The point of writing isn't primarily to entertain or complete school assignments. While neither of those are bad goals by themselves, the real purpose of writing is to convey ideas consistent with one's worldview that challenge readers and offer a new or more incisive way of looking at a particular idea or event. If the writer happens to be a Christian, then his goal is to do those things from an explicitly Christian perspective.
For years, the writers and editors of World Magazine have been producing high quality global news, social commentary, and cultural reviews from a Christian perspective. The authors of this writing curriculum have harnessed the writing philosophy and skills of these journalists and commentators and presented them to middle school students (grades 7-9, ideally) in a way that is engaging, logical, and genuinely helpful. You don't have to have a subscription to World Magazine or its subsidiary publications, but it would be very useful and can be obtained here.
There are two levels, each designed to be used over a one-year period. For each level there's a parent/teacher edition and a student book, with no need for extra volumes (though access to magazines, newspapers, etc. is necessary). Both levels include four units, with four lessons apiece; the lessons are divided into five capsules each. Typically, one week will be spent completing the first three capsules of each lesson, with the second week devoted to the last two.
Write with World is intended to be taught, so you can't just hand your kids the student book and let them go for it. There's a wealth of information in each parent/teacher edition, as well as code-accessible online content including samples, forums, and new materials. There are no scripted lesson plans, but there's enough content you should have no problem presenting each lesson capsule to your students.
Each level has its own theme: Write with World I covers "Thinking Through Images, Developing Voice, and Crafting Narrative", while Write with World II covers "Learning to Create an Informed Opinion, Respond to Controversy, and Persuade Effectively". Students will need to have solid grammar skills and some composition experience going into this program—assignments range from analyzing photographs to writing stories to developing and articulating arguments.
Throughout the program, students simultaneously hone their grammar and stylistic skills, while learning to organize their thoughts and transfer them to the page. Most assignments have multiple stages, so students learn to outline, write a rough draft, and revise from the ground up. Instruction time should take about an hour three days per week, besides the time students will need for completing assignments. Weeks when only two capsules are completed should include one day for teacher/student conferencing.
Students keep a writing journal, which can be physical or computer-based and allows them to see their progress in real time. Each lesson presents a number of assignments students can choose from, allowing them more latitude than most writing programs and giving them a chance to mold their abilities according to their strengths and interests. Good and bad writing models are provided to guide students toward their own voice and ability to write eloquently within a Christian worldview.
Teachers and parents need not fear grading or evaluating their students' work as the parent/teacher edition includes plenty of guidelines. There are also tips for teaching different kinds of learners (audial, visual, etc.), and the student books are in fact designed to meet these various needs with color pictures, hands-on activities, and more. Because the focus is writing from a particular standpoint, kids learn as much about reading and analysis as about writing itself.
Because this program has been highly influenced by a news periodical, students can expect to do lots of work on presenting and interpreting news stories, evaluating advertisments, and working with narrative. This emphasis gives kids the impression that they're engaged in a conversation of sorts with current events and even other writers. As indeed they are: the course provides lots of commentary and "feedback" from professional writers and editors about the art and discipline of writing.
A lot of upper-grade writing programs purport to teach kids to write with their Christian worldview in mind, but not all of them are written by authors whose own worldview is biblical or thorough enough to satisfy Christian parents. Write with World is both an excellent writing curriculum, and a good program for instilling worldview thinking in young Christian writers who can then use their skills to promote that worldview at home and abroad.
There is currently no high school follow-up to the Write with World middle school program. For now, we'd recommend the Lost Tools of Writing, which focuses on rhetorical skill-building. However, if you really like Write with World (and we think most of you will), we'd recommend you contact the publishers and request a high school follow-up. While one isn't currently in the works, they've hinted there could be if there's enough interest.
Both the student and the teacher books are easy to use and navigate, and the lessons are straightforward. Many of the assignments are challenging, but the difficulty lies in preparing papers, not in understanding what is expected. Grammar isn't covered except on a stylistic basis, but if your students are well versed in the basics they'll be able to excel here. A great resource from a respected and established source, Write with World is highly recommended.
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.