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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Writers in Residence

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review

Apologia Educational Ministries is well known in the homeschool community for its science and Bible curriculum.  But they have many other options as well.  We recently had an opportunity to use and review their newest curriculum Writers in Residence.
Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
Debra Bell, the best selling author of The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling teens, and The Ultimate Planners has taught literature and composition for over 30 years.  Her newest product, Writers in Residence, is a complete language arts curriculum for students in grades 4-8.  We received Volume I, The Apprentice. It has two components: 

The Writers in Residence All-in-One Student Text and Workbook- This book is 576 pages long and spiral bound.  It starts with an introduction about how to use the course, the six traits writing model (ideas, organization, sentence structure, word choice, voice, conventions), Introduction to the writing process (planning, drafting, revising, editing, polishing), and a 4 day a week suggested schedule. The lesson instructions are in this book as well and written to the student.  Workbook pages for the student to complete are included for each exercise. 

The Writers in Residence Answer Key- The answer key is a 144 page paperback book.  It contains all of the answers to the workbook assignments plus information on the grading rubics, checklists, and guidelines for evaluation.

In the Writers in Residence curriculum, students will learn about sentence structure, parts of speech, punctuation, capitalization, and word usage while completing different writing assignments. There are 6 different units and each unit features expert models from  professional writers.

Unit 1: When I Was Young  teaches action verbs, nouns, conjunctions, subjects and predicates, and focuses on writing sentences.

Unit 2: Very Truly Yours  teaches adjectives, proper nouns, personal letter, capitalization, commas, simple sentence, linking verbs, and complements and has a creative writing assignment.

Unit 3: My Family Hall of Fame teaches paragraphs, modifiers, descriptive adjectives, determiners, and sensory words and has a research writing assignment.  

Unit 4: My Favorite Author focuses on paragraphs, adverbs, and transitions and has an opinion essay for the writing assignment.

Unit 5: The History of Me teaches first person, phrases, prepositions, prepositional phrases, and object of the preposition and has an autobiography writing assignment,

Unit 6: Zap! Pow! Kazam! teaches quotation marks, punctuating and forming dialogue, commas, interjections, question marks, exclamation marks and has a short story for a writing assignment.

There are four different types of writing tasks that Writers In Residence cycles through:

I Remember assignments help students master personal narratives.

I Imagine assignments teach creative writing.

I Investigate teaches research skills.

I Think teaches argument writing.

There are also 6 spotlights on Christian writers featuring: Bill Myers, Amy Green, Irene Howat, Jason Lethcoe, Amy Parker, and Phil Vischer.  Review of concepts is built in throughout the curriculum.  There are review your progress sections, mastery tests, unit reviews, and a final review.  

I have been using Writer's In Residence with my 12 year old sixth grade son.  I have really struggled to find a language arts program that is a good fit for him this year.  I love the 4 day a week schedule because we our school week runs Mon-Thurs, and the boxes provided in the schedule that he can check off after completing the assignments are wonderful.  I like the look and the layout of the course.  It is colorful and very visually appealing.  It has a very conversational tone and is written to the student, requiring little teacher preparation or actual teaching.  The included models give students great samples of writing and gives them examples of what the lesson is teaching them.  The grammar is taught in a very practical way within the context of writing which makes it more interesting for the student.  The daily lessons are short which was a big selling point for my son.

While I like that all of the instruction and assignment sheets are contained in the All-In-One Student Text and Workbook, the book is huge! My son was quite intimidated the first time he saw it, but felt better after he saw the length of the lessons.  I'm glad it is spiral bound and can lay flat but I worry that over time the pages will start to come loose from the binding.  The teaching style is different from what we have used in the past and so is taking some getting used to.   Alex does not mind to complete the grammar parts of the assignments, but he has been struggling with the writing exercises because we have done very little creative writing. Sitting with him and helping him come up with ideas has helped a great deal and he will continue working through this curriculum for the school year.  

To see what my Crew Mates had to say, stop by the Crew Blog!
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