From 1989-1992, I taught developmental education, history, and writing skills to students at El Paso Community College. During those years, I met many eager students--and some less than eager ones--whose writing skills were really lacking and who struggled as they tried to bring those skills up to a level that would be acceptable for either college-level or workforce standards.
After a couple of years of struggling with these students I observed that their problems fell into a few categories:
1. Poor understanding of English grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and syntax.
2. Lack of exposure to "good" writing to provide examples of well-planned paragraphs, letters, and essays written in standard and formal English.
3. Lack of experience constructing sentences, paragraphs, and essays in a coherent and well-organized manner to communicate effectively.
One student in particular--a young man named Omar--attended class faithfully and sat dutifully through our sessions together. Unfortunately, Omar had a very difficult time completing writing assignments because he could never think of a topic. I finally concluded that I would have had an easier task dragging classified government secrets out of a U.S. Marine than I had in cajoling Omar to write five sentences on the same subject.
In this environment, Writing for Success was born in the early 1990's. The course was designed specifically to help these students understand the basic elements of grammar, punctuation, capitalization, sentence structure, and syntax which are essential to a basic command of English. The course also provided frequent simple writing exercises to help these students learn how to construct their own paragraphs and essays. Since "writer's block" was often a problem, the assignments were designed to help the student start with situations with which he was already familiar. For example, rather than telling the students to write a descriptive essay, I assigned them to describe the room in which they were studying. I learned right away that clear, simple instructions and assignments eliminated the "I can't think of anything to write about," problems that stopped many of my beginning writers before they were able to craft the first sentence.
In 1997, we published the second edition of Writing for Success. In the second edition we expanded on the exercises from the first edition and added better examples of quality writing from authors such as Mark Twain, Herman Melville, and Joseph Conrad.
Now, I am pleased to be able to publish Writing for Today. Writing for Today utilizes the same core exercises and drills that were a vital part of Writing for Success; however, I haveexpanded the examples to include a more varied selection of authors. I have also updated the course to the 21st century by including a special section on writing in the digital age with exercises that cover emails. blogging and social media sites including Facebook and Twitter.
Writing for Today is about mastering and conquering the basics. It is designed as a self-contained, self-study course. The course contains frequent writing exercises and "practice" sessions because practice really does make perfect. The Appendix includes spelling rules followed by a list of commonly misspelled words because I believe that a computerized spell-check program is no substitute for actually knowing how to spell properly. This life-long reference guide designed for seventh grade and up emphasizes the unique opportunities and challenges the 21st century offers to budding writers. All that a student needs to succeed is a willingness to improve his writing skills.
In our modern, digital world, good written communication skills are essential for both college-bound and workforce-bound students. Whether your student loves to write, hates to write, or is somewhere in between, Writing for Today will help him hone his skills and provide him with the tools he needs to communicate more clearly, effectively, and correctly.
Cathy Duffy, author of 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum calls Writing for Today "a very practical solution for covering composition skills along with elements of grammar that often pose problems in writing."
Reviewer Jen McDonald, The Home Educating Family, gives Writing for Today 4 out of 5 stars. "As a homeschooling mom for the past 16 years, I don’t often get excited about new books, but Writing for Today is a new favorite, and definitely a keeper!....my 8th grader used the word 'fun' to describe this course, which, I must say, is quite a compliment!"
"If your students diligently pursue the exercises in this course, they can develop into that increasingly rare but precious commodity--first-class writers." Practical Homeschooling #103