Ok, so this year we finally took the plunge and purchased curriculum from Institute for Excellence in Writing. I did it because having a curriculum is easy, and I truly believe that their ideas will help Ian learn more about writing in the long run.
However, up until this year (5th grade), I had not invested any money at all into a writing curriculum. Here is what we had been doing:
When I spell today, I am not thinking back to some memorized list from the third grade. I can spell because I read a lot. If I misspell a word, I usually know right away because something looks off about it. Reading well-written compositions also help when it comes to writing. Students learn what good writing looks like.
Copy and Dictation
I would generally have Ian “write” a paragraph from scratch about his day, or about his video game, or whatever he had just been doing. Basically anything simple that he wouldn’t have to think too much to come up with. He would dictate it to me, four or five sentences, and I would write it down. Fiction or non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. Afterward, I would have him copy what I wrote onto a separate sheet of paper. Then, the next day usually, I would dictate that same paragraph to him, and he would write it down on another fresh sheet. I would always help him with spelling, and cover any spelling rules on the spot if anything came up. I would also show him other words that use the same rules for reinforcement. This exercise is also great for suggesting alternate ways of writing a sentence or correcting grammar mistakes. As your child becomes a better writer, suggest more and more changes, but don’t overdo it because you won’t want to discourage him. Basically, using this method, you could probably get through your entire K-12 without ever purchasing writing (or spelling) curriculum, as long as the teacher is a competent and confident writer. That being said, you would still want to eventually move on to things like essays, business letters, and resumes. I haven’t looked into myself, but you can probably find examples of all of these things online, along with tips for writing them. For help with streamlining a research paper, look here.
Writing stories together (see Creative Writing and Flying)
A new twist on writing stories together is fan fiction. I recently downloaded a MineCraft novel on my Kindle and began reading it to Ian. Now he is hoping to write one of his own and publish it as an eBook. He has never wanted to write anything before, so this is very encouraging to me. You can find lots of fan fiction online, but most of it is poorly written. Also, you have to watch out for inappropriate content, so be careful before just turning your children loose on these sites.
Spelling City (for students using word lists)
For help with hand writing (print or cursive), see my blog post here.