The Write Source: Writing and Grammar series, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, has its roots in the earlier Write Source books (formerly published by Great Source). But this new series has evolved so much that it differs greatly from the earlier Write Source program. I mention this because I know that some of my readers fondly remember Write Source handbooks and will assume more similarity in the two series than exists.
These new courses combine instruction for writing and grammar, as well as reference material (previously in handbooks), in one textbook for each course. Reference material is not as extensive as in the original Write Source reference books. However, they retain one of the most important features of the original Write Source books, a holistic approach to language arts that uses writing as the impetus for learning grammar, punctuation, and usage—grammar is most frequently taught within the context of writing assignments.
Two key strategies are used throughout this series. The first strategy is teaching the steps of the writing process: prewriting, writing, revising, editing, and publishing. The second is the Six Traits of Effective Writing: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions. (The Six Traits have been adopted by the Common Core State Standards. You can read more about them here.)
Write Source: Writing and Grammar has courses for grades one through eleven and is designed for classroom settings. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has created homeschool packages that include a student text, a teacher’s guide, and an assessment book. The teacher’s guide for each level mentions a SkillsBook, Daily Language Workouts, and online resources, but these are not available to homeschoolers. The SkillsBook seems to be a significant omission. While there is grammar instruction in the student textbook, sometimes accompanied by a few exercises, the SkillsBook was designed to serve as the primary source of grammar and usage exercises. Nevertheless, there might be sufficient grammar practice without the SkillsBook, or else you can supplement with another resource.
Student textbooks are very colorful, hardcover books. Each text is divided into color-coded sections. The sections vary slightly from level to level, with the largest section devoted to “Forms of Writing.” Lessons in this section are taught sequentially. Others sections—titled “The Writing Process,” “Writing Across the Curriculum,” “The Tools of Learning,” “Basic Grammar and Writing,” “A Writer’s Resource,” and “Proofreader’s Guide”—are most often used within the context of the form of writing being taught. You will use these other sections to teach skills such as writing complete sentences, constructing paragraphs, proper usage of nouns and pronouns, subject-verb agreement, the use of colons, and capitalization rules.
Teacher’s guides are large, spiral-bound books with a hardcover supporting the back to make them physically manageable. Extensive explanation at the front explains how to use the course. Lesson presentation pages have reduced images of student pages with wrap-around text for the teacher. Within the wrap-around text are "Grammar Connections" - sidebars listing where in each section to find information pertinent to each assignment. For example, after one paragraph-writing assignment, students will review and revise what they have written. The sidebar lists pages in the Proofreader’s Guide and the Basic Grammar and Writing section, both dealing with punctuation, plus pages in the Proofreader’s Guide that teach how to use quotation marks. (There is also an assignment in the SkillsBook although you probably won’t have that component.) It’s up to the teacher or parent to determine whether or not to use these skill-development and reference sections.
The skill development and reference sections have instruction, often followed by brief exercises that will need to be done on paper—students don’t write in the textbooks. It is important to note that parents or teachers can use these skill development and reference sections of the textbook apart from the lessons whenever it is useful. This non-traditional approach places less stress on grammar exercises. Instead, it tries to help students discover the need for those skills within the various forms of writing.
Courses are intended to be presented by the teacher. Some advance preparation is necessary to decide how to do the lesson presentation. Differentiated instruction suggestions for struggling or advanced learners help teachers or parents adjust lessons to meet the needs of individual students. Some instructions are better suited to class situations (e.g., small-group discussion or sharing with a partner), but essential elements can be accomplished with a parent working with only one child. Copy masters at the back of each teacher’s guide are intended for use with various lessons. These include rubrics, models of different forms of writing with sample rubrics, editing and proofreading guides, graphic organizers, letters to parents, and a few other activities. The detailed index at the back of each teacher’s guide should be helpful because of the need to jump around to various sections in the textbook.
Assessment books have four assessments similar in design to standardized tests. The assessment books also explain how to use the rubrics, which are the most frequently used form of evaluation throughout each course. Answer keys are included.
Write Source: Writing and Grammar courses should be very appealing to those who prefer to teach grammar, punctuation, and usage within the context of writing. These courses are a little cumbersome because of flipping between sections, but once a parent or teacher becomes familiar with how the courses work, they will probably appreciate the ability to tailor lessons to the needs of their students.