We received the Writers in Residence, Volume 1, Apprentice course and separate Answer Key for our review.
What is the Writers in Residence, Volume 1, Apprentice Course All About
Writers in Residence is a complete, one-year, language arts curriculum appropriate from approximately grades 4-8th from Apologia Educational Ministries. The integration of writing, grammar and spelling is covered within the course. The course is set up to be done independently; however, younger students may need more supervision and guidance from the parent or teacher.
A Suggested Daily Schedule, 4 days per week, is included in the beginning of the book. However, the introduction makes it clear that the author feels that it is important to make writing fun for the student and, therefore, finding the right pace for the course is important. If 2 or 3 days a week works better for your student, the course is easily adaptable to a modified schedule. However, if the 4 days per week schedule is followed, the writing course can be completed in 32 weeks.
The unique aspect of the Writers in Residence Course is that it does not focus on the typical academic writing styles most courses emphasize – personal, expository, persuasive, and narrative. Rather, the Writers in Residence Course focuses on the more realistic writing of an adult that incorporates several writing styles into one. Therefore, the course does teach and practice the typical writing styles like expository or narrative, but then helps the students learn to intergrate them into well written works.
How are the Lessons in Writers in Residence Set Up
The lessons in the Writers in Residence course are setup for the student to work through independently. The student first studies and then refers to the Six Traits Writing Model (we copied and put this on the wall for easy reference)
- sentence structure
- word choice
The Writing Process is also studied and referred to throughout all lessons; therefore, we copied and placed this on the wall for easy reference as well)
Each Unit in the Writers in Residence course is broken down into modules and then numbered assignments. For instance, there are 4 Modules in Unit 1 and within Module 1 there are 16 assignments. A daily task might include various numbers of assignments within the module. The assignment cycle contains 4 repeated types of writing tasks working on different types of written expression. 1) I Remember which focuses on personal narrative writing; 2) I Imagine focuses on creative writing; 3) I Investigate teaches research skills; and 4) I Think works on opinion and argument writing.
Language arts/Grammar are taught within the context of the writing lessons. Volume 1 focuses on learning the parts of speech (noun, verb, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions, interjections) as well as the basics of capitalization and punctuation. Prepositional phrases and complements are also covered in Volume 1. Volume 2 of the Writers in Residence course will expand upon what is learned in Volume 1 as well as introduce pronouns, phrases and clauses. More sentence pattern recognition will be learned as well as advanced punctuation, capitalization and formatting skills and more indepth studies of verbs and tenses. Upper Levels of the Writers in Residence course will go deeper with more advanced grammar concepts.
Spelling is not taught separately in the Writers in Residence course but considered “built in” to the course. Since editing for spelling and grammar is part of the Writing Process and editing for these is emphasized, spelling will come naturally as the student read good work and edits his or her own works for errors. The parents/teacher is cautioned from putting too much emphasis on spelling correctly as this tends to discourage the student from trying to use more advanced or new vocabulary. The parent/teacher is encouraged to reward and celebrate using new vocabulary, focusing on this part of the growing writer rather than the misspelling. The author states that typically the spelling will come along; however, a separate, simple spelling program can be used in conjunction if the student requests it but it is not considered necessary.
Grading is also discourage within the Writers in Residence course. Rather, a rubric is provided at the end of each module for the parent or teacher to use to provide an evaluations of the strengths and weaknesses of the writing. The rubric is on a point system and the student can earn points from 1-5 in several areas like Ideas, Organization, Word Choice, and Conventions. For every 10 points, the student can fill in a circle on the Apprentice Log in the Appendix of the book. Once they have completed the course, if they achieved at least 85% of all points available, they can earn an award of distinction from Apologia.
The students are also encouraged to keep all writings and works together to make a portfolio of their work. Unit Reviews, Mastery Tests, and a Final Review are provided within the course and could be graded if a grade was desired for the course.
The Appendix to the course has some amazing extras as well. There is a great Writer’s Toolbox Strategies, that put together sentences that can help the writer get motivated and stay on track with their writing. A glossary defines many of the terms used throughout the course. A sample Works Cited page is available to show the student how it looks and is formatted. There are Rubrics pages for reviewers to used, follow up reports for interviews, a Paragraph Planning Chart, and Author Comparison Chart, sample draft paper, and Word Collection pages, where the student is encourage to add words they have learned and/or would like to use in future writings.
The Writers in Residence Answer Key that can be purchased to accompany the program is a stand along book that provides answers or sample answers to assignments, quizzes, master tests, and other works that require the student to provide an answer in the course. It is the road-map to the course for the parent/teacher.
How We Used It and What We Thought
We used the program 3 days a week during the review period, mostly because we had some extra things going on during the review period. However, I believe we will be changing to the 4 day a week plan for the remainder of the year and maybe 2 days a week during our light summer schedule.
We used the program with our 5th grade daughter and she is enjoying the program. She doesn’t really like to write anything assigned, but loves to read and likes to write creatively. She found the assignments interesting and daily assignment load not too taxing. I thought the amount of time spent was very acceptable. Obviously it differs on reading speed and writing speed. Some days she spent more time than others, depending upon the assignment and how much writing she did.
Each unit begin with a Spotlight on Christian Writers, which is an interview with a well-known Christian writer, answering questions like “So how did you become a writer” and “What if your normal writing routine.” Also questions like “Where do you get your ideas?” and “Have you ever gotten feedback that was hard to hear? How did you handle it?” My daughter really liked this part and was excited that she recognized some of the authors that are interviewed throughout the course like Phil Vischer (Veggie Tales) and Jason Lethcoe (The Little Mermaid film).
My daughter was able to work independently, though I had her show me the assignments after completed so I could see how it was going and give feedback. I loved that there was a Suggest Daily Schedule with check boxes to mark when complete. This is nice because, if you only do a couple of days a week, you can still keep track what has been completed and where you are in the course quite easily.
The assignments, she thought, were interesting and engaging. I agree that I felt that she almost immediately was doing a better job at thinking through her writing thanks to the course. The rubric was very helpful for her to look at and think about whether she had put a solid amount of effort into the assignment before presenting it to me to go over the rubric, which I also found very helpful. And the Apprentice Log appears to be very motivating and she definitely is shooting for an “award of distinction,” which I think is great.
I like the Word Collection pages in the back. I think this will be an excellent way to help increase vocabulary and give her a place to write down fun words that are more description to use in the future. I like that there are good examples of excellent writings throughout the course, used at the examples that the student is asked to emulate.
My first thought as I opened the box and pulled out the Writers in Residence course was — “Wow, that is a BIG book.” But I must say, I love that it is all-inclusive and has an easy-to-understand flow to the course that a student can work on somewhat independently while still working on quality writing.
Overall, we love the setup of the course and the course itself. I must say, I’m pretty impressed. I have always loved Apologia products, you can check out my other reviews on the iWitness Series and What On Earth Can I Do?. But I had not considered Apologia for writing. This course has changed that. I think it is an excellent course and I look forward to its continued used. I can certainly see us utilizing subsequent volumes in the future.
You can check out what the rest of the TOS Review Crew has to say about the Writers in Residence course from Apologia Educational Ministries by clicking the banner below. And visit the Apologia Educational Ministries webiste or visit them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.