This year, we have moved away from using IEW and have switched to “The Lost Tools of Writing” (LTW). Not because we didn’t like IEW (we love IEW), but because we had a different writing goal this year. IEW has been instrumental in teaching my boys how to structure and improve their writing and now we need to focus on content and thought and that’s what I think LTW does well.
There are three components to LTW curriculum: there’s a teacher’s guide, a student book and streamed videos. For almost all of the 9 essays, there are three videos, streamed through Vimeo, intended for the teacher, not the student. The way I use the program is to watch the three videos for the essay I’m teaching and then read through the detailed lesson information in the teacher’s guide. I do all of this on the weekend prior to teaching the new essay. I love the amount of support that the LTW curriculum gives the instructor.
I also love the amount of freedom that the program allows. While the teaching is structured, the teacher and the student are given the freedom to chose what they will write about. I appreciate this as it allows our writing to be related to what we are learning in other subject areas.
The persuasive essay is the genre that LTW teaches. Prior to starting the curriculum, I thought I knew most of what there was to know about the persuasive genre. I mean, I’m a qualified teacher and I’ve taught this genre a number of times, even for the infamous Naplan tests. But LTW has taught me so much that I now know how little I actually knew about the persuasive essay. I was on the right track, but I was only just scrapping at the surface. LTW has opened a door I didn’t even know to look for. I’d never heard of things like exordiums and amplifications. I’m so glad I chose a writing program to help me teach my boys.
The main reason I chose LTW for this stage of writing instruction is its focus on invention, or creation of ideas. IEW taught my boys to structure their writing well but they needed more work on creation of ideas. They preferred report writing, retelling what they knew after some research. But, when asked for their thoughts on a topic, they were uncomfortable with identifying and expressing their own ideas. LTW teaches students how to draw forth those thoughts and how to organise them. In the ‘invention’ stage of writing, an often overlooked stage of writing, the students are taught five common topics: comparison, definition, circumstance, relation and testimony. These five common topics lead to powerful questions that help students gather their ideas and thoughts. Invention (or thinking) is a critical part of the LTW writing process and given equal importance with the outlining, drafting and editing processes.
The ideas and thoughts that the students form and discover are collected on an ANI chart. (This ANI chart is a brilliant device. I can think of so many uses for it). In LTW, after devising a thesis, the students’ thoughts are organised into: ideas that affirm the thesis, ideas that negate the thesis and ideas that are merely interesting to the topic but perhaps not yet relevant. I particularly appreciate that the student is required to consider both sides of an argument, not merely their own. This is an important skill if we are to teach our children to critically think through issues.
Next, the students are moved into the arrangement stage of writing. Here the students are taught to sort and group their ideas within their ANI chart in order to transfer them to an essay outline. LTW does not overwhelm the students in this stage of writing, consequently, the initial essays are very rudimentary. Do not be disturbed by the simplicity of the first couple of essays. It’s part of the process and I assure you that the students will be writing good quality essays before long.
In their student books, the students are supported with leading questions and prompts while transferring information from their organised ANI charts to an outline. Then the students transcribe their outline onto their own page, using the template provided in their student books. At first, this process seemed cumbersome to my boys but LTW has quickly taught them to appreciate the process that creates a high quality outline. Writing from such an outline makes writing so much easier.
Next, the students are given lessons in ‘elocution’, quality language expression. I liken this stage to IEW’s dress-ups. With each new LTW essay, the students are given skills to improve their written expression. Some of the skills in LTW’s level 1 include parallelism, similes, alliteration and assonance. I tend to teach these lessons after my students have drafted their essay so that they can edit their own writing to include the new element.
With a little preparation each week, the program is very easy to use and incredibly supportive of both teacher and student. Because of this support and the freedom to select our own writing topics, the writing skills we are learning should be easy to continue to use once we have finished the program. My boys have just finished essay five in LTW and I’m already declaring the merits of this program high and low, and far and wide. As evidence of why I’m falling in love with LTW, I’d like to leave you with the introduction paragraph of one of my sons’ essays. For him, writing this paragraph was as easy as following the advice of the Lost Tools of Writing.
“One Small Step”
On the moon, Neil Armstrong said, “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind” but was he actually on the moon when he said this? The truth is important to both sides of the argument. One side believes that man walked on the moon and the other believes that the moon walk and landing were all just a hoax. Evidence, however, indicates that man did walk on the moon in 1969. There are five prominent reasons to believe that man went to the moon. The Apollo astronauts themselves were eyewitnesses, who documented their experiences on the moon through photos and videos. They also returned to Earth with a large number of moon rocks and soil samples to study. The Apollo missions were not just tracked by NASA and other American organisations; they were also tracked by third-parties around the world. Science has also explained the anomalies that the conspiracy theorists use as evidence against a moon landing. In recent years, unmanned missions have been sent to the moon and have photographed the landing sites of the Apollo missions and the equipment they left behind. With this clear evidence, it can safely be said that Neil Armstrong did walk on the moon.