Thursday, August 2, 2012

REVIEW: How to Teach the Paragraph by Create Better Writers

I had a chance to take a look at several products from Create Better Writers:
1.  The Homeschool Writing Action Plan 
2.  How to Teach the Paragraph  
3.  How to Teach the 5-Paragraph Essay
These are 3 in a series of products offered by Create Better Writers that together are designed to help you teach writing skills from 3rd grade through high school.  One set of products = complete writing program for your homeschooling years.
From the Website:

The Home School Writing Action Plan

1. Your entire writing plan, from grades 3 through 12, is summarized.
On 6 pages, you will see your entire program laid out before you in fifteen steps. Hang it near your desk or keep it handy as a quick reference. If you see a lesson you like from your current language arts program, make a note on this summary so you’re sure to teach it at the appropriate time. This summary will also tell you what resources to use. It will recommend our curriculum or point you to your current language arts program. Of course, we believe that our curriculum is the best. However, if you like what you have, you are free to use it. Either way, you will know what to teach and how to teach it. In six pages, you’ll see your entire plan from grades 3 through 12. Start at anytime and be confident that you will cover all the major topics. Pacing charts for elementary, middle and high school students.
2. A Pacing Chart:
The second section offers three plans for pacing the fifteen steps of this writing plan. If your child is ready to write a paragraph, he/she is ready to begin the program. The first pacing guide is for elementary students. This guide starts slowly and helps you give your student plenty of time to master each of the fifteen steps.
The next pacing guides show you how to pace the fifteen steps for your middle or high school students. Because they are older, they can master the concepts more easily. Just follow the pacing guide and your child will have a solid foundation in writing well before they graduate.
3. The Road Map:
Some steps in your writing program will require detailed lesson plans. This is not the focus of the book. This book’s focus is to act as your writing consultant. The Road Map (Part III) will tell you what to look for in each step. It will outline the requirements for each step to the extent that you will be able to do two things: 1. Write the lessons yourself or 2. Find the lessons within your current language arts curriculum. Of course, this web site has each lesson plan you will need. When you’re ready to teach one of the steps in the writing plan, come back here to find the high quality, low cost plans you need. This book is your consultant for all things writing.

How To Write Strong Essays
Your students will know exactly how to start, how to work through the writing process, and how to produce an excellent essay.
How To Write Research Reports
Students will have the confidence to know that they can research, organize their ideas, and produce reports up to ten pages and beyond. A great skill to have for future college students.  
How To Write Great Stories
An understanding of the elements of a story and how to use literary devices such as foreshadowing and character development will help your students write excellent stories.  
Well Developed Vocabulary
Vocabulary development never ends. Your students will know how to become life long vocabulary learners.  
How To Write Intelligent, Descriptive Sentences
Students will be able to write with a variety of sentence structures. Therefore, not only will their reports, essays, and stories be well organized, but the sentences within them will be extremely well written.  
Completely Prepared for the SAT/ACT College Writing Exam
Many college entrance exams require a timed essay which becomes a significant part of their overall score. Your students will be confident that they can generate an outline and produce a strong essay in the very limited time given for this task.
- $15.95 - $19.95

How To Teach the Paragraph:
Writing instruction does NOT need to be difficult. If your student can write a paragraph, your student can write anything from an essay, to a research report, to an in-depth story.
It all starts with one simple trick. Teach this trick in minutes, have your students practice it several times, and your students will have a solid grasp for writing paragraphs. Use this trick to write stories, summarize stories, write reports, and more. No assignment is too difficult.
You’ll be amazed at how quickly even reluctant learners can grasp this concept. Watch this video for a demonstration of the one simple trick. Order the lesson plan to get step-by-step directions, assessments, writing topics, and how to use this trick all across your curriculum.
Recommended Grade: Grades 3 and Up.
Cost: $7.99 eBook Only (Free with the purchase of How To Teach the Five Paragraph Essay or The Complete Writing Program)

How To Teach The Five-Paragraph Essay contains a step-by-step plan for teaching the five-paragraph essay. Teachers will be able to show their students how a simple outline will help students master one of the most important skills a student can acquire.

The format of this book leaves nothing to chance. The teacher is given everything needed to help students master essay writing. Students will be able to organize their ideas, then format and write a five-paragraph essay in about an hour. Every student will be prepared for any class, district, or state writing test.

List of Steps
See the entire process at a glance. The teacher will receive a list of steps on one page to help see the "big picture".

Pacing Chart
How long will it take to teach your class to write the five-paragraph essay? It all depends on the age and ability level of your students. Use this pacing chart to help keep your class on track. Feel free to slow down or speed up as needed. Following the steps on the pacing chart will keep your class moving through the process at a pace that is just right.

