Thursday 25 June 2015

Writing with skill

I have been trying to brush up Sonshine's writing skills but I am ill-equipped to teach him. So I have been buying local assessments books in bid to build up his writing ability but alas none work. It's not structured enough for me and him; I need a clear, systematic, step by step methodology in order to teach him. After some online search, I settled on a curriculum, popular among the American homeschooling community. 

Presenting: Writing with skill by Susan Wise Bauer. 
The Complete Writer: Writing With Skill Level 1 Instructor Text-PDF DOWNLOAD

This is a preceding series after Writing with Ease . I have written about it before (er, I am too lazy to search for the post). 

Writing is a complex task requiring the young student to use multiple skills simultaneously. He needs to have an idea, translate the idea into words, put the words in writing. When writing he needs to note his grammar, spelling, vocabulary, punctuations and take care that he writes  neatly, all these at once. 
Typically, the child is thrown into the daunting task and is expected to juggle all these skills simultaneously. Susan Wise suggests to break down each skill so that the student can concentrate on sharpening one skill at a time.  For instance, to help the child translate a thought or story into words, Susan Wise recommends narration without any writing. The child reads a passage and summarises verbally what he just read without having to write it down. The instructor will pen it down for him as he narrates so that he can see his thoughts in writing (yet not be constrained by the rules of writing). Here the child need not worry about writing rules, coordinating his eyes-hands and thoughts at the same time. All he needs is to focus in finding words for his ideas. And so on.
There are many aspects of Writing with Skill. For now, I am only applying 3 steps, Dictation, Summary and Thesaurus. I tweak the methodology such that it's applicable to our local syllabus. For a start,   I chose to use our local composition guide books as the text rather than the recommended novels.

I found the dictation exercise very useful. As I read a particular sentence, Sonshine has to register the words in his memory first before writing them down. He will recite the sentences back to me before putting it down on paper. By memorizing and reciting, I find it forces him to learn how to construct proper sentences or describe a situation he would otherwise not know how to. Also, it helps him pick up new vocabulary.

His pronunciation needs improvement that's why I make Sonshine read aloud first. I would correct him as he reads along. 

After he reads the passage, he would start to write a summary in  3-5 sentences. Summary helps him to study how others write and organise their thoughts. It also forces him to learn to extract out the key ideas of the story and learn that the other information in the story are details that supports the key ideas. This way, hopefully he gets the idea how to write. 

Lastly, Thesaurus. I take out a sentence and underline key words. He has to look up the thesaurus and find another word to replace. It is not easy because the words listed in the thesaurus have different shade of meaning and not all have can be applied to the particular sentence. He has to decipher which words best fit into the sentence.

Although I found these steps very useful, some may find it too dry and boring. It really depends what kind of learners you have and what is your preference of teaching. These books are not available in the library for borrowing, I had to purchase them from Books depository and they are pretty expensive. I love the systematic approach and I have high hopes that it will benefit Sonshine, IF we keep this up consistently. I hope I can judging how tight our routine can be especially during school terms. 

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