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Teaching Writing Video Seminar

by Cindy Marsch, for Mary Pride's Big Book of Home Learning

Don't cross this pricey item off your homeschooling budget quite yet! Frugally offering over six hours of seminar, a workbook with reproducible charts, toll-free consultation and evaluation, and a grade-specific workshop tape for your child, this package delivers. Not quite convinced? Try a money-back guarantee. In the IEW newsletter, Andrew Pudewa's happy students rave that it's the best money they've spent on curriculum.

The Teaching Writing Video and Correspondence Seminar is a worthy investment in professional development for homeschool teachers. Carefully outlining the written communication pathway, which includes taking notes, summarizing from notes, and creating non-fiction and fiction for almost every writing task, Pudewa previews both the course of the seminar and the suggested development of an individual student writer. He shows us simply, step by step. Students read a sample paragraph. They write three-word notes. They summarize from the notes. Into the midst of the structure sneaks the style. Even second-graders use dress-ups (specific grammatical features) and openers (variations to start a sentence.) Following the pathway, because it is clear, students and parents travel smoothly from non-fiction paragraphs and story retellings to research reports and literature critiques.

Like ingredients in a complex recipe, the Structure and Style elements can be prepared separately and used later in a variety of combinations. Mastering the notes, polishing the reconstituted paragraphs, and planning the use of dress-ups and openers, students perfect individual short pieces. But then comes the surprise. Cleverly the teacher assigns a groaner "report"-then reveals that it's already half-written! The individual pieces plug into an outline and, with the addition of a framing introduction and conclusion, create a stick-to-your-ribs concoction.

It's not just hype. My seven- and nine-year-olds worked with me on a paragraph from an American Girls story about a horse. Originally one sentence read, "One morning, after Felicity had been visiting her for a few weeks, Penny took the apple right from her hand." Because we had just three words to summarize, we wrote "weeks from hand." Of course Mom helped and held back, but here's our result: "It took a few short weeks for Penny to get used to nipping the apple from Felicity's hand willingly." Though we debated the placement of "willingly," and though it needs more work, we agreed it is better than the original.

Invest in the foundation of your homeschool writing program with Teaching Writing: Structure and Style. The videos and practicum inspire and build confidence, and the reproducible checklists and reminder signs provide practical help. Slavishly adhering to the techniques may stifle, and Pudewa is a bit loose about how to grade the final results, but he stresses teacher choice in all these things. As an added value, the seminar techniques should enhance your own skills-I used them to write this review!

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