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Molly's Money-Saving Digest for October
Institute Excellence in Writing- Student Writing Intensive
|The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine|
October 19, 2011
Helping Your Child Write a Decent Paragraph
Remember that 11-year-old boy I was working with on spelling last week? Well, this same boy has trouble writing even one paragraph. Anybody else have a boy like that? For some reason, most 11-year-old boys and writing just don't mix-kind of like that oil and water experiment we tried once. So, I knew I should break this writing thing down to manageable chunks that this kind of boy could digest without tears. Here's what we did this last week.
In our read-aloud time, we are going through the Little House on the Prairie books. So, my brilliant husband said that the kids should try to write like Laura Ingalls Wilder, referring to themselves in the same manner of third person and implementing the same use of detail as the author.
The first day, we talked about how the author wrote in third person and what that meant (i.e., instead of first person, "I did . . . ," the author wrote, "Laura did . . . "). I then had them dictate to me in third person at least one paragraph about a personal event, using as much detail as they could. They actually turned out to be longer than one paragraph. They were titled "Caleb's Morning," "Hope Really Wanted to Play the Computer," and "Mercy's Time With Friends." We managed to get the third person form done right, but that 11-year-old boy lacked the use of good descriptive vocabulary. What to do?
I remembered what I learned from Andrew Pudewa (free resources here)-that you have to help the boys by giving them resources to use; their brains just don't have those words as readily available as most girls' brains do. But, if you give them lists of words to work with and help come up with descriptive vocabulary, you will have a good, strong narrative.
So, our next step tomorrow is to work together on a list of strong verbs-just a list. The next day, we will make a list of adjectives and adverbs. Finally, we will add some of the words from these lists right into the original paragraphs, and we will have a finished product that both this boy and his father and mother will be proud of.
Instead of expecting your boys to come up with something wonderful from one sitting, you might need to work on this in chunks that are manageable for both of you until you have a paragraph or two that shines. We can actually take our time and don't have to rush. We can read good writing, find out why we liked it, and then imitate the style. We can practice small portions at a time, trying new things as we go along.
In the past, I almost killed the love of learning in the very craft I am most comfortable in myself. I was afraid my children wouldn't be able to communicate through the written word. And that fear drove me to push the children too hard. I have learned that if we do a little, and then a little more, and stay consistent, we can teach our children to write well.
Don't be afraid to try new things, or even scale down a bit on your requirements. Pray continually, and God will be faithful to show you the "write" way for each child.
TOS Senior Editor
P.S. If you are looking for a comprehensive writing program, check out WriteShop for all ages. We love Kim Kautzer and her materials! Here are some sample lessons to give you an idea of what is offered. Above all, enjoy those children as you keep them Home Where They Belong.
Captivating Math and Science Lessons! Kids can't help but be interested in math
and science when they are given the chance to actively explore these subjects. "Telling" is not our style; we believe in "doing." Please visit our website for sample activities
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Our guest writer this week:
How to Help Your Child Write a Good Paragraph
By Sarah Dugger
I have taught writing skills more times than I can remember over the past 26 years. From public school classes to private school classes to homeschooling, the common thread among writers of all ages is the inability to write good, effective, concise paragraphs. What is a paragraph, anyway? A paragraph is simply a group of related sentences dealing with a single topic. I believe the main problem with students writing good paragraphs lies with students not being able to write good sentences. To help your child write a good paragraph, let's begin with its basic building blocks.
Before writing good paragraphs, children must understand the basics of sentence structure. Sentences are groups of words expressing a complete thought. Sentences must have a subject, who or what the sentence is about, and a predicate, what the subject is or does, at a bare minimum. The subject and predicate are essential to sentences and are not "negotiable" parts. The fun part of sentences is when students learn to enhance and expand them to make them more interesting. As students mature and learn more about the rules of grammar, they need to demonstrate this maturity in their sentence structure. Simple sentences containing only subject/verb patterns become repetitive and boring. Adding grammatical elements to sentences to create more interest shows a higher level of writing skills. Some elements that students may begin adding are prepositional phrases, infinitive phrases, independent clauses, direct objects, and predicate nominatives. Pronoun usage is another element of sentence structure that adds variety to both sentences and paragraphs. If students understand the basics of pronouns and antecedents, the use of nouns and the pronouns replacing those nouns can be very effective in sentences as well as in paragraphs. Once basic sentence skills are in place, students can move into paragraphing practice.
