31 December 2009

Brand Loyalty

I have a few more comments about The Complete Writer: Writing With Ease: Strong Fundamentals (by Susan Wise Bauer of WTM reknown) that I wrote about recently.

(here's the link if you missed it.)

I remember from The Well-Trained Mind this instruction (found in her "Words, Words, Words: Spelling, Grammar, Reading, and Writing" chapter, under the section "Reading"):

"We strongly feel that "reading texts" (books with snippets of stories and poems followed by comprehension exercises) turn reading into a chore. Books, even in the early grades, ought to be sources of delight and information, not exercises to be mastered. A good classical education instills a passion for books in the student. "Reading texts" mutilate real books by pulling sections out of context and presenting them as "assignments."" (p57)

Now, when I was reading about "Writing With Ease" and the accompanying workbooks, I kept reading things like:

"Copywork and narration excerpts for each lesson are included with background information provided and comprehension questions (with possible answers) that lead the child comfortably into narration.." (from Rainbow Resource)

When I purchased the book, I saw that, as described, and against her own instruction, she has taken "snippets of stories ... followed by comprehension exercises." How do I reconcile these seemingly conflicting instructions? I have told you before that I have a 'brand loyalty' to Susan Wise Bauer, so it bothered me that she seemed to have created a curriculum empire that contradicted how she instructs us to teach our kids.

So these thoughts stewed for a while and here is my conclusion:

The passage from Well-Trained Mind is referring to READING.

The instruction from Writing With Ease is referring to WRITING.

Ok, stick with me. The purpose of the reading passages in a book about writing is to get the kids to narrate the summaries to the parent aloud. Why? Let me quote again, this time from WWE:

"As the young student narrates out loud, he is practicing the first part of the writing process: putting an idea into his own words. He is practicing a new and difficult skill without having to come up with original ideas first; because his narrations are always rooted in content he's just read or heard, he can concentrate on the task of expressing himself with words."(p8)

If you recall from my earlier post, Susan thinks most teachers get the cart before the horse- they have students write and write and revise and revise. Actually, she says, the value of narration is "He is also practicing this new skill without having to worry about the second part of the writing process: putting those words down on paper."(p8)

So the questions about the passages are to help the kids be able to take information and express it in their own words. This is why she doesn't endorse kids writing essays and research papers before they can WRITE. They need to master *pre*writing skills first:

-put idea into his own words (narration)

-putting words on paper (copywork)

-visualize a written sentence in his mind (dictation)

-putting it all together

So, whew! she's not contradicting herself. Glad I don't have to stay up late nights worrying about it anymore. Here's the link to a great post about reading in general. More on the logic and rhetoric stages of writing soon.

I'm so pleased you are reading Higher Education!
Click on the post title to leave a comment!
Teresa (Tracy) Dear


  1. That's absolutely right. Further--I actually think it's ideal (as the core text states) that parent/teachers select copywork and narration from the real books that the student is reading for history, science, and literature in order to practice writing skills. (That integrates writing into the rest of the curriculum, again ideal). However, I talk to enough parents to know that many don't have the time or the confidence to do this without step-by-step instructions, thus the workbooks. (And that's also why the workbooks are separate from the core text.)

    Thanks for your thoughtful reactions to our material.


  2. Can I just say that the mere thought that you have read/ been reading my blog about homeschooling makes me faint of heart. Thank you so much for your input- I'm really glad you see that most parents are supremely grateful that you choose the passages for them. Like me. FEEL FREE to comment again. I am a huge fan of WTM.

  3. Your explanation is very articulate:-) I am a fan of Susan as well and I use the Writing with Ease program. I started using the workbooks because, from a time and planning perspective, they were really helpful. They also add to our reading lists. If we don't already have a book that the WWE uses for narration exercises, my sons usually ask to go get the book. They want to see how the story turns out:-)

  4. Hey, I'm glad I came off as articulate. I tend to have excessive commas and have to go back in there and make more sentences instead. I was nervous about spending the money on the workbook but now I am confident it is worth it. She sure does pick good passages, I know!