Writing Tales – Classical Writing Curriculum Review

Writing Tales Review by Nicole Weiss 

Writing Tales can be purchased at their website www.writing-tales.com

Student Books are $19.95 and the teacher books are $24.95 for each level. A great price in my opinion! 

Writing Tales is an easy-to-use, all-inclusive language arts curriculum, based on the Classical style of learning. From the Writing Tales introduction, “in a nutshell, the theory is that students best learn to write on their own by copying well-written models first.” Writing Tales provides this by using classic stories to teach writing, spelling, and grammatical concepts in a fun, yet thorough, way.

There are two levels of this curriculum, and both levels have a Student Workbook and a Teacher’s Guide. These are the only two books that you need in order to use the program. The Teacher’s Guide is a wonderful wealth of information. It contains day-by-day lesson plans for the homeschooler, as well as lesson plans for home school co-ops to use the curriculum. The day-by-day plans give italicized words for the teacher to say, if they so desire. I absolutely love when things are written out for me so fully, but of course, the teacher can use this guide in whatever way they would like to adapt it. Isn’t that what we do most as homeschoolers anyway? Also included in the Teacher’s Guide is the answer key for the Student Workbook, Teaching Resources, and Game Synopses, or directions for the games suggested in the Lesson Plans.

The Student Workbook is a wire-bound (so it can lay flat) notebook full of the stories, copywork, and worksheets that go with each lesson. It is very much a consumable book, as the child is encouraged to write directly on the pages. Level One of Writing Tales is targeted at a third- to fourth-grade level, while Level Two is aimed at fourth- to fifth-grade. Level One contains fifteen classic stories in thirty lessons, and the grammar concepts introduced include: three requirements for a sentence, the four kinds of sentences, the four rules of capitalization, punctuation traffic signals, simple quotes, nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections.

Writing Tales, Level Two, which we reviewed, also contains thirty lessons, each designed to last approximately one week, or five teaching days. Every two lessons deal with one classic story or fable. For example, Lessons One and Two center on Aesop’s fable, “The Bundle of Sticks”. During the week of lessons, spelling, vocabulary, copywork, and grammar are all studied. The fifteen stories in Level Two introduce the following grammatical concepts: types of sentences, quotes, nouns, pronouns, action verbs, state-of-being verbs, verb phrases, helping verbs, infinitive verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections, eight parts of speech, paragraphs, sentence beginnings, and combining simple sentences.

Typically, on Day One of learning, the story is introduced, and a discussion is had entailing any background information about the story or author, the main characters in the story, the conflict and resolution, and any lesson learned by the characters in the story. Another activity is usually done on this day, such as putting the events of the story in order. Day Two introduces copywork directly from the story, and any vocabulary that may be unfamiliar to the student. Day Three introduces a new grammar concept, reinforced by workbook lessons, simple note-taking, and—a game! One game involved rolling a created die that landed on “statement”, “question”, “command”, or “exclamation”, and having the child make up a sentence that conformed to that type in order to score a point. For my highly active, movement-based learner, this was a total plus for the lesson! Another game involved the teacher calling out common nouns and the student writing down proper nouns in that category. Another bonus for my daughter (especially when she got to run to the white board to do it!)

On Day Four, the child will outline and orally narrate the original story, in preparation for Day Five, when they will write their rough draft. At the first go-round of this, they will simply re-write the original story, with no added or creative elements. In all honesty, my daughter had a hard time with this particular lesson, as she wanted to add in her own personal touches. The student gets a chance to do this, but not until the second week of the story. During that second week, there is spelling practice, built from the words that were misspelled in the rough draft. A grammar review of the concept introduced the week before is included in workbook form, and then a new grammar concept is taught, again with simple note-taking and workbook-style lessons (and games!). That new grammar lesson is reviewed again the next day, and then, on the last two days of that second week, a Final Draft of the story is written, this time with the child’s own creative additions.

My fourth-grade daughter and I loved, loved, loved the curriculum! I enjoyed the ease-of-use—it really is an open-and-use curriculum, and as I mentioned before, I always enjoy when the words to say are written out for me. The lessons are short, usually taking us about twenty minutes or so, which works perfectly for my daughter’s attention span. Not only were they short, but they were interesting to her, and got right to the point of the lesson efficiently. Initially I worried about the practical aspect of sticking to one story for two weeks, but since the lessons are presented in such a fun way, it did not become an issue. From my daughter’s perspective, she gave the curriculum a “10”, except on the days that she had to do copywork (always a chore), and on those days she scored it a “seven and a half”. Still pretty high praise, I would say!

In the Teacher’s Guide, the author also gives suggestions on adapting the curriculum for students like my daughter, who struggle with the chore of handwriting. For example, she states that, “above all, do not let frustration with handwriting get in the way of the process of putting words together into a story.” The use of oral dictation and only partial handwriting, along with typing, are encouraged for these children.

The Writing Tales website offers questions and answers about placement into the curriculum, sample downloads of the program, stories written by students using the books, and free downloads of the Appendices in the books, which make copying out the pages you need (for example, the template for the die used in a game) much, much easier. Overall, I highly recommend Writing Tales for anyone looking for an all-inclusive, easy to use language arts curriculum. It is well put together and enjoyable for both the student and the parent. There’s not much more you could ask for!