To write a good paragraph, a student needs to know the topic for the paragraph. For practice, providing a prompt such as an object, a quotation, or a question is a great way to stimulate creative thinking. Once the topic has been established, encourage the student to write a sentence expressing the main idea he wants to communicate to his audience about his topic. This is called the topic sentence. Topic sentences give readers a snapshot of the paragraph's subject. They are the "attention-grabbers." Topic sentences may be any length. The key to a great topic sentence is that it gives the audience clues about what is to come in the paragraph.
Moving beyond the topic sentence, a student will then "flesh out" the paragraph. In early paragraphing practice, I encourage students to write three sentences that explain or expound upon the topic sentence. These are the detail sentences. As students grow in their paragraphing experience, more sentences need to be included. Interestingly, the mark of a good paragraph is saying what needs to be said and nothing more. Concise paragraphs that use a variety of sentence styles and contain all of the details the audience needs are much more effective than robotic, cookie-cutter type, form paragraphs. There is no set pattern for the detail sentences in a paragraph. Common sense and logical order should dictate the detail sentences. Once all of the details have been expressed, a student should write a closing sentence. This will indicate to the audience that the paragraph is complete.
Sentence structure and basic paragraph structure are both essential elements to writing a good paragraph. Once these elements are firmly in place, it is time to encourage students to use a variety of words in their paragraphs. Students frequently get in a rut with regard to their vocabulary. I often find the same words repeated multiple times in paragraphs. To help with this issue, I direct students to put away their writing for a day, then go back and read their paragraph as if they are the audience to whom the paragraph was written. I have them circle words that are repetitive. I also love some of the concepts taught in many writing courses in which students look for places in their paragraph where they can add interesting elements such as adjectives, prepositional phrases, and introductory independent clauses. Requiring students to incorporate some interesting vocabulary words in a paragraph can be a great tool, also. One word of caution about vocabulary words: Make sure students are using words correctly in sentences. It is actually quite amusing to read a paragraph in which a student has gone "thesaurus crazy." These are the paragraphs with big words substituted for smaller words, just to substitute. The words don't fit with the overall tone or style of the paragraph, but they have been inserted to help the writer appear to have a larger vocabulary.
On the subject of tone and style, students need to understand that their writing should reflect their own style and personality. Every student will bring a different perspective to writing, and this uniqueness should be embraced. One element of style that I ban from my student's writing, however, is text lingo. Students must understand from the beginning that there is a time for text lingo and a time for formal writing. Paragraph writing is formal writing, and text lingo is unacceptable in their paragraphs unless it is being quoted as part of a conversation or a point.
I have found many resources for paragraph writing over the years. Two of my all-time favorites are Winning With Writing and Institute for Excellence in Writing. I have had great success using Winning With Writing with younger students (grades 1-8). I feel it provides the necessary structure for sentence skills that move into paragraphing skills, and finally entire paper skills. IEW is excellent for enhancement skills. I love to use it with my older students to help them learn how to make their writing interesting. I know that Winning With Writing currently goes only through eighth grade. IEW has materials available for many grade levels, from elementary through high school. Both are excellent programs that give students a great foundation for paragraphing.
Teaching writing to children is challenging because, let's face it, not all children like to write. We need to help our children realize that writing can be fun. Give your children opportunities to practice their paragraph skills creatively. How about writing letters to friends and relatives? Pretending to write a newspaper about your neighborhood? Or simply writing a story? If your child isn't old enough to write on his own, let him tell you a story and you write it down for him. Children love to see their words on paper. Writing is becoming such a dying art form. It is crucial for us, as parents, to instill in our children a love for putting words to paper. If we can foster this love from a young age, our children will have writing skills that flourish.
Sarah Dugger is married to Andre' and lives in Tennessee with their six children. She is a homeschooling mom with too many irons in the fire to list them all here. She is an active blogger with the TOS Homeschool Crew. To contact Sarah, you may e-mail her at email@example.com. To read fun reviews and other blogerific items, you can visit her blog at www.myhomeschoolcrewreviews.blogspot.com
ARTistic Pursuits is THE CURRICULUM FOR CREATIVITY, serving homeschool students (preschool-grade 12) with real art lessons for the past 12 years. A comprehensive approach to learning combined with an easy-to-use format makes this award-winning art program one you'll want to check out for your family.
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Creation Revolution My wife and I have raised Maltese dogs now for almost 20 years. We are on our second breeding pair at this time. Our female, Fiona, just gave birth to three little puppies this past Sunday morning and everything about this event is a problem for evolution. . .
Continue reading the article Birth of Puppies - Problem for Evolution.
