From Our House to Yours
Write with the Best: Choosing a Good Topic
The issuing of numerical grades in Heart of Dakota’s Write with the Best is optional (p. 103). Because grading is so subjective, neither Carrie nor I gave grades for our sons’ writing in Write with the Best. Instead, we focused on picking good topics and on the skills taught in each daily mini-lesson. We found it most important to pick a topic the student cares about, knows something about, and can write something about. So, for example, I remember one of my sons chose an article about how to train dogs to hunt pheasants. As we just bought a puppy, and my son was going to help my husband train her to pheasant hunt (my husband helps our friend by guiding for his pheasant hunts), this topic fit my son well.
Write with the Best: Focusing on the Mini-Lessons
After carefully picking the topic, we found the work done in each Write with the Best mini-lesson to be the most important thing to focus upon to produce good writing. This is because the content from each mini-lesson is usually used within each writing piece. So, the better the work in the Write with the Best mini-lesson, the better the writing of the piece will be.
Write with the Best: Step-by-Step Writing Based on Mini-Lessons
For example, on Day 2 of Unit 3 of Write with the Best, students highlight key words and phrases in the article they chose and use those words/phrases in the main points they wrote down. Then, on Days 3-4, they write an outline based on those main points. On Days 7-8, they use the topic sentence they already came up with, and for the concluding statement, they restate the topic sentence. So, we found if we focused on doing the mini-lessons with our sons well, by the time they got to the actual writing, the piece practically wrote itself! Then, the proofreading checklists help as a final way to polish the writing pieces.
Write with the Best: Five Basic Goals
It is important not to get bogged down in creating the ‘perfect’ writing piece. Rather, there are five basic goals of Write with the Best. First, students are to look at excellent models of writing. Second, students are to try to use similar methods in their own writing via doing the mini-lessons. Third, student are to try to use the mini-lessons’ work to write their own piece. Fourth, students are to try to develop their own style of writing along the way. Fifth, students are to use the proofreading checklists for final polishing.
Write with the Best: In Closing
By focusing on choosing topics your child cares about, knows about, and can write about; by focusing on doing the mini-lessons well and using them in the final written pieces; and by focusing on using the proofreading sheets for help in polishing (not perfecting) your child’s final writing piece, you can happily drop grading the pieces. Using this approach, we saw great progress in our sons’ writing. They also continued to truly enjoy writing! I hope this helps others using Write with the Best!