Review by Marcy Schaller of Homeschool Reviews For You Language Arts/Writing: Grades 3 - 12
Write With The Best
Author: Jill J. Dixon, B.S.Ed., M.Ed.
Publisher: Diagnostic Prescriptive Services
For more information or to order: www.diagnosticprescriptive.com - now www.edudps.com

"The focus of this program is to teach students to write descriptively, persuasively, and informatively through emulating the actual skills of masters of great writing. The goal of this program is to produce successful writers who know how to write effectively, who know how to proofread their work efficiently, and who know how to properly analyze great writing."

Jill Dixon uses these words to introduce her writing course, Write With The Best. The course seems to be based on the methods of Charlotte Mason (though not stated by the author), teaching students to write by introducing them to great writers, by using dictation and sometimes narration, and by teaching grammar in the context of the student's own writing.

Write With The Best comes in two volumes, each in a three-ring binder. Volume 1 contains nine two-week units for grades 3-12. Each unit models and teaches a different writing genre, such as descriptive paragraphs, short stories, fables, and poetry. Volume 2 contains nine similar units, with more difficult literary passages for grades 6-12. Volume 2 covers essays, outlines and note taking, critiques, newspaper articles, and more. The lessons in Volume 2 assume familiarity with the concepts, skills, and methods of Volume 1. While Volume 2 could possibly be used by itself, I would highly recommend having students complete Volume 1 first. Together, the two volumes are designed to be used over a full school year, but the author encourages parents to move at the student's pace and take as much time as is needed to master the material.

This course focuses primarily on writing, though some grammar is touched upon. The author suggests using augmenting with grammar (she suggests Daily Grams or Easy Grammar). You'll also need a dictionary, thesaurus, and an English handbook as student resources.

Each unit is based on a literary passage. A variety of authors are featured, from Cicero and Shakespeare to Dickens and Longfellow. For each unit, Mrs. Dixon has created interesting activities that break writing, literary analysis and grammar into manageable chunks for the student. She helps the student identify what makes a literary work "great". Throughout the course, students are encouraged to make writing more vivid by using specific and descriptive words. Ultimately, the student produces writing that models the genre of the literary passage. The variety and creativity of the lessons is so appealing that I've considered working through them along with my daughter!

In many of the lessons, Mrs. Dixon encourages students to pull writing topics from their other areas of study, such as history. The author also makes allowances for students to develop their writing in an ongoing fashion. For instance, the first three units have students writing descriptive paragraphs (object, place, character), and the fourth writing dialogue. If the student desires, he could refine the first four pieces of writing and use them together in unit five to write a short story.

However, the course does not simply contain lessons. For parents, Mrs. Dixon provides thorough instructions for using the curriculum, and gives recommended guidelines for evaluating and grading the student's writing. There are useful suggestions for adapting and augmenting the curriculum for the different learning styles. She has also supplied a list of alternative literary sources, so the course can be used again. This allows the student to review the concepts of each lesson, but use fresh literary passages. This is a course that you will turn to again and again as your student matures and is able to handle more challenging literature passages and assignments.

Students are furnished with a helpful proofreading checklist for evaluating their own writing, which is an excellent way to reinforce basic grammar. One of my favorite features of this curriculum are the "How to Write..." guides that appear in the back of the notebook. The author uses these guides to give students excellent step-by-step guidelines for different types of writing, from descriptive paragraphs and news stories to ballads and rhyming verse. The guidelines help the student develop a basic outline for their writing, and give helpful tips and reminders about the writing process.

Write With The Best is a strong, quality writing course. The students are exposed to writing by respected and loved authors, followed by meaningful activities designed to develop good writing. Activities are easily adaptable for both upper and lower grade levels, and the author has done a good job of equipping parents to use the curriculum and still be flexible and creative. The student proofreading and writing guides are an invaluable resource that the student can use for all their writing, not just within the course.

Visit their website to view the table of contents and more details about this wonderful program!

Making the Grade: A+
Cost: Vol. 1 $24.95; Vol. 2 $29.95
Value for Your Homeschool Dollar: 10
Review provided by Marcy Schaller, homeschool mom of 2
© 2003, Homeschool Reviews For You

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Review by Tina Rice, Senior Research, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

If you are looking for a writing program for grades 3-12 that models good writing after great works of literature, check out Write with the Best by Jill Dixon. Comprised of 2 volumes, Write with the Best includes chapters teaching the following skills: Writing descriptive paragraphs, writing dialogues, writing short stories, writing fables, writing friendly letters, writing poetry, writing business letters, taking notes, writing outlines, writing summaries, writing persuasive and expository essays, writing book reviews and literary critiques, writing newspaper articles, writing speeches, and writing a dramatic monologue. WOW, that is a lot of material!

Write with the Best, Volume 1, is written for students in 3rd through 12th grade. Write with the Best, Volume 2, is written for students in 6th through 12th grade. If you want further information about these programs, visit their web site at www.diagnosticprescriptive.com.

There are many writing programs on the market today that do an excellent job of preparing students for college and a job. How is a parent to choose? First, decide on how you want to teach writing, and then decide how much you can afford to spend. Using these two factors will help narrow down your choices. With Write with the Best, you get a program that grows with your child and allows one purchase for several years of use with multiple students (like Spelling Power).

I tested Write with the Best, Volume 1, on my three daughters. I like the layout of the program and the fantastic "how to write guides" in the appendix. I found that I needed to do a short amount (less than ˝ hour) of teacher preparation per unit. Your family will need a dictionary, a thesaurus, colored pencils, and the use of a copy machine to use Write with the Best. An English handbook is not necessary, but is a helpful teacher and student aid. The author recommends Editor-In-Chief for additional practice with proofreading skills, and I second that recommendation. For additional practice with capitalization, punctuation, and English use, I recommend Daily Grams and Easy Grammar or the ABeka language series.

