The three books comprising the Writing Skills for Today (WSFT) series teach composition skills and are adaptations from the Writing Strands series published by Master Books. (You should also read that review since both series draw from the same sources, and I am primarily focusing on the differences in this review.) Writing Skills for Today Level A, Level B, and Level C are recommended for grades four, five, and six respectively. Even so, these books do not show grade-level designations and might be used at different levels.
WSFT books and their corresponding books in the Writing Strands series are:
Writing Skills Level A = Writing Strands Beginning 2
Writing Skills Level B = Writing Strands Intermediate 1
Writing Skills Level C = Writing Strands Intermediate 2
The content that teaches composition skills is almost identical in both series. However, there are three major differences between WSFT and Writing Strands.
First, Master Books' Writing Strands incorporates reading skills, following every writing lesson with a reading lesson. Because My Father’s World already teaches reading skills through its literature-rich curriculum, they have dropped reading lessons from WSFT. (This makes WSFT much more similar than Master Books' Writing Strands is to the original Writing Strands series since series author Dave Marks did not include reading skills within his composition books.)
The second major difference is that WSFT lacks the overtly Christian content that has been added to Writing Strands since Christian content was built into the reading lessons which are lacking in WSFT. (There was no Christian content in the original Writing Strands series.)
The third major area of difference has to do with formatting. In WSFT, students will do some writing directly in their workbooks, but they will write many paragraphs and lengthier compositions in a notebook or elsewhere. On the other hand, Writing Strands has space for students to write most compositions in their workbooks. While Writing Strands books are perfect bound and have three-hole-punched, perforated pages, WSFT books have plastic coil bindings and lie flat so students can easily write in them.
WSFT courses have other minor changes in the lesson material. Level C omits the last two writing lessons that are included in Writing Strands Intermediate 2. For the most part, other differences are relatively insignificant rewrites such as reworded instructions. The separate teacher manual that covers the entire Writing Strands series is not needed with WSFT since much of that teacher manual addresses reading skills (not taught in WSFT), and the essential information for composition instruction is already included in each WSFT book.
While Writing Strands teaches four primary strands of writing across all of the courses–creative, argumentative, report and research, and expository, the three books in the WSFT series are geared for middle school students. Because of that, it doesn’t get into research, report, and argumentative writing aside from one lesson in Level C on writing an effective argument. Instead, these early years are dedicated primarily to narrative writing with lessons on description, organization, characters, dialog, point of view, etc.
Writing lessons are presented in units with two or three lessons per unit. The introduction in each book suggests that students complete two lessons per week, which means that each course should provide sufficient lessons for one school year.
Grammar is not covered in these books. My Father’s World expects that you will use WSFT along with the Language Lessons for Today book for the same grade level. Of course, you can always substitute another resource for covering grammar and other basic language arts skills. As in Writing Strands, there is one page in each student book that briefly describes the process for recording and studying spelling words.
Students will complete a Student Progress Report when they complete each writing assignment—a self-evaluation tool. A parent should go over these with the child and help them note no more than a few problematic areas at a time. Either the parent or the student will write these down on a page titled “List of Problems to Solve,” found near the front of the book. During the course, parents should work with students to resolve those list items.
Since the content is drawn from Writing Strands, both series share the same casual and easy to understand tone that makes them more inviting than most textbooks. The content is often presented with unique twists, making it interesting enough to motivate reluctant writers. Unit 14 in Level C provides an excellent example. Students first write a descriptive piece about a house, describing the house as a new house without directly relating that fact. Then they write about that same house, but this time the house needs to be described as an old, abandoned house, again without stating that directly.
Writing Skills for Today does a great job of maintaining the engaging style of the original Writing Strands series while drawing on the great job Master Books did reorganizing and presenting the original books in a much easier to use format.