Writing instruction is one of those subjects that I find a little overwhelming. We did fine with copywork, narration, and dictation in the early years but the transition to writing paragraphs and short reports has been a bit scattered. Thankfully, TJ's writing skills haven't suffered and she is showing steady progress (despite my floundering!). One of the programs that has helped me tremendously as a teacher is Treasured Conversations.
Treasured Conversations is one of those gems that we were just lucky enough to stumble upon. It's written by a homeschooling mom with many years of experience who has always generously shared her insight on a busy homeschooling message board I occasionally visit. She would often write about how she used guided discussion for much of her children's learning. I was intrigued by the idea but really had no clue how to apply that to writing instruction. Thankfully, she published Treasured Conversations - so other homeschooling parents can learn how to apply those methods!
What is guided instruction?
Using a Socratic-style dialogue, teachers learn to guide their students through the various parts of writing by asking questions and providing the needed support. Each lesson provides a basic dialogue for parents to follow as they guide their children through lessons on grammar, paragraph construction, note-taking, outlining, and writing one-paragraph reports. Each step builds on the previous lessons in a gentle but thorough manner.
A look at Treasured Conversations
The lessons (32 in all) are divided into 3 sections, each section building upon previously learned material:
- Grammar & Sentences - learning about the parts of speech and how to produce a concise sentence that expresses a complete thought
- Paragraph Construction - analyzing numerous paragraphs before moving on to creating outlines and writing from those outlines
- Writing Simple Reports - learning to take notes from a source, create an outline, and write a one-paragraph report
Each section provides a solid foundation for the following section and you are encouraged to provide additional lessons in one area, if your child needs more work. Or, if your child is a fast learner or at the older end of the recommended age group (3rd-5th grade), you can certainly move more quickly through the lessons. TJ didn't need to do every lesson in the second section. After she had a solid grasp of the concepts taught, we skipped lessons and moved on to the next section.
One great benefit to this program is, that after learning this method, it's very easy to apply to other subjects. We are in the final section of the book and are applying the methods to TJ's science and history lessons with wonderful results. She chooses a topic, reads & takes notes on the topic, creates an outline from her notes, and then uses her outline to write a one-paragraph report (not all in one day - we spread this out over the course of a week).
Perfect transition program
We have really enjoyed using Treasured Conversations this year - it's provided a solid foundation in outlining and writing strong paragraphs, something that is essential for upper elementary & middle grade students. This program was just what we needed to move from narration & dictation to writing reports & essays. It's given me the tools and confidence to teach effectively. Teaching writing doesn't feel so overwhelming when you find the right tools for the job.