This is an intriguing, interesting program approaching the skill of writing from a perspective usually reserved for Bible study and humanities programs.
The depth of this program first surprised, and then challenged me. I became quite nervous about reviewing a writing program in the first place with my limited writing experience; then to find it integrating character study to the depth it does left me feeling quite inadequate (smile). However, it is such a cool program that I am attempting to leave my nervousness behind and share with you what I have discovered.
Sue Butler left high school teaching after 12 years to follow the path the Lord had put in her heart. Her website is excellent and I highly encourage you to visit it and read all about Sue and her journey thus far. I am excited to be able to tell you about Developing Character Through Writing.
The target audience is junior high through high school, but I think many young adults would enjoy this program as well.
Split into two parts, each containing nine lessons, DCTW begins by having the student look inward. Journaling begins right away, so a notebook will be needed. The first three lessons in the book deal with identity, uniqueness, and emotions. It sounds like deep stuff but it is so interesting. Each lesson contains specific, concrete information on the writing process. Using mnemonics such as PREDREP the PYRAMID (it's all in the text - clever - you won't forget it again once you use it) and very clear instructions, the students learn to take a look at themselves and as they learn to write they learn about who they are to themselves, to others, and to God.
All required literary helps are provided; mainly excerpts from Foxes Book of Martyrs and White's Elements of Style. After learning a few memory aids, the lessons begin building skills. Knowledge of basic grammar is assumed and the text jumps right into the process by providing notes and eliciting written responses, which lead the student on to the next level. Dictionary usage and research skill development are integrated throughout. Lessons include journal assignments, technical teaching on the writing process, Biblical integration, and review. The technical aspects begin with all the steps and information necessary to get from pre-writing to publishing! Each step is developed with written responses and built upon lesson-by-lesson, getting consistently more in-depth with each step. Each lesson has a character 'theme,' if you will. That theme weaves in and out of the lesson and generally keeps the student thinking! They will touch on and write about their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, emotions, hops, families, friends, fears, understandings, and dreams. The Christian message of salvation is integrated in and through every lesson. There is a section on Biblical Integration where Mrs. Butler provides a venue for discussing Scripture and putting beliefs in writing. This area also studies certain Scriptures from a literary perspective and suggests pertinent verses for memorization. What amazes me throughout this whole program is how seamlessly it flows from one section and skill to the next.
I am trying to explain analytically and describe to you what you will be learning with DCTW. It is proving a most difficult task because the program is so unique. If you have a child who likes to write (or at least doesn't physically resist!), you will be giving him/her a gift by using this program. It feels like it will foster that love of writing I see in many young children who often have the strong want to, but don't have the "know how." It is a journey of developing skills, learning how to apply, focus, and direct their thoughts; learning that their thoughts and feelings have great validity; and, through it all, they will be reading fabulous classic pieces of literature. Johnny Tremain and Lois Lowry's The Giver are just two examples.
Students will learn how to write, and, it seems, write well. The flow is easy, like writing a personal journal, but the end result looks to be very polished and developed.
The one thing you may have to be careful of is to make sure you have a good follow up for after the students are done. Hopefully Sue Butler will have another volume out, because I can't see many students going back to a standard text based study of literature or creative writing after a trip like this.
I highly recommend this program. You will love seeing the development of your child's ability to express his/her own thoughts and feelings. Answer keys are provided for help and suggestions. The appendices are chock full of goodies to help along the way. The resource manual has checklists for revising and editing, graphic organizers, and an amazing glossary of literary terms. I would suggest that this program would best suit grades eight and up. Students do need to be mature enough to answer questions in full sentences and be willing to discuss their topics and explore or express opinions.
Discovering Character Through Writing is available in a neat PDF format that allows you to pay online and download the whole program to your desktop.
If you already have a good mechanics/grammar program, but are looking to enrich your child's literature and essay writing skills without boring or overwhelming them, this looks to be the perfect answer. The website is the place to start and read some samples - do check it out. My rambling thoughts may not do this program full justice. Let's just say I really wish I had this program eight years ago.