My daughters enjoyed the literature passages found in each unit. I liked the extra literature selections included for additional practice. I found that to thoroughly teach a unit I needed to add a day or two to the suggested 10 days per unit. The object of Write with the Best is mastery, not hurrying through the curriculum.

I highly recommend Write with the Best! When I compare it to other writing curriculums I find it to be affordable, well thought out, student friendly, and easy to teach. The only suggestion for improvement I have is that the answer key be presented in use order instead of alphabetical order. This is a minor inconvenience, not a major problem.

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Review by Virginia Knowles

As I mentioned in the last Hope Chest issue, my 13 year old curriculum expert, Rachel, found this curriculum in a home school catalog. We decided it would be helpful to you if we reviewed it, since it is not very well known. We also wanted to give the publisher some well-deserved extra exposure for their product.

Write With the Best Volume 1 is a one semester creative writing curriculum based on works of great literature. The students model their own writing on the positive techniques used by seasoned classic authors such as Jules Verne, Charles Dickens and others. The literary passages are included in the book, so you don’t need to buy anything extra. The course is packaged in a three-ring binder, which makes reproducing pages easier. This also makes it lie flat so you don’t have to wrestle with it while you work.

  • Introduction
  • How to Use this Program
  • Unit 1: Writing a Descriptive Paragraph - Describing an Object: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  • Unit 2: Writing A Descriptive Paragraph - Describing A Place: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • Unit 3: Writing A Descriptive Paragraph - Describing A Character: Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  • Unit 4: Writing a Dialogue: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • Unit 5: Writing A Short Story: "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry
  • Unit 6: Writing A Fable: "The Ants and the Grasshopper" and "The Shepherd’s Boy and the Wolf" by Aesop
  • Unit 7: Writing A Friendly Letter: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Unit 8: Writing Poetry – Rhyming Verse: "The Daffodils" by William Wordsworth
  • Unit 9: Writing Poetry – A Ballad or Narrative Poem: "Paul Revere’s Ride" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Three Characteristics that Make the Best Writing the Best
  • Proofreading Checklist
  • ADDITIONAL LITERARY PASSAGES FOR MODELING WRITING
  • HOW TO WRITE GUIDE
  • HOW TO WRITE A DESCRIPTIVE PARAGRAPH
  • HOW TO WRITE A DIALOGUE
  • HOW TO WRITE A SHORT STORY
  • HOW TO WRITE A FABLE
  • HOW TO WRITE A FRIENDLY LETTER
  • HOW TO WRITE RHYMING VERSE
  • HOW TO WRITE A BALLAD OR NARRATIVE POEM
  • ANSWER KEY TO CITED LITERARY PASSAGES

The topics in Volume 2 include writing free verse, business letters, notes, outlines, summaries, essays, literary critiques, book reviews, newspaper articles, speeches, and dramatic monologues.

Though I have read all of Volume 1, we have only had time to test out the first two week unit so far. (It took us a little more than two weeks, though!) The objective is to learn to write a descriptive paragraph about an object. This is accomplished by:

  • reviewing four parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs)
  • selecting vivid, descriptive words to replace dull ones
  • identifying descriptive words, categorized by parts of speech, in a passage from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, and in a passage from a book chosen by the child
  • using descriptive words and phrases to write, edit and present an original paragraph about an object

I started out with Joanna (5th grade) and Lydia (3rd grade). Joanna loves it and makes sure that we sit down each day for our lesson. I enjoy watching her enthusiasm and creativity when we work together on it. She says it is very straightforward and gets the job done. There is not a lot of flash and sizzle here, but no fluff either. Lydia felt a little bit overwhelmed and bailed out of our writing class after a few sessions. I am trying to work with her on it independently at a slower pace. I really appreciate the daily lesson plans, although I wish the pages were formatted a little differently to make the instructions easier to take in at a glance. This is a trivial problem; I compensated by making up work sheets on the computer to correspond with each daily lesson. (I didn’t add anything new, but just typed in the student information and instructions, and gave the girls an organized place to write down their work. It saved me a trip to the copy shop, too.)

The Write With the Best curriculum is aimed at grades 3-12. Your third grader might be a bit stretched, but it is definitely doable. Your teenagers, if they have already had a solid foundation in creative writing, may not be stretched enough by Volume 1, so you may wish to start with Volume 2. I would recommend Volume 1 mostly for upper elementary and middle school. The literature selections are not childish, though, so anyone, even a home school mom, could benefit from it.

Jill J. Dixon, the author of Write With the Best, is well-qualified to write a creative writing curriculum. She is a homeschooling mother of four, holds a Bachelor of Science in English Education (magna cum laude) and a Master’s Degree in Special Education (summa cum laude). Her teaching experience spans twenty-two years and includes working with students from pre-school age to adults in public school, private school, and home school settings. Mrs. Dixon is currently a national consultant for Homeschool Legal Defense Association, teaches history and writing classes to homeschoolers and speaks and conducts workshops for homeschool groups. She is the author of several diagnostic tests and homeschooling materials including Roots and Fruits and WRITE WITH THE BEST – Modeling Writing after Great Works of World Literature.

You may also wish to check out Jill Dixon’s new POC4U (PERSON OPTIMIZED CURRICULA FOR YOU) learning styles assessment program. (Publisher's Note: This program matches specific curricula with the unique primary and secondary learning styles of each student. It contains other features, too.)

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