Based on the same writing instruction philosophy used by the Institute for Excellence in Writing, the Imitation in Writing series provides several books full of pre-arranged assignments for young writers. The selections are from or inspired by famous literature (from Aesop to Greek mythology to poetry), specially selected for appropriate grade levels. The lessons are typically 1-3 pages long, easily manageable lengths for kids who may not favor writing as a subject.
A variety of consumable books for grades 3-12 offer a block of text to be read and discussed, followed by fill-in spaces in which to record notes on the passage. After reading the text and taking notes, students collate the material and re-write the passage in their own words. This bypasses the common complaint of "I don't know what to write about!" by providing specific guidelines for subject matter.
The reading passages become longer in the books for older students, and note-taking techniques become more involved. The goal is not to have students simply copy-change what they have read (re-write using the same form and voice of the original), but to have them truly re-write in their own style and voice. Most students aren't ready from the get-go to write original material, and this program removes that obstacle to productivity.
There is an emphasis on vocabulary (every good writer needs to have plenty of words at his disposal), plot, and characters. Since students are working from pre-existing texts, teachers will be able to gauge their comprehension skills; if kids' re-writes diverge wildly from the original, parents will know to reinforce comprehension skills.
This isn't a grammar course. Good writing requires thorough knowledge of grammar, so you will need to cover grammar separately. There aren't teacher editions, but you shouldn't need them. You will need to read the selected passages yourself in order to make sure your child is understanding what he's reading and getting it right in his notes. Answers to the plot-related questions are included in the back of each book.
There are two poetry titles designed for older students: the Poetry Primer and The Grammar of Poetry. The Poetry Primer is an introduction to proper poem scansion and explication. All the poems used are classic selections. The Grammar of Poetry includes more in-depth elaborations of the Poetry Primer, as well as longer, more difficult poems. It also contains assignments calling for students to write their own poetry. Each of these texts is accompanied by a teacher's manual which includes answers to questions and hints on teaching the material.
This is an excellent series for implementing the skills taught in the IEW program. By imitating good writing, students will become better writers themselves. Teachers frustrated by the lack of specific lesson plans and excerpts in the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style course will be relieved to find more than they can likely use in these books. These are not dependent on the IEW material, however; each book would also make an excellent supplement for another writing and composition course.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.