Once upon a time there was a queen who homeschooled her 4 precious children: 3 princes, and one princess. As she was always searching for wonderful curriculum for them, she seemed to have a few areas where she struggled to find something that worked for her as well as the children. One of those areas was writing. She personally loved to write, but somehow, it was difficult to get her little “darlings” to enjoy as much as she did. But then, one day, along came a program, that was dropped in her lap-almost out of the blue. It was called Writing Tales. It took a classic story, fairy tale, or fable, and through several gentle lessons, led the children to re-write it and make it their own. And, along the way, it taught them other language arts skills: grammar, punctuation, handwriting, spelling, and more. And, as they began to use these wonderful materials, she began to see some of her children expand their interest and abilities in writing-how thrilling for her! She was so thankful, since as she was trying to always serve her KING to the best of her abilities, she was glad to have found something new that all in her land could enjoy. And so her own tale ends here, with a retelling of a story. (Or, does it really just begin another journey of writing more wonderful “tales?”)
I hope you can see through my cute little story above, some of what this wonderful curriculum, Writing Tales is about. You can find them here: www.writing-tales.com and read more about it from the creator, Amy Olsen. http://www.olsenbooks.com/about.html
So, what is “Writing Tales”? you ask? I think I’ll let Amy tell you in her words:
“Based on the first level of the ancient progymnasmata writing exercises used by the Greeks, Writing Tales teaches grammar level students how to write by studying and re-writing classic tales and fables. Extremely user-friendly, the Teacher’s Guides include day-to-day lesson plans for homeschoolers as well as lesson plans for co-operatives. The Student Workbooks take your child through in-depth studies of 15 different fables and fairy tales, and guide them through the process of re-writing each story in their own words. Because of the nature of the classical approach and the thorough study and analysis done of each story, plenty of practice is included in grammar, copywork, spelling, and vocabulary, making Writing Tales a fully comprehensive writing curriculum.”
As a crew member, I received both books for each set, Levels 1 and 2.
Level 1 is for approximately 3rd-4th graders and is a comprehensive writing curriculum, done in the classical style, that also includes handwriting, grammar, spelling and vocabulary. The teacher’s guide for Level 1 sells for $24.95
and the student workbook sells for $19.95.
The teacher’s guide is full of valuable lesson plans for a homeschooler and for co-op classes. There are 318 pages in the teacher’s guide and it is meant to be used along side the student workbook. The student book has 188 pages and is consumable.
Level 2 is written for mid to upper level grammar students, around 4th-5th grades, and has the same format: it integrates spelling, vocabulary, grammar, and handwriting along with the writing components. Again, there is a teacher’s guide which sells for $32.95
and a student guide which sells for $24.95
To read the details of how the program works, click here: http://www.olsenbooks.com/about.html The goal in each section, is ultimately to retell a classic story or fable in the student’s own words, but with the complete meaning intact. Along the way, there are specific lessons interspersed with the story telling components. Again, Amy Olsen explains it very well at the link above.
So, what did we think? Well, I used Level 1 with my 2nd grade daughter, and Level 2 with my 4th grade son. I’ll start with our Level 1 experience. My daughter has had some language arts instruction, and the first lessons were not too difficult for her. She was able to review types of sentences, what makes a complete sentence, and other early grammar concepts with little trouble. She is enjoying the fables, as well as I; it is extra fun for us since we are studying Ancient Greece in our history/Bible curriculum right now, and so the fables of course go well with that. Also, she enjoys the format of the lessons. They are not too long or overwhelming for her, and she is doing well on all the parts, except the actual retelling. She does well orally, but putting pencil to paper is a bit challenging, so we are writing the stories together, as is suggested in the Teacher’s Guide, and that is working well. We will probably stop in the next few weeks and pick up the rest again in August, when she starts 3rd grade. As for this being a complete language arts curriculum, I agree with that for this young age. As we go along in the book, I can see that she will be exposed to many skills and topics in an interesting way.
My 4th grader, who is doing Level 2 is having mixed results. He has had some basic grammar since last year, and is doing well with that part, but spelling and the actual writing are the challenges for him. He struggles quite a bit with spelling and does not like the fact that he is missing many words as he writes his rough drafts. However, that does not actually have any bearing on the content of the material; it’s just a challenge for me. I like integrating the spelling words into the student’s writing; that way they are actually using the words themselves, and as those become their spelling words, they see the need to spell them correctly. I do however, probably my public school background, do also like spelling lists that emphasize specific spelling sounds and skills. I think there is a time and place for both, but of course, as this is a classical method, not everyone would want to or feel the need to do both. I do also like the way the other skills go along with the story of the section. This method takes different language and writing skills and instead of breaking them down into fragmented parts, it combines them and places them in context of the actual tale-or story. Perhaps a better way to show you is for you to check out some samples:
We have not made it very far yet, in Level 2, but I can already see improvement in his writing of the stories. I again am modifying how much he actually has to hold the pencil and do the physical writing himself; he dictates about half of it to me and then he writes the other half, but I can see how his summaries are getting better and how he is finding his own words to retell, instead of quoting from the tale itself. Sometimes I forget that learning to write is a relatively slow process; when I do remember to slow down and not push, he is feeling more confident in his abilities. Also, part of Level 2′s lessons are that after the first retelling, the second time the student is able to add some small unique details, as long as they don’t add or take away from the original story’s meaning. This feature allows the children to take ownership of their own tale and brings more enjoyment. I am looking forward to continuing this level with my son next year as well.
Just one more thought, from someone who is not a strict classicalist, by any means. I personally am going to keep our specific grammar program as well; I feel that there needs to be more formal grammar instruction by 5th grade, and so we will supplement.
Overall? I am thrilled with these books! I am so thankful that I was able to be on this review. As I stated at the beginning in my story, I have been searching for something like this, and really not even knowing what I was looking for. I think each of my children will be thrilled when we’re finished with their books and they can see their 15 fairy tales/fables that they have written. I am hoping that this will spark them on to more enjoyment in their writing in all subjects.
To see what my crewmates had to say about Writing Tales, click here: http://homeschoolblogger.com/homeschoolcrew/783899/
*The author’s honest review and opinions are entirely her own. This product was provided to the author for free as a member of the 2010-2011 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received.*