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Schoolhouse Review: Create Better Writers

I'm always on the hunt for ways to teach writing. As part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I had the chance to use three products from Create Better Writers, all eBooks: How To Teach a Paragraph, How To Teach the Five Paragraph Essay and The Homeschool Writing Action Plan.
The cost of each book:
The Homeschool Writing Action Plan~eBook $15.95~Print $19.95
How To Teach a Paragraph~eBook only $ 7.99
How To Teach the Five Paragraph Essay~eBook only $7.99 (Free with the purchase of How To Teach the Five Paragraph Essay or The Complete Writing Program)

You can also purchase bundles as shown below.
When my email arrived that my downloads were ready, the first eBook I printed was The Homeschool Writing Action Plan. This 54 page book gives the homeschooling parent a road map as to what to teach, when to teach a certain writing skill and an estimation of how long to teach (basically until your child masters each skill) for grades 3-12. 
Part 1~Summary of the Steps
Part 2~Pacing Charts
Part 3~The Road Map (how to implement each step)

For example the 'Road Map' for teaching The Paragraph. The Homeschool Writing Action Plan list the resource you will need which is How To Teach the Paragraph or your own writing program, it gives you a suggested time frame which a child should stay on that concept. Elementary grades about two to four months, Middle/High School about one to two weeks. There is an introduction of what you will teach and a list of ideas, for instance; Key Concepts, Follow-up Activities, Summarize Stories from Literature, Respond to Literature, and Write Across the Curriculum.
The Homeschool Writing Action Plan does give you an overview of what to teach for each grade, but it doesn't provide the step-by-step process. You do need your own writing program or the one suggested by Create Better Writers.

How to Teach a Paragraph is a 22 page book that provides 11 steps to writing a good paragraph. Some of these steps will take the child a week or longer to master. 
Part 1 teaches The Basics and takes the child through the first six steps. The child will learn the five parts of a good paragraph and practice writing a paragraph. 
Part 2 has your child Improving the Parts of the Paragraph. The child will work on mastering each step to writing a paragraph. For example; step 7 is teaching the topic sentence. You will give your child several broad topics. They are to come up with three main ideas. Each main idea needs to be more specific about the topic so that they can think of 5-7 details. They are not writing the details in this step yet. I had Caleb and Brent practice this step for a week before we moved on.

How to Teach the Paragraph focuses on teaching ONE MAIN IDEA and The Paper Set-Up which is a trick that will make writing a paragraph less intimidating. I had my children practice this until it was memorized. We had fun with this. I would say, "We are going to write a paragraph" and immediately they would set their papers up. I'd ask, "What is a paragraph about?" they'd reply, "One main idea!".
You can watch The Paper Set-Up being taught in the video below.

The third book I received, How to Teach the Five-Paragraph Essay. This is the one I couldn't wait to use. During the review time I was only able to complete a couple of weeks but do hope to finish this with Annette when she gets back from Arizona or in the fall when we start school again.
If you read my blog regularly then you all know how I love hand-holding when it comes to writing. Create Better Writers-How to Teach the Five-Paragraph Essay does just that with its detailed, step-by-step lesson plan.
The program also provides Weekly Plans.
 How to Teach the Five-Paragraph Essay, shoots for mastery. The goal is to have your child master how to write a five-paragraph essay. Once the child can write a good paragraph and knows how to write a five-paragraph essay, then the child moves onto learn how to make exciting introductions, conclusions, and smooth transitions. Then comes the next level which is to show your child how to use and 'tweak' the basic format of the five paragraph essay to be able to write persuasive letters, a narrative story, cause and effect essay, in other words your child will have no trouble with writing from any genre.

One mistake that David Dye (the author of these wonderful writing resources) observed is many teachers write a five-paragraph essay with their class, then they will write a narrative and a problem-solution essay and so forth with their student. At the end of the year they have many wonderful essays to share with their parents but the children don't know how to write the five-paragraph essay on their own. This is why David Dye wants the child to achieve mastery with first learning to write a basic five-paragraph essay.

Create Better Writers also encourages writing across the curriculum. In other words use other subjects such as history, science, literature or a favorite read aloud. The child can write a summary using what they have learned from Create Better Writers~How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay or How to Teach the Paragraph.

How did we use Create Better Writers? I had Joshua, Annette, Caleb and Brent, start with How to Teach the Paragraph. Josh and Annette, went through this book a lot quicker than the the two younger boys. With Caleb and Brent I had them stay on one step for a few days to a week at times. With Josh and Annette, they finished the paragraph book and were able to start How to Teach the Essay. We used Create Better Writers four days a week.

How did I like Create Better Writers? I didn't use the Action Plan for Homeschoolers too much. I read through it but since it didn't offer daily plans I didn't refer to it much. I really enjoyed the easy to follow steps in both books; How to Teach the Paragraph and How to Teach the Five-Paragraph Essay.
I also liked the whole concept of how Create Better Writers teaches the child to focus on one main idea and to master each step. I decided to purchase Writing Tricks Plus. I haven't used this yet with my children but hope to start soon. I have also looked at Standard Based Grammar Homeschool Edition extensively and would love to own it as well. You could say I am impressed with this program.

What did the children think? They had a lot of fun with The Paper Set-Up and answering, "One main idea!". In fact we even had some smiles and laughs. Now as far as having to do the actual writing, well, some days were better than others. Keep in mind that writing is a school subject, so they were not jumping for joy or anything. I didn't hear any complaints, so that's always a good thing. 

To read more reviews please visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew website.

**Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

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