Detailed Lesson Plan
You will receive a detailed explanation of each step. Use the detailed lesson plan to learn how to teach the five-paragraph essay. Once you feel comfortable with each step, the pacing chart is all you will need. You will only need to use the detailed lesson plan to serve as a reminder when you need it.

Plan for Mastery
What are the chances that some students will struggle mastering the essay? All teachers know that every class has its quick learners. This book will show you how to help high achievers create outstanding essays while showing the teacher how to help slower students achieve full mastery of the five-paragraph essay. Parents and administrators will be impressed beyond words at your diligent instruction of the essay.

Bells and Whistles
Not only will your students be able to write a strong five-paragraph essay, they will be able to do it with style. Show your students how to write college level essays by adding spectacular "bells" and "whistles" to their essays. Your students will be able to write Interesting Introductions, Classy Conclusions, and Terrific Transitions. Be prepared to amaze parents, other teachers, and administrators with your students' amazing essays.

The Next Level
This book leaves absolutely nothing to chance. Your students will learn to write the five-paragraph essay using one simple, basic format. Once they have mastered this format, taking their essays to the next level is easy. Writing essays in all domains of writing is amazingly simple. Your students will be able to write essays on topics such as Problem-Solution, Cause and Effect, Autobiographical Incident, Persuasive Argument, and much more. All forms of writing become easy once your students have mastered the basic essay format.

Order Now and receive this Free Gift:
How To Teach the Paragraph ($10 value) Order How to Teach the Five-Paragraph Essay
and your students WILL master the five paragraph essay!

Note: How To Teach the Five Paragraph Essay is free with the purchase of The Complete Writing Program. How To Teach the Five Paragraph Essay eBook
Price: $17.95
(download version)

Our Experience:

I read through the Homeschool Writing Action Plan.  While it gives you a good idea of what the steps to teaching writing involve and how much time to plan to spend on each step, I think you could probably get by without this.  It does break it down by grade levels, as well, so you get a realistic starting point and action plan for each of your children at their own level.  However, I didn’t like how each step involved your purchasing yet another product from this company, or substituting another book instead.  When I buy a program, I want it ready-to-go…not tell me there’s still more stuff I need.  If you’re like me, then you’ll either want to skip this product altogether to avoid that frustration or else buy the entire program kit they offer that includes all the other little parts.  Truthfully, purchasing one writing program one time that will last you from 3rd to 12th grade for all of your children for just over $100 sounds pretty good to me!  If I had it all to do over when my oldest was in elementary school, something like that would have really appealed to me, but I don’t get a do-over! 

Haylee, my 7-year old daughter, was the recipient of this trial, and since she just started 3rd grade and is only a beginning writer, we focused only on the How to Teach the Paragraph book.  The book on writing the 5-paragraph essay will come further down the road for her.

I have to say I was impressed with How to Teach the Paragraph.  It is very simple and straight-forward, giving snapshots of the paper setup and what it all should look like.  Although it gives suggestions for motivating a classroom full of students and is clearly written for a classroom teacher, it’s easy enough to skip all the nonsense and get right to the step-by-step process that’s laid out for the student to follow.  Haylee loved answering the “what is the purpose of a paragraph” question over and over and getting the answer right, and she caught on pretty quickly to memorizing the 5 essential steps in laying it out.  I liked the paper setup trick.  I also liked how it had the student write their first paragraph about “how to write a paragraph!”  LOL.  Great idea for reinforcing the memorization of the steps and seeing it to its fruition on the paper!  I was amazed at how well that first paragraph turned out, and how it helped her to see the connection between the initial setup and the actual written paragraph…that transformation from a main idea and simple phrases to an orderly and well-written paragraph with complete sentences and good punctuation. 

I look forward to continuing our work with this product.  It made the whole process a little less intimidating and perhaps even a little bit fun, although I doubt Haylee would admit it…she is fond of saying that writing is hard!  But I have confidence that with continued use of this product, it will help to shift her attitude about writing into a more positive one where she has confidence when she sits down to begin a paragraph.  We’re going to stick with it, because her older brother is in 8th grade and is downright terrified of writing.  He would rather pull out his toenails than complete an essay.  So my plan is to try to ease him into using this product, as well, starting slowly and working it in, to help build good writing skills for him, too.  I don’t want Haylee to feel the way he does about writing, and I’m hoping this product is just the ticket to turning things around for both of them!  I anticipate the How to Teach the 5-Paragraph Essay book will be just as good as this one.  I would definitely recommend them to anyone who needs an action plan for teaching good, solid writing skills.

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I received these products free of charge for purposes of the review, but all opinions are my own and are derived from our family’s actual experiences with these products.