About Writers in Residence
Writers in Residence is a new faith-based writing program for grades four and up, available from Apologia Educational Ministries.
The all-in-one student text and workbook (intended for one child and not reusable) includes everything a student needs for this curriculum - leaving out only the answer key, which is provided separately. It also contains an overview of how to use the book, which is mostly intended for the parent/teacher. The majority of the book is directed at the student, using a fairly independent learning approach, suggesting a teacher's involvement only sporadically and for evaluative or assistive purposes. The instructive text and assignments are combined and integrated throughout the single book.
This program uses the "six-traits writing model" and a nine-step writing process (with a few review and revision steps in there), as a guide and framework. It cycles through a focus on four types of writing tasks, including narrative, creative, research-based, and opinion/persuasive. The author calls these "I Remember, I Imagine, I Investigate, and I Think", which might better relate to a student's understanding (and interest), but could cause confusion if the standard, more common terms aren't used before outside assessments are given to them (such as standardized testing).
Primary conventions of the English Language and parts of speech are incorporated incrementally throughout the book. This did not seem to be a heavy focus of the program such as one might see in an English or language arts textbook, but it does touch on essential basics and attempts to blend them into engaging assignments, versus lengthy workbook style repetition. Indeed, Writers in Residence seems wholly committed to helping the child find an interest in writing, to motivate the child, and to show the practical value and relevancy of writing instruction to aid them in self-expression and clear communication.
Spelling is not emphasized or taught in the book, but attention to proper word usage is a part of the editing process. A separate spelling-focused curriculum or tool might be appropriate for students that are still working on learning the mechanics and rules, or who need more practice with spelling words.
Evaluation rubrics are provided with descriptive explanations of how to check drafts and final products for strengths and weaknesses (building on what the child has been taught as the program progresses), with the goal of finding areas to improve and highlighting that which a child is good at, rather than assigning a grade each time. The rubrics are used both by the student to evaluate their own writing and by an adult reviewer as well.
The student is encouraged to keep a writer's portfolio as an archive, keepsake, and record of what they've written. This is good for seeing progress over time and also serves a perfect time capsule later on, giving a glimpse into their minds, skills, and personality through the window of their writing.
So after two days I brought the big all-in-one book into a local office store to have it broken down into more manageable chunks and rebound. I had them separate the book into four approximately equal portions (that I delineated beforehand, to keep units together), rebind it using the same holes that were there originally, and add a stiff plastic cover and thick cardstock-like black backing to each smaller booklet (so as not to leave regular pages exposed after dividing up the larger book). I was quite pleased with the result! I feel that doing all this made it all more functional for day-to-day use, more durable, and easier to both handle and store.
A couple of days later, we excitedly continued on with the suggested daily schedule - which is laid out in a four-day/week format. I also put a sticky tab on the page for the daily schedule to make it easier to flip to if my daughter wanted to use it as a guide. I think this page might have been, ideally, placed at the very beginning or back of the book or included as a separate laminated page. Alternately, perhaps it would be nice to have the suggested schedule for each week also incorporated throughout the book, making it easier to access along the way. Regardless, a little tab was an easy solution!
At first, I wasn't sure if using this program would be a battle, as trying to use an English program in the past had been. My daughter has a love-hate relationship with writing. She loves being creative and telling stories, but the actual act of writing is not enjoyable for her. We have previously had to work hard to get through necessary language arts tasks (especially in preparation for the upcoming required standardized assessment). It turns out, however, that my apprehension was unfounded in this case!
I believe Big Sis' aversion to writing has been because she does not feel confident in her writing skills, including handwriting, grammar, and structure. Yet I have found that with confidence comes more enjoyment. And with Writers in Residence, she has quickly been gaining confidence. Subsequently, instead of hearing "I don't like writing", we now hear "I love writing"! She happily works on this program each day and does so of her own volition - yay!
She discovered that writing is a form of art and a way to paint pictures in the minds of others. I can see that she now understands that writing involves far more than simply doling out sufficient words and building sentences to fill a paragraph box to fit a predesignated format. Instead, she is truly starting to find her writer's voice (which is a primary goal of the book) and I have seen a noticeable improvement in her writing skill and style in just over a month!
When asked what she thought, Big Sis said "I love it!" because it has lots of fun activities that I get to do in it. Even though I writing isn't a subject I like, it makes the parts where I write down a lot really fun."
The author is engaging, with instructional text that doesn't preach or dictate, but rather encourages, inspires, and guides the student. For my daughter, the assignments had an air of exploration and investigation, instead of repetition, drudgery, and labor. I feel the emphasis is not on the mechanics and precision or grammar and structure - though this does seem to come through somewhat in usage and as a secondary effect - but more so on clear, powerful, and effective expression of thought in written form. Yet this is only the first volume (with the next not yet published) and, from what I can tell, the intent is exposure
I would definitely recommend Writers in Residence to others! I love the approach it takes, have very little negative to say about it, and am pleased my daughter has been enjoying the process of developing better writing skills. This has been not only one of our favorite review opportunities, but one of our favorite curriculum products that we have used in recent months.
Of course, no educational tool is ideal for every family or student because each person has different needs, interests, situations, and preferences. If you are looking for a conventional school-style workbook format with tons of mastery drills or a sole focus on stand-alone grammar practice through snippets of selected text, then this might not fit the bill. On the other hand, if you are seeking a writing program that blends learning primary aspects of language with associated practice and purposeful writing assignments, and an emphasis on personal development and improvement, then this might be worth consideration. Writers in Residence really worked well for my daughter and was perfect for what we are looking for at this time. For that reason, I am happy to suggest others look into it too!
If you'd like to see what other families think about the Apologia Educational Ministries Writers in Residence program, click on the banner below to find more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew! Or you can visit the following social media links for Apologia to find out more about the company and what they have to offer: Facebook, Twitter (@apologiaworld), Pinterest, and Instagram.
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