If I had to pick one subject that I'm not a fan of teaching it would be writing. Hands down. Mostly because my kids just think that any kind of writing exercise is torture, but some because it's just not something I'm the best at either. Don't get me wrong, I love to write, and I can write, it's just not something I feel like I am specialized in. With that said a lot of writing curricula gives me knots in my stomach, and I try to avoid it as much as I can. But, when I saw Here to Help Learning come up for review I was immediately drawn into its simplicity and fun for teaching writing to elementary aged students.
I mean look at this video trailer of the program. As soon as I realized it was a video based instructional writing program, and I saw all these fun adventures I knew it would catch my little non-writers interests.
For this review I received a one-year online membership at Here to Help Learning with full access to all the levels that are available, Flight 1, Flight 2, and Flight 3. Within each flight you can choose paragraph writing (grades 1-3), or essay writing (grades 4-6) depending on the writing ability of your child(ren). I chose to do Flight 1, paragraph writing for both my 2nd and 4th grade boys. They are both about the same level of writing so this worked well.
To begin Beth goes over step-by-step what is needed for this course, so I got together some binders to put it all together. It includes page dividers, as she mentions in the first lesson, and all the papers necessary for each project. Having this all organized and laid out really helped. I love how thorough she is in each video with directions.
So, here is how a typical lesson works. Each lesson is part of a bigger writing project. We start with lesson 1, and move through each sequentially within a flight. We start out by having all of our worksheets printed up, turn on the video for the lesson, and watch and follow the instructions. There are times where we are instructed to pause the video and work on whatever task has just been given. So, we do so, and proceed when we are ready again. Each lesson has 5 parts: 1. Pre-Flight check list 2. Flight Check-in 3. Take Off 4. Full Throttle and 5. Flying Solo. Here is a screen shot of the page we would see before we start a lesson. We would just click on the blue button in the middle to start the videos. We watched from the computer or the iPad depending on what was available.
The lessons often start with a writing warm-up that includes a picture. This was like pulling teeth at first, but as the boys did it each time they really "warmed-up" to this exercise. I also had to be really flexible with this part with them! If they wanted to add a tank that wasn't there then I just let it be. I think the way she does those warm-ups will be a staple in our home school writing now.
One of their favorite games each lesson is to play sentence-no-sentence. Even when it wasn't part of the daily lesson, they asked are we going to play sentence-no-sentence? My 5-year old really enjoyed that game too even though he wasn't doing this program.
As the student works on the project they go through the complete writing process until they produce a finished writing project. This includes brainstorming, making a list, webbing, 1st rough draft, 1st input, 2nd rough draft, 2nd input, final recopy, and publish. The Here to Help Learning videos have a fun motion to do with each step to help the children memorize them, and it worked! My boys picked it up very quickly, and we will never be able to say "1st Ruffff draft!" the same. Here is an example of the webbing page that my 2nd grader did for his "All by myself" project. He chose to write about learning to sit up.
After they completed the webbing part of the project, and learned to write a opening sentence and a closing sentence it was time to write the 1st rough draft. Now they have to put all the ideas and thoughts together into a cohesive story. In the video it was very cute how Beth told the kids to get ready for writing their 1st rough draft, including writing a "Do not disturb!!" sign. Aaron took all that very seriously, and enjoyed following her instructions completely. He created a very well thought out story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end, something that he hadn't been able to do very well in the warm-ups prior.
Overall I would highly recommend this writing program to any family. Especially a family with visual learners, and who might have children that are struggling with the formal writing process. I have not done much on the formal writing process with my boys yet, and this was such a great introduction. It really opened up their writing abilities, and I am hoping as we continue to use it that they might become better writers. If you decide to use this writing program and purchase a membership it also comes with a lot of writing resources, and even a new literature unit on Island of the Blue Dolphins. I think you'll be pleased.
Also, I forgot to mention that there are some incentives built into the program called "discovery tickets". This was a great motivation for my boys, and they are both working toward some paracord after they get enough tickets. You can decide on your own goal for what the kids earn with their tickets. I let mine pick a reasonable goal, and the prize to go with it, and it has been a great motivator. Sometimes that's all it takes to get them writing!