Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Apologia Educational Ministries – Writers in Residence Review

Language arts has never been a favorite subject for my son and this year the curriculum we were using was really frustrating for him.  Both he and I were excited to receive Writers in Residence from Apologia Educational Ministries to review because it focuses on learning language arts in a completely different way than our current curriculum did.  Writers in Residence has ended the language arts frustration for my 7th grader and I couldn’t be happier!
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Writers in Residence from Apologia Educational Ministries  is a complete language arts curriculum written by Debra Bell.  The set we received is Volume 1 and it included the All in One Student Text & Workbook along with the Answer Key.  This language arts curriculum is writing focused, but it teaches your student how to find their own writing voice through completing the assignments.  The writing assignments are interesting and they help students learn more about sentence structure, parts of speech, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar.  This curriculum teaches students to write assignments that are clear, lively, and captivating.  Writers in Residence also includes a detailed lesson plan outline for 32 weeks of use, evaluation rubrics, and checklists for completing each unit.  One of my favorite features of this curriculum are the interviews with real Christian authors (I must admit that I skipped ahead in the curriculum to read all the interviews).  It is designed for students in grades 4 through 8. 

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My son is very good at creative writing, but getting the mechanics of writing correct all the time has been a struggle from the early years.  It has lead to a lot of frustration and he eventually began to dread writing.  The curriculum we have been using before this review does an okay job with language arts and teaching grammar concepts, but I feel like it leaves too many gaps and it has lead to confusion.  Every year I try to find material to help with these gaps, but I have never found anything that covered both language arts and grammar that I felt fit for us.  We have tried a lot of individual products for these subjects that have been just okay.  I have always been on the lookout for a complete language arts curriculum that included grammar so that we didn’t feel like we were working on two completely different subjects.  Writers in Residence is the language arts curriculum that I have been looking for and since we started using it, my son has not complained about writing, language arts, or grammar at all.  He completely understands the concepts he has been working through and I have been seeing improvements in the mechanics of his writing in each lesson that he works on.

The workbook is very thorough and has a section of how to use the curriculum at the beginning of it.  This section gives very detailed information of how and why Writers in Residence is different from other curriculum and how to use it effectively for your student.  It also includes a welcome section for the students that explains what they will be learning, why they should be writing, a quick look at the Christian authors they will find out about later on, traits of the writing model, an introduction to the writing process, and a suggested daily schedule.  Both my son and I loved these parts of the workbook that we read through before we ever got to the first lesson.  My son loved knowing that he would be learning how to write about things that were important to him – his ideas, his memories, and his stories.  He really was excited that he wouldn’t be writing papers that seemed pointless to him.  I was excited that he could see from the very beginning what he would learn, what was expected of him, and that he had a direction for his writing.
 
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Then we got into the real work of the textbook and workbook.  We really enjoyed reading about Bill Myers, a real life Christian author, who has written a lot of books.  The workbook is broken down into six units and each unit is broken down into modules.  Unit 1 focuses on “When I Was Young” and writing from the student’s favorite childhood memories.  My son chose to focus on the memories he made playing at his cars table when he was little.  The unit introduced the rubric that would be used to evaluate his writing and also introduced a model to follow while he was developing the story from his memories.  The unit also taught him more about verbs, vocabulary, nouns, being specific, capitalization, and sentence order among other things.  Each section that my son worked through had him reflecting on and improving his memory sentences which he is using to create his writing on “When I Was Young.”  This has opened the door for us to talking about descriptive writing, choosing specific nouns, and verbs that draw the readers in and make them feel like they are right in the memory with you.  I have seen my son’s writing improve and his confidence about writing has returned.  He is judging his work as he goes and making necessary improvements based on the lessons he has learned from Writers in Residence.  While language arts still is not his favorite subject, he no longer dreads it or complains about it.

I am extremely happy with Writers in Residence from Apologia Educational Ministries.  I really like the approach this curriculum uses to make writing real to the students by using their own memories and experiences to write from.  I really love the way it teaches students to evaluate their own work and to go back and make it stronger by adding in specific nouns, vigorous verbs, and descriptions that the reader can picture.  My favorite thing about this curriculum is that it is complete and I don’t have find separate grammar and language arts any more.  I am also thankful that language arts is no longer frustrating in our house.  We will definitely continue to work through the rest of this language arts curriculum as we finish up our school year and then we will pick up where we leave off with it next school year.  I truly hope that Apologia Educational Ministries, Writers in Residence, and Debra Bell with come out with volume 2 of this because I would certainly purchase that curriculum to follow up this one.

You can check out Apologia Educational Ministries at their website or on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.  You can find the Writers in Residence curriculum here.  Please go and check them out for yourself and see if they would be a good fit for your students.  We definitely recommend them!

You can also check out what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about Writers in Residence by clicking on the banner below this. 

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
 
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