Students who use the Write Source books will have little excuse for poor composition skills. Each level rehearses the same information, elaborating and filling in gaps with every new book while retaining the same core principles and approach. Texts are fun and colorful without forsaking quality and genuine instruction, so kids are drawn in but not merely entertained.
The theory is simple: to write well, kids need to understand basic grammar and be able to think clearly. All the Write Source products are designed with achieving both ends, so that instruction never becomes lopsided. Because the series is cumulative, students jumping in at a later grade who've had less extensive composition experience than the early books provide may find themselves struggling to keep up; but those able to complete each book consecutively will almost certainly become competent and creative communicators.
We should point out at the onset: these are secular texts, and as a result some parents may find examples or exercises somewhat offensive. We haven't found too much overtly inappropriate material (nor have most Christian online reviewers), but the authors are stolidly politically correct, and not all the content will be consistent with a Christian worldview; we'd encourage parents to scan lessons ahead of time and edit as necessary.
How Do These Work?
There are essentially two series under the Write Source heading. The first is simply called Write Source, and is a complete K-12 writing curriculum, with textbooks, activity books, teacher guides, and CD-ROM supplements. The second series is a K-12 collection of writing handbooks; these include more or less the same content as the curriculum texts, but are less visual, more thorough, and include a lot of research and writing helps in the student books that is only included in the teacher guides of the other series.
For the Write Source curriculum, there is a student textbook for each level, accompanied by a teacher's edition, an assessment book, a consumable Daily Language Workouts book with teacher's edition, and a consumable Skills Book with teacher's edition. An interactive CD-ROM is also available for each level and is to be used directly by the student.
Each textbook is formatted the same way: students read about the writing process, the forms of writing, speaking and learning skills, and the basic elements of writing. At the end are two reference sections: A Writer's Resource (tips on research, style, vocabulary, choosing and narrowing a topic, etc.), and the Proofreader's Guide (a manual of mechanics and editing helps). The teacher's editions include each full-color student page in reduced format, along with tips for presentation and extra help.
Whenever a new concept is introduced, students internalize it through a series of examples and exercises, learning how to write well at every stage by following clear guidelines. These are written at a surprisingly high level (terms like "rubric" and "expository" are introduced as early as first grade), but everything is presented thoroughly and in a way kids at the intended grade-level can understand.
Those in favor of Classical education and Charlotte Mason learning may wonder where the dictation and copywork exercises are hidden, but they'll search in vain. Yet the Write Source method has its own virtues—it's not as if important elements are left out, they're just approached more rapidly and not in the same order. The authors of this course wouldn't argue that clear thinking is not essential to good writing, they just begin teaching reasoning and thinking skills from the beginning, alongside basic mechanics.
Students are introduced to the parts of speech, punctuation, complete sentences, complex sentences, etc., ensuring they know how to put words together to form thoughts and ideas in a way others will understand. Simultaneously, they learn the different purposes for writing (expository, analyzing literature, personal essay, and so on), how to choose an audience-appropriate topic, how to conduct research,and all the other elements of writing that require clear thinking rather than slavish attention to rules.
Books are designed to be completed in one year. The textbooks are colorful and engaging; the consumables are text-based and straightforward. The Assessment book includes tests; the Skills Book provides reinforcement exercises for editing and proofreading; and the Daily Language Workouts provides mechanics-based exercises as well as writing prompts and idea generators. The CD-ROMs are directed at students, with interactive exercises designed to hone skills, and audio instruction to guide them through concepts.
Each year the same concepts are covered, but more in-depth and with new elements added. The repetition is excellent for getting kids to write well automatically, and the constant editing, revision, and showing the work to others involved in each original writing assignment means they'll understand the importance of clarity and creativity.
The secondary series (comprised of titles like Write Away, Writer's Inc., and Write Source 2000) is almost a mirror of the more curriculum-oriented program, except without the bells and whistles. The same supplemental books and teacher's editions are available, but the content is less entertaining (fewer illustrations, etc.) and more fast-paced. Also, there is more research- and reference-oriented material, making this a better option for building to full-scale research papers than the other course (though research papers are covered there, as well).
Our Honest Opinion:
This is one of the better K-12 writing courses available. One of the major downsides is that, since it's a secular program, there isn't any character education element, but the quality of the writing instruction makes up for that lack (a gap you can always fill on your own). Each lesson builds on the one before, and each book brings students closer to mastery, until by the end of high school they're ready for college-level assignments (the final book in the secondary series is even called Write for College).
Of course, the interconnectedness of each level with those before and after it is also a problem. Coming into the Write Source curriculum from another program can be difficult, as the progression and level of work is likely to differ. However, the secondary series can easily be used in a supplemental fashion, to aid students using another program altogether. If you start with Write Source, however, there's no reason not to end with Write Source, and though the political correctness can get old (especially in the later texts), even this can be used positively, as a jumping-off point for discussions about proper thinking and the Christian use of reason.
We don't carry most of the materials in this series for two simple reasons: first, the margins are too low for us to profitably do so; second, they're revised with enough frequency that it makes it difficult for us to keep up. Older editions are still helpful as handbooks, and are usually quite a bit less expensive.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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