Todd Wilson, Familyman Ministries
Once again, I'm in a topic that puts me in way over my head. I don't know how to help a child write a decent paragraph; I can barely write one myself . . . and I'm a writer. My thinking is, instead of trying to get your child to write a decent paragraph, work on allowing yourself to accept "decent."
Because you're a homeschooling mom and have trouble assessing what qualifies as a decent paragraph, I'll do it for you. Here's what makes for a decent paragraph:
- It should have some words in it . . . and some of them should be spelled correctly.
- I would have them write like they speak, minimizing grammatical rules.
- Then I would read it and say, "Looks good to me . . . you did a great job." I wouldn't correct it or modify it. The more you correct, the less they'll want to write.
- For those kids who like to write, let them write. For those kids who don't like to write, I wouldn't make them write too much. Let them spend the most time on the subjects they do best.
- If you just can't help yourself and think you need to get your child to write better, then check out Andrew Pudewa's writing program (Institute for Excellence in Writing). My wife uses it and loves it.
P.S. Have I got a deal for you! Our best-selling Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe book is available one day only for the low price of $4.99 on Amazon. So order it today to get a super-great Familyman kind of deal. Hurry-it's available at this price for only 24 hours and ONLY through Amazon.
|It's Just Common Sense|
Ruth Beechick, Curriculum Specialist
Debbie Strayer, Homeschool Consultant
When my son was in high school, he took our state writing assessment. I must say that I felt some stress while waiting for those results. I had used the approach that worked with him, my non-writing child. We had focused on thinking skills and the ability to put together a good argument or response to a variety of questions and scenarios. I had taught him from a very young age that writing was just like talking, only with punctuation. We had observed grammar used in literature and talked about why it was there, but we avoided the "drill and kill" approach common from my teaching days. But this test brought all these issues to the front of my mind, replaying and revisiting decisions I had made along the way to refrain from an excessive focus on format and rather to encourage him to express his thoughts, not just what might look good on paper.
The day finally came for the results to arrive. As I opened the envelope, I was reminded of all the times Dr. Beechick had encouraged me to stay the course and do what was best for my son, not just use the latest curriculum that would make his writing look like everyone else's. I must confess that my life verse was running through my mind as well: "Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass" (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
The results were nothing short of astonishing. Grades for our state assessment scores were given on a holistic scale, with zero being the lowest score and six being the highest. He had received a score of 4.5, which meant one judge gave him a four and the other judge gave him a five, both average and above average scores. Not that I wanted to seem amazed or anything, but I went in to show the score to my son. He was pleased, but not overawed.
Trying to sound cool, I asked, "How did you decide what to write?" "It was easy, Mom," he said. "I just wrote what I would have said." This is one of those reminders that they do hear what we say. When taught in a natural, non-schoolish fashion, it really does equate to learning they retain. We don't need to pattern ourselves after public school classrooms trying to turn out impressive-sounding writing. Better to write to show their thinking and understanding, which can demonstrate true advantage.
I nodded, asked what time baseball practice was, and went out to make dinner. While in the kitchen, I stood at the sink, thanking the Lord for His faithfulness. Though I had hoped my son would do well, the result of this outside assessment proved more than an academic confirmation. It was a reminder of God's perfect plan for every child and every parent. As I remembered the little guy who thought a pencil was a form of punishment, I thanked the Lord for this timely encouragement. I also made a mental note to call Dr. Beechick and say thank you.
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For the month of October, 2011
Famous Figures of the American Revolution: Movable Paper Figures to Cut, Color, and Assemble
Famous Figures of the American Revolution: Movable Paper Figures to Cut, Color, and Assemble is a book of Revolution-era figures drawn on cardstock. The American patriots that are included are Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, Daniel Boone, George Washington, John Adams, Molly Pitcher, Patrick Henry, Paul Revere, Thomas Jefferson, and a soldier of the Continental Army. Each figure contains a short biography. There is also a companion reading list containing read-alouds and independent readers. For this review, the Punch and Fastener Pack was included, so I had all that I needed. If you don't have a small hole punch and fasteners, you will need to purchase those.
First the parent or the child will need to cut out the figures. The perforated pages make it easy to tear the page out of the book. The figures come in color and black and white, so the children can color the figures. Then the children punch holes at the appropriate places and place brads to attach arms to bodies so that the figures can move. The figures are designed for students ages 6 to 12. (...)
Ms. Diez-Luckie's moveable figures are beautiful. They will liven up any history lesson. She has more historical figures in production.
Read the rest of the review here.
Win this resource for your family!
Email Deb with your name, mailing address, and phone number for contact purposes, with the subject line, "Famous Figures" for a chance to win* this book!