in a Comment that I'm concerned Educators Publishing Service may be phasing out Megawords, but I was wrong, thank heavens. Megawords is featured on the phonics page, not the spelling page, which tells you something about the series.

I think it's been a lifesaver for us, though I have no way of knowing this. What I do know is that C's spelling before he started the series (he's finishing Book 4 this summer) was psychotic, and has now progressed to not great. To my knowledge he's had no instruction in spelling in 6th or 7th grades. In fact, one of his ELA teachers said she told the kids, "Being able to spell won't do you any good if you can't write," or something like that. (Why? Why? Why would you tell my kid who can't spell that spelling won't do him any good if he can't write? aaauuggghhh!)

This teacher, btw, did a great job; she taught the kids a lot and even managed to go over and beyond the curriculum. I've reported the spelling lapse because it's funny, not because it's a fatal flaw in her teaching. The school doesn't teach spelling past 5th grade & that's that. (I'm noodging the new assistant super, but so far she's not sounding interested.)

This is one of my beefs with public schools, or perhaps just another variant on the beef: the indifference to results.

We don't teach spelling after 5th grade

So if your child hasn't managed to learn to spell by the end of 5th grade, we'll just assume he doesn't need to learn to spell because what he "really" needs to learn is how to write.

update: wrong again (scroll down)

I'm thinking the middle school would be in better standing with parents if it started talking to us about academics and stopped talking to us about character ed and bomb threats.

Or if somebody put up something in the enormous, soaring, two-story foyer taxpayers just built that wasn't a S.A.D.D. poster or a FOCUS word.

Still and all, it's good to know C. spent last year taking spelling tests.


Anonymous said...

I did buy the Warriners. I just haven't gotten into it enough to see how I'm going to use it.

Also, as for The Paragraph Book and the Writing Skills book, both have a remedial feel to them if you use them with a middle schooler. I felt I needed to back it way up so that my son could truly understand basic concepts that won't change no matter what goofy program they throw at him. I think both books could be used for a regular middle or late grade-schooler pretty easily.

Catherine Johnson said...

I STRONGLY believe in going with "remedial" materials.

SPED folks are the last men standing when it comes to teaching component skills.


Catherine Johnson said...

I LOVE Vocabulary Workshop, btw.

(More on that later --)

Catherine Johnson said...

A couple of nights ago I discovered we're out of Megawords books!

C. will be finishing Book 4 this summer - I can hardly believe it.

I ordered the other four.

btw, I'm worried that EPS may be phasing Megawords out. They don't feature it anywhere on the website; you have to know it exists to find it.

Anonymous said...

"Being able to spell won't do you any good if you can't write," or something like that.

Call me crazy, but that seems backwards.

VickyS said...

I STRONGLY believe in going with "remedial" materials.

SPED folks are the last men standing when it comes to teaching component skills.

I agree! I was waiting outside a band room at our old Title I school public school recently, next to the SPED room. I started paging through the instructional materials that were out on the table. Wow, I thought! I've got to get some of these! But then band let out and I forgot about it. Darn!

Catherine Johnson said...

oh, too bad

yes, I keep my eye out for SPED materials

the other fantastic resource is anything written for the adult market

there are some terrific grammar-for-business-people books

after that I go to college textbooks, particularly the ones that have been in print for years and are considered classics. You can kind of figure those out from reading Amazon.

I learned last year or the year before, when I was trying to find books on writing, that the last books you want to look at or buy or read are anything written for K-12.

That is now a standing principle for me. If a book was written primarily for regular-ed K-12 public it's going to be bad.