Wednesday, November 10, 2010
The Write Foundation - Product Review
While I'm not the best planner, I do like organization, so one of the things that appeals to me about The Write Foundation is that lessons are systematically organized and broken down into sections. The teacher's book is conveniently spiral bound, and the student pages are loose-leaf, three-hole punched for easy insertion into binders, making organizing notes easy. (And an organized notebook is emphasized right from the start, which I like.) I recognize wise counsel in the manual's introduction, where teachers are instructed to use the curriculum "however it works best for them and their students [because] quality curriculum lets teachers teach with their own style, without being a slave to it" (2). I also like the fact that teachers are encouraged to recognize that learning to write well is a process that takes time and practice through repetition of basic principles, and therefore students should be given multiple opportunities to learn the different principles rather than being required to repeatedly revise a single piece of writing until mastery is demonstrated. I also very much like that students are required to type their finished pieces so that their work is polished and well-presented, especially since my son finds the physical act of writing very challenging.
Now that DS11 and I are several lessons into the program that could last us through the better part of our school year, I have mixed opinions about the program. Ironically, the obvious effort to make directions clear for teachers actually results in muddying instructions as there are too many variations of the same directives. For example, the first lesson in the teacher's manual is laid out in 5 sections and then is followed by a page entitled "Sentence to Paragraph Assignment 1," which seems to be a condensed version of the preceding six pages. I, however, initially took it to mean that it was an assignment in addition to what had already been done. As well, the acronyms for work sheets (WS) and teacher presentation pages (TP) are intended to clarify with simplicity; but a glance at a label like "Mind Bender P1 A3: WS 2 (TP2)" overwhelms this reader and creates confusion rather than clarity. (Though not included in the purchase price, the curriculum advocates the use of Mind Benders books to add a fun logic component to the program.)
I appreciate the fact that there are a variety of writing activities within each lesson, and that students are required to make use of writing resources, such as dictionaries, thesauruses, peers, and various texts (such as books and magazines) from home. Students are also challenged to exercise creativity in the context of using these tools. For example, while studying alliterative words, students are required to use a thesaurus to help construct silly sentences about subjects that appeal to them. However, the worksheets provided to accomplish these tasks are lacking in instructions for the students, which means individuals (like DS11) who need textual directions for constant reference are at a significant disadvantage.
I am also concerned that there is sometimes a discrepancy between what is taught and what is given as an example to illustrate the concept that is taught. For instance, in the "Concrete Poetry" section of Lesson 2, we are told, "Letters of a word are drawn into the shape of the meaning of the word, which is the subject of the poem, using the word itself to form a picture illustrating the individual word" (examples from the text are below).