Saturday, August 4, 2012

TOS Review: Create Better Writers

...many parents confessed that they barely taught writing at all. One parent said, "Oh, they'll figure it out." (The Home School Writing Action Plan, David S. Dye M.ED.)

Yeah, this is me. I'll admit it.

But it's worked for my oldest. White Pine writes a great paragraph and essay...when he wants too. I don't think it's going to fly with the younger Saplings though.

So, when we had the opportunity to review Create Better Writers' How to Teach the Paragraph, and How to Teach the Five-paragraph Essay, I thought, "Why not? Maybe THIS will be the program to get me out of the writing blahs!"

After all, Create Better Writers claims to have "an easy to follow and easy to teach" writing program that instills confidence in the teacher's ability to teach and "produce strong writers", and can be used with "students from different grade levels simultaneously "with "several different curriculums into one clear program". Phew! It sounds like just what I'm looking for!

I downloaded our review items and printed them out, hole-punched the pages, and organized everything into a 1" binder I had lying around unused. I grabbed some purple Post-its, a yellow highlighter and a pencil, a mug of tea, and started reading and underscoring.

Guess what?

Within a few minutes of reading I had enough information to start teaching White Pine and Sugar Maple writing! Yes, THAT quick! It REALLY is super simple to follow and teach!

Initially I just skimmed right on through The Home School Writing Action Plan (which was included but not required for this review), and headed to my real interest in reviewing this program: How to Write a Paragraph. Everything starts with a paragraph, right?

This e-book is broken down into 2 parts with 11 steps. Some steps can easily be completed in one writing session; others could take weeks of practice. David Dye, the author of How to Write a Paragraph "referred to paragraph writing as an essential skill" and indeed it is. Working at the student's pace is a must for complete understanding of writing skills and this program can be uniquely paced for each learner.

But I couldn't believe what EASY-PEASY TRICK would make writing a great paragraph SO SIMPLE? It worked here!

So, once White Pine was back from Boy Scout camp, we sat down with Sugar Maple to start our review on How to Write a ParagraphThe simplicity of this program combined with organizing information during PRE-WRITING was VERY beneficial for my Saplings as it was much easier to write their final paragraphs.

Following our prewites and rough drafts, I photocopied the evaluation rubric at the back of the book. The page included 2 rubric charts so I had the Saplings exchange papers and rate the other's writing with explanations of less-than-perfect scores. (I found having them EXPLAIN their editing scores a valuable way to reinforce grammar and comprehension skills.) This we used to IMPROVE or EDIT our paragraphs before writing a final copy. Polished work was given to Dad, Blue Spruce, who filled out the final rubric chart. No grades were given, but the rubrics and discussions were used to teach ways to improve writings in the future.

Did you know that my Saplings DISLIKE any kind of formal writing? And it's summer and they really didn't want to be doing anything remotely school-like. Yeah, I expected a struggle. But I didn't get one...well, mostly. LOL

Although I reviewed and found the How to Teach the Five-Paragraph Essay as wonderful as How to Write a Paragraph, the Saplings didn't get to writing an essay. They were not ready to move from paragraphs to essays during the time allocated for this review. The program states that students should have a firm grasp of writing a good paragraph before moving onto essays, and I wholeheartedly agree. So, the Saplings will be continuing this program in the fall, learning to write thought-provoking, polished paragraphs and eventually informational and opinion essays.

This one is a keeper!

If you'd like more information about Create Better Writers click on any of the highlighted links above. Or see what other TOS Review Crewers are saying here.

Disclaimer: As a member of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, Our Side of the Mountain was provided this product free in exchange for our honest review. All thoughts and opinions are our own.


  1. I just read another TOS review on this product. It sounds worthwhile. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I have only heard positive things about this program. Do you know IEW? How do you think the two compare?

    1. I'm not familiar with IEW, although I am using Excellence in Literature with my oldest next year that using some of the IEW "methods". Create Better Writers provides us with a simple FORMULA for writing which has given the kids guidelines to write. It's been very helpful!

  3. We need lots of help with writing at our house! Although I love to write, I have never figured out how to teach my children to write well. We are using IEW this year, and I'm anxious to see how it works out for our family!

  4. Great review! To be honest, I was a lot like you in the teaching writing department "Eh, they''ll figure it out...")...which is probably horrible to say because I'm a WRITER! Maybe it was that writing comes so naturally to me that I didn't think it was really something that could be taught? But you're right...there are things to be taught and this curriculum sounds great! Thanks for posting the review!

  5. neat review. Thanks for sharing I haven't heard of this one before. I'm off to check it out.


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