Creative Methods of Writing Instruction Vs. Classical Methods of Writing Instruction...And a Middle School Writing Curriculum from Brookdale House

Many modern writing curricula encourage creative writing. Often children are given writing prompts such as, “Write a story about a stuffed animal who comes to life.” For some kids, this is no problem. They can prattle on for pages about their imaginary stuffed animal come to life. But for many kids, a blank piece of paper and a creative prompt causes a feeling of overwhelm.

I’ve experienced this in my own home. I do have a child who can churn out a story for most any prompt. But I have three others who look at me and look at that blank paper and protest with tears and frustration that they have no idea what to write.

That’s why writing instruction using a classical model can be more beneficial in teaching kids good writing skills and helping them to become fluent writers. In this post I’m sharing some of the main differences between creative writing instruction and a more classical approach to teaching writing.

Creative writing curriculum vs. classical writing curriculum

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I’m also sharing a curriculum I’ve recently found that teaches middle schoolers writing skills using a classical model. This is a sponsored post, but I’m sharing about this curriculum because I’m using it with my own middle schoolers, and I can see the effectiveness of its methods. You can find the curriculum- Easy Narrative Writing- from Brookdale House. The program is intended to be a full year of writing instruction for younger students or a semester of instruction for older students.

Easy Narrative Writing Brookdale House

So what’s the difference between a creative writing approach and a more classical method of teaching writing? And how does the Easy Narrative Writing curriculum use the classical approach?

Creative writing is often used even with young elementary students. Classical writing programs typically don’t include formal writing instruction in the curriculum until at least upper elementary ages.

Before I was a homeschool mom, I was a teacher in traditional elementary school. And as an education major, we were taught to have children use creative writing from kindergarten. Children were encouraged to write as much as they were able, using creative spelling and not focusing at all on grammar and punctuation. Often elementary teachers used journal writing, giving kids a writing topic each day. Or we had them write creative stories with prompts like the one at the beginning of this post.

In a classical model, young children instead are reading and listening to great literature. They are narrating, first orally and then in writing, what they’ve read or heard. And they are writing sentences that the teacher or parent dictates. Kids might write on their own- remember some kids love those creative writing prompts- but not until upper elementary or middle school will any kind of formal writing instruction begin.

Brookdale House offers a writing curriculum for young children. We’ve had the opportunity to use it in our homeschool as well. The elementary writing program, however, isn’t really having the kids write independently. Instead, it’s based on historical time periods. The children listen to passages about people and places and times in history. The writing is good, quality writing- living books, if you will.

After listening the kids go through steps of oral narration, written narration, copywork, and writing sentences dictated by the teacher. Only in the middle school writing series does the writing curricula from Brookdale House begin to actually teach kids to write independently.

Creative writing starts with a blank piece of paper and a prompt. Classical writing programs use models to teach good writing skills.

When students are doing creative writing, they’re given a writing prompt and blank paper for writing. Kids who enjoy writing and who can think up elaborate stories might have fun with this. But for the majority of kids who aren’t naturally good story tellers, this can be a truly scary thing.

Classical writing programs often use a series of exercises called the progymnasmata. These are based on a series of lessons used by ancient Greeks in teaching writing skills. They begin with basic skills and then progress to more difficult skills, building on previous skills and becoming more difficult as students are maturing. These progymnasmata exercises provide models of great writing all the way through. Students begin by copying and editing these models. And not until later in the program will they writing independently.

The Easy Narrative Writing curriculum is based on this idea of the progymnasmata exercises. At the beginning of the curriculum, students are learning the basics of writing such as using strong verbs, knowing the difference between active and passive voice, and writing good compound sentences. They learn this by reading and editing good writing. Many classic fables are used as the basis for practicing these early skills.

As students progress through the curriculum, they continue to rewrite fables, narratives, and expository writings, moving from the point of rewriting a passage using skills they’ve been learning to writing a new passage based on their summary of a story. They are never just given prompts and expected to write with no model.

Creative writing often encourages inventive spelling and little attention to grammar. Classical writing programs teach students correct grammar as they learn writing skills.

When students are encouraged to write with creative writing programs, often little attention is paid to grammar or spelling. This is designed to keep the writing flowing without interruption. In some curricula, grammar is addressed after the writing. But other curricula don’t address grammar at all.

In the classical writing programs, students are learning writing skills from models of good writing. This is allowing them to see grammar and spelling modeled. They’re also learning to edit, revise, and rewrite from sources that they’ve used as models. So, again, these grammar skills and the correct spelling of words is being modeled.

In the Easy Narrative Writing curriculum, students learn writing skills hand in hand with grammar principles. As the curriculum begins, students are learning the basics of sentence writing. Within this they’re learning all about verbs, complex sentences, using active or passive voice. As the curriculum moves on, students are constantly learning more about correct grammar, mechanics, and usage as they practice new writing skills.

Creative writing homeschool curricula vs. Classical writing homeschool curricula

If you have students who are struggling with creative writing, if giving your child a blank piece of paper and a prompt causes fear and trembling, if you’re looking for a way for your kids to learn good grammar, mechanics, and usage as they learn new writing skills, check out writing curricula in the classical style. If you’re looking for a middle school writing curriculum that follows the classical model, you can learn more about the Easy Narrative Writing curriculum here.

With my own children, I like to use a balance of the two styles. I use curricula written in a more classical style to stimulate my reluctant writers. I use it when I want to teach grammar skills in conjunction with our writing practice. But, for my kids who are creative and just love to write, I also use some curricula that encourages more creative writing. I’ve found that combining the two works really well in our homeschool.

What’s your favorite writing curriculum? Are you a creative writing fan or do you prefer a classical model?

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