Review of Evan-Moor Publishers "Writing Fabulous Sentences and Paragraphs" Lower Middle School Grades
This is a review of the Evan-Moor Publishers workbook, Writing Fabulous Sentences and Paragraphs. I received this product in exchange for free for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links that I will make a small commission on if you make any purchases.
As my kids get older, I start segueing from less organized work into a more structured view of school. This can be hard because we go from doing a lot of conversations to doing more a formal calendar of assignments, especially in writing.
My next several posts will be about teaching writing. I am making Connor really go through and examine his writing by asking himself questions like:
Does this have all 5 parts of a sentence?
Does this make sense?
Do I get my point across?
Who is my audience?
Is it interesting?
Is it repetitive?
Do I use correct grammar?
And of course, I make him read it out loud to check for style and fluency.
So we have started doing two things. First, we have been using the free online program Quill. It’s an interactive program that is very similar to Khan Academy. Please leave me a comment if you would like to hear more about it.
The other resource I am using is Writing Fabulous Sentences and Paragraphs, Enhanced eBook. This book is great for reluctant writers or those who need remedial help in writing. It breaks down writing by focusing on both how to organize your writing and how to get your point across effectively and concisely. If you child produces work that rambles or doesn't have a strong thesis, this is a great resource for you.
Why an eBook?
I could have requested a print copy of this book but choose the eBook for a few different reasons.
First, I had instant access to it! We used it that first day.
Second, I saved paper and postage. Both are wins in my book.
Third, I can digitally mark and adapt the pages to be exactly what I want. So if I think Connor (11 years old) only needs to do half of a page or can skip part of an assignment, I can mark it out. I can transfer the work to his tablet or bring my computer with us to appointments or for easy work in the car. I don’t have to worry about losing the book or making copies to save for my other kids.
About the Book
This book focuses on trait based writing. If you haven’t heard of it, it is writing instruction focused on teaching kids to focus on 6 or 7 areas (depending on who is teaching the traits) to craft a strong piece of work. These include organization, ideas, voice, conventions, sentence fluency, word choice, and presentation.
These points sound complicated, but really they’re not. All can be checked with the questions I mentioned earlier. The traits are important aspects of writing whether you are in grade school or grad school.
The book is organized into several sections. Each section has an instruction page for the teacher. These are quick tips and tricks to make sure you understand the purpose of each section and can communicate it concisely and clearly to your students through an easy activity like making a chart.
Checklists are included that you can print and keep on the wall or in your child’s writing notebook so both of you can quickly and easily check each piece of writing for all 6 traits. There are some for educators to use that go pretty in depth and some simplified ones that are created for the kdis.
Honestly, these are my favorite part of this book. I find Connor really benefits from lists like these that he can use while he writes. It helps him adapt his writing as he goes so he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a lot of revision later. These are also perfect sheets to study for remedial writers. You can use these as posters, as things for the kids to memorize, as mid-writing checklists, you can put them in binders, etc.
The book focuses on creating strong sentences first, then moves on into paragraphs. The sentence-focused portion does a great job of lining up how to take basic sentences and expanding on them to make descriptive sentences.
It also hits on some important aspects of writing like the main idea and figurative language that will reinforce things your kids are learning in reading lessons. Writing these will help your kids recognize them more while reading.
The paragraph section includes some graphic organizers, note taking instructions, and shows how to take these from rough ideas to polished paragraphs without seeming overwhelming or too abstract for kids to grasp.
Last, they include an outline section. I love the way they did this section. They are partially filled out already so the kids don’t feel like they have to start from nothing. Remedial and reluctant writers will benefit immensely from the jumping point because they have a guidance and aren't just staring at a blank page.
The main drawback to Writing Fabulous Sentences and Paragraphs is that this is not a complete curriculum. It doesn’t really have enough instruction to last a full year, but it is not advertised to be that anyway. This is definitely a supplement.
I would have loved to see more graphic organizers and note taking strategies. These basic ones they outline are great, don’t get me wrong, but these forms don’t work great for all kids or all types of writing. I feel like some of the beginning exercises could be skipped in favor of adding more graphic organizers to help the kids synthesize the information.
I would have also like to see an place on their outline for the kids to craft an introduction/main idea sentence and a conclusion sentence because I like to teach mine to write both of those first while the main idea is fresh in their head. They can construct the main idea and conclusion to be complementary to each other and provide a really strong ending to the paragraph, which can be hard for kids. Also, they can check their supporting details for relevance as they write.
I highly recommend this book for those who are wanting to focus on writing with older kids who are remedial or need help getting their ideas on paper more clearly.. It is fun and engaging with short exercises that hit all the important aspects of trait based writing. Writing Fabulous Sentences and Paragraphs makes a valuable addition to just about every writing program I have seen for the upper grades without piling on a lot of unnecessary work.
Use my affiliate link to check out more of Evan-Moor Educational Publishers' writing practice books. While you are there, check out their homeschool bundles, too.
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