The folks at God’s World Publications have been at the forefront of both producing high-quality Christian communication of the news through WORLD Magazine and their line of God’s World News publications for children and teens, as well as training Christian journalists through their World Journalism Institute. I was excited to see that they have taken some of that expertise and put it into a writing curriculum for middle school students that is informed by a Christian worldview and teaches students to write from a worldview perspective.
In the Write with World curriculum (WWW), advice and commentary from published writers is incorporated throughout the two-year curriculum. Students study examples of effective and less-effective writing to learn how to express their own ideas well. Rather than teaching students formulas for constructing paragraphs and essays, WWW emphasizes that published writers follow general guidelines without counting the number of sentences per paragraph. For example, WWW tells parents and teachers, “The challenge is to avoid over-simplistic and legalistic rules for idea development and organization. Sometimes teachers tell students a good paragraph has four supporting points. What’s important in that rule is the idea of supporting points…” (WWW I, p. 77). Both courses stress writing as a process rather than just a series of assignments to be completed. Consequently, evaluation is very low key compared to some other writing programs, especially in the first few units.
Write with World is a two-volume, two-year program. The first volume of WWW is subtitled Thinking Through Images, Developing Voice, and Crafting Narrative. Volume two’s subtitle is Learning to Create an Informed Opinion, Respond to Controversy, and Persuade Effectively. The topics in both volumes build upon one another so you would want to use them consecutively. While this is a middle school curriculum, older students lacking skills in these areas would do well to complete these courses.
For each course, there is a parent/teacher guide and a student book. The parent/teacher guide has a manageable amount of teaching information and background. There’s a brief overview at the beginning of the book and of each unit, then instructional information is found in the side margins next to reproduced images of student pages. Some student pages have no teaching notes and are self-explanatory. Both parent/teacher guide and student books are non-consumable. Students will write in their own notebook or binder which is referred to as the Christian Writer’s Journal or CWJ.
Each course is presented in four units, one per quarter of the school year. Each unit is divided into four lessons, with each lesson broken down into five capsules to be completed over a two week period. Each unit centers around a main idea. The four unit themes in the first volume are “Developing Critical Readers, Developing Writers: Building Blocks and Biography, Writing Autobiography,” and “Crafting Narratives.”
So in the first unit, in their quest to become critical readers, students learn to “read” photographic images and to look for the story behind the image. They learn to build strong subjects with thoughtful word choices. They start to discern elements of strong writing as they compare various written pieces. In the second unit, they begin to write paragraphs and learn how to link them effectively. Students learn some grammar along the way, but it’s taught within the context of writing rather than as isolated rules.
The third unit uses autobiographical writing as a tool for storytelling, and the fourth unit expands into broader forms of narrative writing.
WWW II’s four units teach the fundamentals of journalism under the themes, “Reporting and Interpreting, Crafting an Opinion, Reviewing Texts,” and “The Essay.” The titles of all except the third unit are self-explanatory. In the third unit, “Reviewing Texts,” Students work on distinguishing facts and opinions. They learn how to research, analyze, and write about current events. They learn to form and support their own opinion. They write a book review. And they learn how to report both sides of a controversial issue.
Lessons are individually designed according to their purpose rather than following a set format. They always engage students with real writing by published authors or students, generally requiring students to analyze and comment upon these pieces. Lessons stress organization and structure as well as style so that students learn to write pieces that people will want to read. There are just a few student activities with predictable answers, and those answers are in the parent/teacher guide. Almost all assignments will be subjective and require individual evaluation. Consequently, student/teacher conferences are a critical component of the lessons. As students work through each assignment, they meet with the parent/teacher to discuss and get feedback.
In addition to their CWJ, students need a dictionary and a thesaurus throughout both courses. For some lessons they will also need articles from magazines (such as WORLD Magazine), Post-it notes, colored pencils, 4” x 6” note cards, and an audio recording device. They will compose some of their pieces on the computer for easier editing.
Because of the interactive nature of these lessons, they are not designed for independent study. Students will work alone on some parts of the lessons, but the parent/teacher needs to be prepared and familiar with each lesson to lead discussion at the appropriate moments. Parents who might themselves have poorly developed writing skills should probably participate in the lesson activities themselves for their own benefit, to model the learning taking place, and to be able to interact well with students on lesson skills and content. A small group class would be ideal so that students can bounce ideas off one another, but the courses will also work for a single student working with a parent.
Online teacher services (that you can access for free for one year with a code in each course) include student writing samples, a teacher’s discussion forum, new material including updated lesson prompts to keep the curriculum current, and teacher training tips. Access after the first year is available on a subscription basis.
Write with World stands out from among a number of excellent writing programs because it is mission-minded. It has a very clear goal of training young men and women to be excellent communicators who can think and write from within a Christian worldview—writing to make a difference. I expect that the purposeful nature of this course will be a very positive motivational force for both eager and struggling writers.