Monday, August 27

Time 4 Writing...paragraphs

Language Arts have been a running theme on this blog lately, but it's been a running theme in our house all summer. My boys love writing. I frequently find them huddled up in a corner somewhere with a notebook and pencil, working on their latest book with full illustrations. They ace every grammar test. Quiz them on spelling or writing and you'll be impressed. But read their writing and you'll be horrified and wonder if they've ever cracked a book. I don't understand how, but their lessons have not carried over into their actual writing so we've dedicated the summer to working on this problem.

I had considered online classes, but they were out of our price range. Thankfully, offered their program to TOS for review and I signed the boys up for a class. These are 8 week writing courses for students of all levels. Students work at their own pace under the guidance of licensed teachers. We started with G.U.M., a class about grammar usage and mechanics since these were the things that didn't translate into their regular writing. However, it turned out to be too easy, so I contacted the administrator and the boys were quickly transferred to Paragraph Party Planning, a class on forming proper paragraphs. It is a much better fit. There is a placement guide to help you choose the right class, and I had used it, but I just couldn't be sure until we started the class. Thankfully, Time4Writing allows students to change classes for free during the first two weeks of registration.

In each class, students read a lesson to themselves and then follow arrows to proceed to lesson instructions. The first lesson in G.U.M. was nice and simple, asking students to write 3 sentences telling their name, age, and gender. They were encouraged to share any other information they liked. Ethan wrote, "My name is Ethan. I am a 15 year old boy. I like pie." Lessons are generally graded within 24 hours and teachers respond through email. Ethan's teacher praised him for his writing skills and added a "p.s.": I like pie, too. Once they have completed an assignment, students cannot proceed to the next lesson until their assignment has been graded by a teacher. I really like this aspect of the program. This prevents students from moving past what they are ready for and becoming confused. Perhaps they are ready, but there's no way to be sure until the lessons have been graded. Better safe than sorry.

G.U.M. walked students through the basic components of a sentence, identifying the subject and the predicate, parts of speech, etc.  Individual lessons, the boys have no problem with these things, so we moved on to a lesson that would have them writing. I was impressed with how quickly the company responded to my request and moved us up. The next class, Paragraphs, still seems easy, but I don't think it's because the content isn't helpful. I think the class is broken down into simple steps that have students building on their knowledge in small bite-sized pieces until it seems natural to write well.

 Paragraph Party Planning has made my boys slow down and think. We're only halfway through it, but I'm already seeing the boys pay more attention to what they write. It's also been good to have them work under a different teacher and meet someone else's expectations. With homeschooling, they haven't had much exposure to that. Mrs. Gardner is their teacher and she almost always responds within 12 hours, even during weekends, when it isn't required according to the website guidelines. She is very encouraging, even in her corrections. The lessons themselves aren't terribly interesting, particularly the topics chosen, but has kept content from being distracting. One assignment had them building a paragraph out of different components that were all out of order. In the end, it was a paragraph about a parent describing what it was like raising a four-year old. Relevant to teens? Not so much. But mine do tend to get so excited about what they are writing that they don't slow down enough to put thought into their writing. This class is changing that.

The High School Paragraph lesson titles are:
  1. What Makes a Paragraph? The Beginning
  2. The Middle Supporting Sentences in Your Paragraph
  3. The End Concluding Sentences
  4. The Narrative Paragraph
  5. The Descriptive Paragraph
  6. The Expository Paragraph
  7. The Persuasive Paragraph
  8. Let's Party

The class is worth 1/4 credit for high school students and is helpful for improving scores in many other classes. The price, while expensive to me, is more than reasonable in comparison to other companies. The cost is $99 for one 8 week course. I did a little search and didn't find anything this inexpensive. The closest I found was $150. Some ran upwards of $220! I was a bit excited when I saw one for $80 and then I realized that it was $80 per session! I would say that Time 4 Writing classes are quite a steal at a full 8-week course for $99.

Time4Writing offers several other classes, which have been reviewed by The Crew. Be sure to check them out! Also, Time4Writing offers quite a few free resources worth browsing. 
Disclaimer: I received this material in exchange for my honest opinion as a member of the TOS Crew, and received no other form of compensation. For whatever they're worth, the opinions are mine and mine alone, as stated in my disclosure policy.


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