Our Fifth Grade Curriculum: Writing

ahw-t_thumb_0Listening to my friends who “public school,” I’ve noticed a trend towards moving formal writing to earlier and earlier grade levels .  Never mind they can’t write cursive (I’m referring to the fact that cursive handwriting is being dropped from many public schools’ curriculums.), let’s force them to synthesize grammar, spelling, main ideas, building ideas, and abstract ideas.  Talk about boring and burn-out.  Even worse, sometimes they make them do it as a group project.  The most dreaded words EVER:  Group project.

Written communication is invaluable.  Thus, here am I writing to you.  But, I just don’t think pushing it younger and younger makes for better writing.  The loud voices didn’t ask me, though.  So here I am homeschooling my kids, for better or worse.  🙂

Institute for Excellence in Writing Student Writing Intensive

Our writing curriculum here at home definitely follows a cyclical pattern.  For a few weeks in a row, we will write grandparents and left-behind friends.  Then, we stop.  For a month, we’ll keep a journal going strong, documenting our days and dreams.  Then, we stop.  The Institute for Excellence in Writing program suits our cyclical style just fine.  It provides a video where a man named Andrew Pudewa walks the kids through getting started on formal writing.  There is accompanying written material to emphasize and practice what he teaches.

Last year in the second semester of fourth grade, after slamming through her grammar text in about a semester, I started with the Institute for Excellence in Writing’s Student Writing Intensive.  The Writing Intensives (there are a  few levels) seem to be where most people start at in this program.  My daughter learned a lot, and I learned a lot about teaching her just by trying to watch the required videos with her.  (I have NOT managed, even as of yet, to watch the teacher’s video I purchased.  I feel like my limited writing skills still have been enough at this point with Andrew Pudewa’s wonderful guidance.  I do plan to watch it, however, by the time she enters about eighth grade.)  We managed to squeak through until almost the last assignment.  The beginning was more fun than the end.  If I had to do it over again, I would have waited to do it this year, her fifth grade year.  But I was excited and in a hurry.

Institute for Excellence in Writing:  Ancient History-Based Writing Lessons

This year, I decided to tie our history curriculum (we are doing ancient history) into our writing curriculum using IEW’s Ancient History-Based Writing Lessons.  Well, let me say, we move a lot more quickly through fun history than we do boring writing–so they don’t align too well anymore!  Ha!  What we do, we do well in our writing curriculum, but we have not gotten very far in the book.  I bought both the student manual and the teacher’s manual.  I’m glad I did that.

The Ancient History-Based Writing Lessons build on what we learned in the Writing Intensive listed above.  However, it is very nice that the passages are regarding what we have discussed in history.  I LOVE that reinforcement.  I am glad that we did the Writing Intensive first so I see the pattern that is followed by IEW’s program.  However, I like the Ancient History Based Lessons better because it has a few more worksheets to practice key concepts, because it is all in one binder already put together for me, the binder moves logically forward with just turning a page, and it offers some vocabulary to practice.  Plus, it builds even more deeply on the lessons we learned in the Writing Intensive.

There are several things I like about IEW in general that will keep it as our writing curriculum:

  • It teaches students how to outline, an invaluable tool to me in my pharmacy and medical school education.
  • It uses common language to help students understand how to enliven their writing:  use of adverbs, who-which clauses, sensory words, alliteration, and strong verbs.
  • It bans certain verbs which dull writing, calling them banned verbs.  Examples:  go/went, come/same, say/said, get/got.
  • It teaches how to choose titles.

Well, that’s about as far as we’ve covered this year.  I really like IEW, and I will continue revolving back to it in our cyclical approach to writing.  Our biggest impediment to writing is the physical act of it.  My daughter is allowed to type most essays, but even with a little exposure to keyboarding from her grandmother who taught that at the high school level, she still struggles to physically get the words on paper.  But, we’ll get there.  We will keep working through Ancient History-Based Writing Lessons, most likely finishing it in the sixth grade year.

Anyone care to comment on how they teach writing?  Anyone used IEW?  Which parts?  Did  you love it?  What strengths and weaknesses did you see?

Have just a super weekend!



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