See the complete review in 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.
Wordsmith is a series of three books for developing writing skills. All books are available in either print or ebook formats. These are not age-graded, but they address skills at three different levels. My favorite book in the series is Wordsmith which targets students around junior high or beginning high school level. My review begins with that book then discusses the other two volumes in relation to it.
Many students in upper elementary grades and junior high have learned the basics in grammar and need some help transferring grammatical knowledge into their writing. Wordsmith assumes the student knows basic grammar. It moves on from there to work with grammar through written applications. For example, one assignment has them come up with vivid action verbs to replace weak verbs accompanied by adverbs. The goal is to sharpen writing skills by carefully choosing words for the best effect.
After working on grammar, they tackle sentence construction, again with the goal of writing more interesting yet concise sentences. Once grammar and sentence structure are under control, they can apply those skills to compositions.
Although Wordsmith does not teach all the different forms of writing such as reports, research papers, etc., it covers techniques that can be applied in almost any writing situation. Lessons work on skills such as describing people, narrowing the topic, and writing dialogue. At the end of the course, students write their own short story. Helps for proofreading and editing are included along with review quizzes.
The student book may be written in or used as a reusable text by doing the brief activities in a notebook. Lesson organization is clear and well designed. Most students should need a year or more to work through all of the lessons, but with suggestions in the third edition teacher's guide, you might stretch the course to two years. Some teaching, primarily in the form of discussion and evaluation, is required, although students will do much of the work on their own. The author's humorous touches scattered throughout the book add special appeal....
Other books attempt to meet the same goals, but the presentation here is better than almost everything else at this level.
Note that Wordsmith is now in its third edition. The latest edition is slightly expanded with a bit more content and a few images. One of the most helpful improvements is that it now alerts students to take the quiz at the end of each section, something that was easy to overlook in previous editions.
The new teacher's guide for Wordsmith is expanded as well with more helpful information for parents and teachers. Especially helpful are ideas for additional writing projects and ideas for creative writing in other subject areas. Some students might want to explore other follow-up options in the teacher's guide for organizing a writers' club, entering writing contests, or getting their writing published in some way. (See pages 40 to 45 in the teacher's guide for these additional resources.)
Wordsmith Apprentice is a “prequel” to Wordsmith. Author Janie Cheaney translates the same enthusiasm, humor, and energy that so impressed me in the older-level book to this course for younger students.
Using a newspaper-writing approach, she creates interesting writing activities that develop both grammar and composition skills. For example, in the first section teaching about sentences, students learn the four types of sentences then write four sentences to describe a news photo, mixing declarative, interrogatory, and exclamatory sentences. Stretching beyond the limitations of the newspaper format, students also write invitations, letters, and thank-you notes. “Comic-strips” introduce each new section.
Topics covered are nouns, verbs, sentences, modifiers, prepositions, paragraphs, synopsis writing (often neglected in other courses!), dialogue, opinion writing, and more. These are covered within the context of newspaper tasks such as writing classified ads, travel articles, book reviews, articles, and headlines, as well as editing....
This study is designed for students in grades four through six, and it can be used by students working independently (with parents or teachers reading and responding to exercises and assignments) or by a mixed age and ability group....There is no teacher manual since none is needed....
Designed for high school students, Wordsmith Craftsman can be used after completion of Wordsmith or any other courses that have built up a basic foundation in grammar, mechanics, and composition. High school students who have done a great deal of grammar but little composition should probably complete the Creative Writing Course before jumping into Wordsmith Craftsman.
This book is divided into three parts which can be used over a span of anywhere from one to four years depending upon the student.
Part One draws students into the writing process with practical, everyday writing tasks like note taking, outlining, summarizing, personal letters, business letters, and even business reports (although the last topic is addressed very briefly). Part Two gets more technical with exercises on paragraph writing (narrative, descriptive, persuasive, and expository), word usage, and style. Part Three concentrates on essay writing but builds on paragraph writing skills to create five types of essays: descriptive, narrative, expository, critical, and persuasive....
The book is written for a student to work through independently, receiving feedback and encouragement from a parent or teacher as needed. There is no teacher manual or answer key since they are unnecessary....