How do you teach writing to a middle school student? Do you teach him/her to brainstorm with bubbles, select a topic, write a rough draft, edit, and then produce a final copy? Do essays and reports have a 2-page, double-spaced requirement? Do your students groan at the sound of having to write? Well, if you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might be in store for a new way of teaching writing.
Writing should give students an opportunity to clearly express their thoughts on paper (or digitally, of course). This task (which, in my opinion, is quite enjoyable if you get the hang of it) shouldn’t be that difficult and dreaded. Yet, it is. Even graduate students complain about having to write a paper, let alone an entire dissertation! Why? Writing is the one chance a person has to express his/her true thoughts about something with an actively listening audience!
As educators, where can we start? How about “Cover Story Writing”?
“Cover Story Writing” is writing curriculum designed to facilitate a love of writing through the idea of story. This curriculum is wonderfully constructed, in my professional opinion. It’s as if Daniel Schwabauer (the author and developer) has listened to many teachers’ prayers regarding teaching creative writing: can we please avoid the boring, rule-oriented and formulaic writing and instead, teach students how to convey their thoughts beautifully through creatively written work? Yes, we can. And, “Cover Story” is designed to teach us how to do that.
What’s “Cover Story Writing” all about? Well, it’s really quite simple! The curriculum includes an entire year’s worth of DVD lessons, a Student Book, a Teacher’s Guide, and The Remarkable Journal of Professor Gunther von Steuben, by Daniel Schwabauer. The lessons are taught for you on video and as a teacher, your job is to guide the student and provide feedback via grading.
The DVD lessons are quite enjoyable and entertaining. They range in length, but each is appropriately timed for the topic covered. For example, the first lesson is a little over 9 minutes in length. Since it’s an opening lesson, it doesn’t necessarily need to drag on for minutes. Other lessons, naturally, might be longer depending on topic. Following each DVD lesson, students are then instructed to complete work in their Student Book (the work varies greatly). Daily, however, students are required to write a journal entry in The Remarkable Journal of Professor Gunther von Steuben. These entries are informal and are designed to give students a chance to reflect, think and record their thoughts on paper. It’s really practice in becoming a better writer.
The Remarkable Journal of Professor Gunther von Steuben is an unfinished journal/book for your student to read and finish on his/her own. It’s a fun book that observes the mundane things about humans from the perspective of the Professor (who may or may not be a real human…). I don’t want to give away too much of the stories told in the journal entries, but The Remarkable Journal of Professor Gunther von Steuben is designed to allow your students to think and create their own storyline that follows this book.
The Student Book and Teacher’s Guide go hand-in-hand. Both are easy to follow and each assignment in the Student Book corresponds to the DVD lesson for that day. These lessons are designed to be taught three days a week. Of course, your schedule may differ, but this curriculum is designed to be flexible for you.
Daniel Schwabauer, the author and creator of this curriculum, dresses in costume and speaks eloquently during his lessons. It is evident that he not only loves writing and story telling himself, but he believes it is possible to instill the same love of writing in our youth. This is fantastic! Schwabauer also possesses the ability to speak well without “dumbing-down” language for middle schoolers. Students should be exposed to well-spoken language! That exposure might enhance their listening, speaking, and writing skills. That is always a plus!
This curriculum would work excellently in a homeschool due to the nature of the lessons. They are on DVDs, there’s a journal and Student Book, and the schedule of lessons is flexible. Journal entries are self-paced and self-directed (with some guidance, of course). However, the overall design could easily be implemented in a classroom as well. Because these lessons are taught a few days a week, and wouldn’t seem to take too much time from other subjects, adopting this curriculum for the teaching of writing would be an excellent addition to any Language Arts program.