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Use living books to teach writing with Brave Writer’s The Arrow

A thought came to me the other day: even the teaching of grammar can be “organic.” Wouldn’t you love to teach grammar in harmony with what your children already enjoy? Brave Writer’s The Arrow helps you use living books to teach writing and grammar!

Use Living Books to Teach WritingSponsored by Brave Writer.

Using living books to teach grammar

Children enjoy a good story. They’ll listen, read, re-read, and even act out favorite stories. So why not leverage that love of story to introduce and teach grammar concepts? That’s the idea behind Brave Writer’s The Arrow program.

The Arrow launches you from reading into the teaching of grammar and writing! Truly, it’s a resource that provides a straight “shot” into your lesson (hence, arrow? ha!).

Arrows are a digital guide to book study; they come as a PDF file and are geared for ages 8-11. Newly released Arrows are sold in a 10-bundle set for the year (delivered monthly). You can also purchase previous Arrows individually to customize your own literature-rich reading and writing program.  There are nearly 150 different Arrows for well-known classic books, Newberry award-winning books, and new titles. It’s a safe bet you’ll find several that fit your child’s interests and your homeschool plan! NOTE: The Arrow product does not include the book itself, just the guide.

Each Arrow focuses on several writing mechanic concepts (grammar) like the apostrophe, commas in a series, and other punctuation rules. Plus there’s a section on literary elements like mood, dialogue, or rhyme to name just a few.

Use Living Books to Teach Writing

Close reading of literature helps kids learn grammar!

It’s wonderful for children to learn a grammar concept by close reading of a passage they are familiar with, because it comes right out of a book they just read! Isn’t that better than stilted sentences in a textbook that hold no value or context for a child? Children will connect strongly with the passage, and the passage will open up for them, because they see how the author created such a powerful story!

Arrows are your guide to this kind of organic instruction. With each Arrow, parents can coach students through a similar format: read, practice, write, discuss!

Use Living Books to Teach WritingREAD: Either read the book in advance, or section the book to read a little each week of the month. As long as you read ahead of The Arrow activities, you’re fine!

PRACTICE: Each week (for four weeks), The Arrow presents a passage for copywork and grammar instruction. These passages are hand-picked to hone in on specific writing and grammar techniques. The Arrow includes information on the grammar or writing technique illustrated by the passage, which parents can read to their child or relay in their own words.

Parents, you’ll decide how much copywork is best for your child, and modify to suit. Julie Bogart provides helpful hints about modifications in her attachment about how to use the Arrow program that comes with The Arrow.

Julie recommends four options for copywork, some of which were new for me (pick and choose or do all four!):

  • Copy directly (common practice)
  • Dictation (copy from listening)
  • Reverse dictation (edit an error-ridden version)
  • French dictation (fill-in-the-blank)

If you’re going to do the last two, you’d have to create these yourself. I found this easy to do by copy and pasting the passage from the PDF into a document and making my own “errors” and blanks as I saw fit for my son.

WRITE: After reading and studying grammar mechanics, children “imitate great art” using what the author showed them about writer craft. The writing activities are a playful hands-on way for children to experience literary elements for themselves! Eventually (but not immediately!), children will organically use these elements in other pieces of writing.

DISCUSS: A great aspect of enjoying a great book lies in discussing it with others. For homeschoolers, I recommend The Arrow book be a family read-aloud so more people can get involved in discussion (even if they didn’t do the lesson!).

In new Arrows, Julie Bogart shares nine Big Juicy Conversation questions to help you discuss each book richly and satisfactorily. These aren’t boring fact/recall questions, but deeply inviting questions that allow children to share their thoughts. They’ll compare and contrast, share favorite parts, or even reimagine the story in a variety of ways. A Big Juicy Conversation is a great way to celebrate completing an Arrow, and to draw closer as a family around a book you now treasure!

Even more exciting – brand new Arrows also contain Book Club Party ideas (not included in mine so I am very curious about these)!

How our family enjoyed our first-ever Arrow!

Use Living Books to Teach Writing

I selected three Arrows based on my son’s interest and concepts I thought he could grasp at this age (2nd-3rd grade): The Phantom Tollbooth, The Green Ember, and How to Train Your Dragon. I found The Green Ember to be long, and because it’s summer, it’s taken us awhile to get through. So, lesson learned: when selecting individual Arrows, note book length! I’m glad I chose The Green Ember because it’s an awesome story, but I should’ve saved it for last or for the beginning part of the school year.

Our family enjoys read-alouds after breakfast during the school year and/or at bedtime. Often both times of day! The Phantom Tollbooth was a delightful novel I’d not encountered before. I’m so glad I picked this book because it’s all about wordplay and made us laugh so much! My boys still talk about the “Awful Din” whenever there’s loud noises! Sometimes, when our family is so into a book, it’s hard to transition into the “school” part. The Arrow lays out such incremental steps, I didn’t feel like the copywork and grammar lessons diminished the joy of the book. Although we read this as a family, only my eight-year-old completed the copywork and writing activities during school time.

Since The Green Ember has been taking us so long (summer!), I’ve been asking the Big Juicy Questions along the way. For my boys, this is helpful because I’ve discovered my oldest son struggles to remember details if too much time passes. Both boys enjoyed the Cliff-Hanger game suggested in The Arrow for this book and I think they’ll be playing it on their own for years to come!

I cannot wait to add Arrow studies for each month to our full-year plan this fall in our homeschool. I am going to book special days into our schedule for “milkshakes and Big Juicy Conversations” as Julie Bogart suggests. And if not milkshakes (in Connecticut in December – brr), then another treat for our family discussion!

Brave Writer The Arrow books

The Arrow is a trustworthy literature resource!

Use Living Books to Teach Writing

I used to be a Language Arts teacher, and someone commented to me, “But you taught this kind of stuff – I bet you could just do this yourself!” Ummm… no, no, no – there’s no way I could teach-all-the-subjects to two children, and ALSO find time to put together a book guide this comprehensive, focused, and well-rounded every month. I also do not have Julie Bogart’s years and years of experience with writing and literature (she’s a gold mine!). What I do know, as a former educator is that The Arrow is a huge time-saver for busy homeschool parents. AND it’s a solid, jam-packed, and trustworthy resource to help your children grow their love and understanding of literature. 

It couldn’t be easier to integrate reading and writing into your homeschool curriculum than with The Arrow. Trying out an Arrow couldn’t be easier either, because at $7.99-11.95 each, they are an affordable option that provides a month’s worth of instruction in reading and writing.

Brave Writer also offers The Arrow Book Club for virtual participation. For younger readers, there’s The Wand and The Quiver of Arrows, and for older readers try The Boomerang!

Looking for additional writing curriculum?

Check out my review of Jot It Down! for young writers (5-8 years), and for older writers (8-18 years), try The Writer’s Jungle (review coming soon!).

Who else wants to join our family in exploring grammar and writing via living books? Please join me on Instagram this year as I’ll be sharing more of our homeschool with you there!

Thanks to Brave Writer for providing Arrows for our use and review! All opinions are my own.