{Curricula Update} Writing with Ease and Classical Academic Press Writing and Rhetoric

This year we used a combination of two writing programs.  Crazy, yes I know!  But they worked together so very well for us!

For the fall semester and part of spring, we used Writing with Ease Level 2.  Ok, so this may not be the most fun, exciting, and inspiring curriculum on the market for writing.  But we’ve had some wonderful results after faithfully using it for two years now.

What is it?
Writing with Ease is published by Peace Hill Press.  I ordered the workbook and then downloaded a set of student pages so I could easily print them for Curly.  In the fall, we completed one lesson per week because it was slow going for us.  Once we hit January, Curly was able to pick up the pace because her handwriting ability had improved, as had her spelling.  It took less time to complete each lesson so we were able to do two days of work in one day, completing 2 lessons per week.

  • Day 1 is a narration exercise.  I would read an excerpt from a poem, story, or book that was included in the teacher’s text.  Then I would ask comprehension questions that Curly answered in complete sentences.  She would then narrate the main ideas of the excerpt back to me.  I would write down her narration word for word and then we would read it together.
  • Day 2 is copywork.  There is a one or two sentence excerpt from the previous day’s story that Curly copied carefully, using correct punctuation and spelling.
  • Day 3 is dictation.  I would dictate the copywork excercise from the previous day and Curly had to carefully write each sentence with proper punctuation and capitalization.  I would say the entire sentence (or sentences) 2 times and then have her repeat it back to me.  If she got stuck I would repeat it back to her as many times as needed.  She often only needed me to repeat the sentences to her once or twice more.  She was able to hold all the words in her head as she wrote them down.
  • Day 4 is a combination of narration and dictation.  I would read another excerpt from the same story or poem and then ask the comprehension questions.  Curly then narrated what she remembered from the story as I wrote it down.  I then chose 1 or two sentences of her own narration to use as our dictation exercise.  I said those sentences to her twice and had her repeat them before writing them on her own.

Later in Level 2, the day 2 exercise becomes a dictation exercise rather than copywork.

Why do I love Writing with Ease?
I use the pre-created workbook rather than using my own story excerpts because I don’t want to search through our books to choose a few paragraphs to use for narration and dictation.  I don’t want to think up my own comprehension questions and create my own copywork exercises.  I love having it done for me!  So, I use the printable workbook pages for students and the excerpts that are chosen for me.  We’ve discovered quite a few books that were unfamiliar to us and we’ve decided to add them to our reading list so that has been a fun added benefit of using the workbook for us.

I love that the program uses copywork as a tool for teaching.  Curly has put grammar and spelling rules into practice through the copywork and they have stayed with her – she does not forget them after using them so frequently in her copywork.

The dictation exercises are wonderful for preparing her to take notes later.  She must become an active listener and pay very careful attention to each word and every pause so she can know how to punctuate her sentences.

Through hearing well-constructed sentences in well-written works of literature, copying them, writing them from dictation, and narrating the main themes back to me, she is developing an ear for proper grammar and good sentence construction.  She is being taught by example.  I’ve noticed that she answers me in very detailed complete sentences now and she uses correct punctuation as she writes little stories for her younger siblings.  By giving her good examples in grammar and literature, she is learning to write by emulating the authors of these samples.

Curly doesn’t write with the choppy and overly simple sentence structure of the 2nd grader that she is.  She is learning more complex and widely varied sentence structures.  She’s not having to struggle to fill pages with her own ideas but is building on the ideas of others as she develops her own thoughts.  I can see how this style of teaching has benefited her greatly!

We finished Writing with Ease early in our school year but I knew Curly would not be ready for the challenge of the next level of the program.  So, I looked for something to use in the meantime as we waited for another school year. 

I found Classical Academic Press’ new writing program Writing and Rhetoric.

What is it?
This program takes a student through all the levels of a classical writing program with a creative twist.  In the first book, Fable, the student reads classic Fables and creates narration, summaries, amplification, and copywork based on them.  Each lesson contains one or two fables.  The student reads them and there are multiple discussion questions to better understand the writing style and themes of the fables.

In some lessons the student creates a summary of the fable through taking out all the unnecessary elements and details of the story.  The student then rewrites the summarized fable.  In other lessons, the student takes a summary of a fable and amplifies it by adding details and more information to create a more interesting and picturesque version of the fable.  In one lesson, the student was to create their own fable using different animals but still following the main theme of the fable and illustrating the same moral.

The program also contains copywork and dictation in each lesson based on the fable.

Why do I love Writing and Rhetoric Fable?
To me this is the next step after Writing with Ease.  It takes the same concepts of narration, summaries, and adds amplification which gives a creative component to the writing program.  This program has the student doing some original writing with the parameter that it is based on the fable in the lesson, contains the same themes, or is a similar story only with more details added.

Curly has loved the creative aspect of adding details to fables and writing some of her own.  It gives her enough creative latitude without requiring completely original works which would be an overwhelming task for a 2nd grader who is still learning the basics.

The lesson are very clearly laid out for the teacher and the student workbook has space for the student to do all the writing while also containing the text of each fable.  This program is very easy to teach and Curly is able to easily understand the instructions that are in her workbook.

The idea of teaching writing based on a different fable for each lesson is fun and interesting.  Every lesson we have a new story with a new moral.  We are able to dissect each story and find ways to improve the fable by cutting out details or adding more details when needed.  We have enjoyed the variety!

Each lesson introduces new concepts that slowly build on each other.  The concepts are clearly taught, illustrated, and explained.  Curly learned what anthropomorphism means (giving animals human characteristics) and was able to incorporate it into her fables.  I love that the program uses advanced terminology but introduces it slowly throughout the lessons so that it is not overwhelming.

This is a step-by-step writing program that slowly leads the student into writing creatively based on the models given in the text.  It is a wonderful stepping-stone to creative writing and a fun way to branch out from the basic narration and dictation exercises in Writing with Ease.

So, I have found that using Writing with Ease gives us a wonderfully strong foundation while Writing and Rhetoric gives us a little latitude to test our wings and add some creative flair to writing. 


For further reading:

Why I Use More Than 1 Curriculum Per Subject

Where is Writing with Ease Taking our Writing Skills

My Thoughts on Writing with Ease

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