|Publisher: Training for Triumph
Author: Donna Reish
Review last updated: May 2009
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Donna Reish first created the Character Quality Language Arts program (CQLA) which includes most aspects of language arts (i.e., grammar, composition, spelling, vocabulary, and reading comprehension). Some families wanted the composition instruction but didn't want to cover all the other areas. So she pulled out the composition elements, along with some grammar instruction, to create the Meaningful Composition (MC) series.
Each MC course can serve either as a stand-alone course for one semester (18 weeks) or alongside a comprehensive grammar course such as Easy Grammar, Jensen's Grammar, or Analytical Grammar to create a complete language arts/English course for a school year.
The entire series is not yet available, but it is projected to cover grades 2 through 12. (Please check the website for a list of available courses.) There will be two books for each level, and they are labeled for either first or second semester. Books might be used for a range of grade levels. For example, MC 4 books might be used for students in grades 3 through 5 or for older students who need remediation. Expanding their usage even further, each book has activities for two levels—basic and extension. All this means that students with varying abilities might work in the same book.
The first semester books for levels 4, 6, and 8 are titled 4+, 6+, and 8+. The "plus" titles are especially designed with detailed instructions on the techniques used throughout the MC program as well as review of basic writing skills so that older students can easily catch up to an appropriate level.
While MC is primarily a composition course, the first seven weeks worth of lessons in MC 4+ teaches parts of speech, types of sentences and the CAVES acronym used by MC students as a tool to check for correctly written sentences. This particular book ensures that students have a the necessary grammatical "vocabulary" as they work through lessons in this book and those that follow.
Students really immerse themselves in the writing process with MC. A great deal of time is spent on planning, editing, and revising, but instruction is provided every step of the way.
MC uses a "directed writing" approach. This means that step-by-step instruction guides the student as he/she learns each step in the writing process. For example when a student begins to write paragraphs in MC 4+, he/she learns an acronym for creating paragraphs, is told how many sentences to write, organizes pre-written sentences into a paragraph, reviews the rules and instructions a number of times, and is provided with a topic and leading questions for writing their own paragraph. This is all included in the worktext, although students will need to consult with their parent/teacher to go over completed assignments.
Each book is a self-contained worktext with an answer key at the back. While students need a notebook for composition assignments, outlines, etc., there are numerous activities to be completed directly in the consumable worktext. So students will each need their own book.
A "Checklist Challenge" is included for each composition students are assigned. A Checklist Challenge is a list of requirements and instructions for which the student is accountable for that composition. Some items are general such as "Check each paragraph carefully to be sure that your transition from one paragraph to another is smooth. If not, add transition sentences as needed. If your transition sentences are adequate, highlight the check box(es) as directed by your teacher" (MC 5, p. 115). Other items might be targeted to reflect a skill recently taught. For example, " Add one instance of onomatopoeia (or more than one, according to your level)" (MC 5, p.117).
The idea of "Key Word Outlines" (KWO) has been borrowed from Andrew Pudewa's Institute for Excellence in Writing and incorporated in most levels of MC. At lower levels, students use the KWO technique more with given material while at upper levels, students often find sources themselves. Using this technique, students begin by working from prewritten material (about godly people, animals, nature, character, etc.), selecting key words from each sentence or section to create an outline of the piece. Then they reconstruct it using their own words. This skill helps with notetaking and organization of written pieces, especially with understanding methods of organizing different types of compositions.
Various writing skills are taught at the different levels although there is certainly some repetition and review from level to level. In the middle elementary grades, students learn to write sentences, paragraphs and brief compositions with an emphasis on creative and experiential writing. In upper elementary grades (6 through 8), students tackle reports and essays as well as more forms of creative writing. High school students hone their essay writing skills and learn to write research papers and stories while also learning writing skills for the "real world."
The MC courses for levels 10, 11, and 12 differ from the others in that they contain some material not included in CQLA. For example, CQLA has students write research reports at the high school level but not the lengthy, 20-30 page research paper taught in MC 12, 1st semester. This means that while you would use either CQLA OR MC for levels 2-9, you might use both for levels 10-12, even though there is some duplication of material in some of the books..
Most students will be able to do much of their work independently, especially after they grasp the format and techniques of MC. Some of the levels will require more one-on-one instruction and explanation than others. Parents/teachers still need to be involved to varying degrees to help students as they work through the lessons, and especially in discussing and evaluating their assignments.
Christian content permeates the curriculum, showing up in instructional material, exercises, and assignments. Recall that MC comes out of the Character Qualities Language Art Curriculum (CQLA). Because of this, many of the writing assignments also relate to character qualities as taught from a Christian perspective. For example, MC 6+ directs students to write a biographical report on a "Faithful Woman of God." A suggested list includes Amy Carmichael, Ruth Bell Graham, Lottie Moon, Henrietta Mears, Fanny Crosby, and similar Christian women. Clearly, this type of character-building content inspired the name Meaningful Composition.
The Training for Triumph website has sample lessons (some complete and some partial) that you can check out before purchasing a course.
Training for Triumph also sell the Write On! Quick Kit, an audio CD and booklet that teach the basic techniques of the directed writing approach used in MC. You will learn how to teach sentence writing, construction of paragraphs, outlining using a "mapping" format, five-paragraph essays, key word outlines, and revising using a Checklist Challenge. I think this Quick Kit might prove very helpful in giving parents a jumpstart on the curriculum's methodology. However, parents might also use ideas from the Write On! Quick Kit without purchasing either MC or CQLA.
MC books $32 each
Write On! Quick Kit $14
- Suitable for: small group or one-on-one teaching
Audience: grades 2-12
Need for parent/teacher instruction: needed some of the time
Prep time needed: minimal once you understand how the program works
Teacher's manual: N/A, instruction in worktext
Religious perspective: Christian - Protestant
Training for Triumph
6456 E US 224
Craigville, IN 46731
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