Bible Heroes Writing Lessons in Structure and Style is a great program for implementing the concepts of IEW’s Teaching Writing: Structure and Style DVD Seminar (TWSS) with students in first and second grade. The course can also be adapted for students up to about fifth grade which is a bonus if you want to teach two or more of your children together. Parents or teachers need to either be familiar with TWSS or be working through the seminar as they teach this course. The Bible Heroes teacher’s manual tells you when you need to be familiar with a particular lesson in TWSS in preparation for teaching a lesson.
When you purchase Bible Heroes, you receive a print edition of the student book as well as instructions for downloading the free teacher’s manual and the free Student Resource Notebook. Each student will also need a three-ring binder equipped with about 25 clear sheet protectors into which they will place their completed stories.
Bible Heroes has 27 lessons, and each lesson should take about a week to complete. Lessons are grouped into seven units covering key word outlining, writing from key word outlines, summarizing narrative stories, summarizing references (report writing), writing from pictures, and creative writing.
Each weekly lesson can be taught either by a parent working one-on-one with a child or as a group class that meets once a week. Parental assistance is required as children dictate their paragraphs from their key word outlines. Parents will need to help students add their elements of style. Some children will be able to copy their paragraph(s) independently, but others will need assistance to do that, and some children might need to dictate their final version while a parent types or writes it down. Because each student needs individual assistance, the course will not work in a traditional classroom setting.
As you might have assumed, each lesson features a different Bible hero such as Moses, Noah, or David. Brief Bible stories that stress positive character traits provide the content with which students work as they develop composition skills. The biblical content shows up as well in most lesson activities such as vocabulary, grammar practice, and games as well as in the suggested teaching presentation.
The first part of each lesson really needs to be presented on the day a group class session meets if the course is taught with a group class meeting. That first session of each lesson begins with a very brief review followed by the introduction of the Bible verse, Bible hero, and a virtue. Students read through the Bible story together then work together with the teacher to come up with the key word outline (KWO) which the teacher writes on a board. Students then write the KWO in their student book. Afterward, they narrate the story orally from the KWO. You can see that all of these activities can be done without a group class, although many students will be very positively motivated by the group interaction. Students might also do oral presentations at the group meetings.
Parents will generally work through the remainder of each lesson at home through the rest of the week. On the second day of the lesson, the student dictates a paragraph from the KWO with the parent writing it down as a first draft. Students then work through lesson activities in the student book, some of which might bring up elements that can be implemented as they begin to edit their first draft.
The rest of the week, students can do some additional revision, but they also begin to write or dictate the final draft of their paragraph(s). They can add a picture to it and then put the final product in a sheet protector in their binder.
At the end of the second lesson, the “checklist” is introduced. Simple checklists are included in the student book so they can double check that they have paid attention to important elements in their paragraph. Checklists vary depending upon the assignment. Printable pages with the checklists are also in an appendix at the back of the teacher’s manual.
Lessons follow a similar format within each unit, but every lesson includes a game, and there are also vocabulary games in an appendix in the teacher’s manual that can be used at any time. At the back of the student book are 56 pages of cards and images for games and activities, all printed on cardstock. Game boards are printed within the regular student pages, but those pages are also in the teacher’s manual and would be best printed out onto cardstock or mounted onto some sturdier backing. Game components are all included with the exception of a die. While games are primarily for two or more children, many of them can be adapted to use with only one child. However, there are a few games that just won’t work well without two or more children.
The Student Resource Notebook is a reference resource but it also has some grammar exercises. This is an ungraded resource, so some of the grammar concepts will be beyond what students in the primary grades are expected to know. However, it should be especially helpful if you are teaching older students who need additional work on grammar, and it has checklists that are more appropriate for their skill level than those in the student book.
The teacher’s guide is essential. It explains how to teach the course, and it has suggested schedules, answers to review questions, examples of possible key word outlines and brainstorming, game and activity instructions, reproducible game and checklist pages, and an appendix about “reward tickets” that you might use instead of grading.
While it is possible to implement TWSS without “themed” courses such as Bible Heroes, it is certainly much more challenging. Bible Heroes, as well as other themed courses for higher levels make the process simple even for parents new to TWSS.