Classical Writing Instruction: Logic Stage

Writing Coach

(The following is a summary of information I gleaned from Writing With Ease by Susan Wise Bauer.)

Grades 5 – 8: Writing With Style

By middle school, the technical act of writing has been conquered. The student can summarize in his own words, ideas he has read, and get those words on paper without difficulty.

The next challenge is to learn how to order ideas.

This is done at the sentence level and at the composition level.

Sentence-Level Ordering through Diagramming


  • To be able to test the logic of his sentence: “Does it sound right?”
  • To be able to think critically about his sentence structure:”What are the logical relationships between the parts of this sentence?”
  • To be able to fix weak sentences, which result from fuzzy thinking: “How can I improve the structure of this sentence?

Composition-Level Ordering through Outlining


  • To learn correct outline form AND how to rank information by its importance and relationship to other ideas/facts in the composition.
  • To practice outline form by outlining the (non-fiction) writing of others, beginning with isolating the main points of paragraphs, then adding supporting facts and additional information.
  • To continue narrative summaries by reading the passage >>outlining the passage >>rewriting from the outline only >>comparing the rewrite with the original piece.

Summary thoughts:

  • You are NOT asking the student to originate an outline and then write from it. You are letting him see models of how other writers do that by having them read an author’s finished work and letting them work backwards to create what the original  outline might have looked like.  Then they turn that outline into their version of the original, and then let them judge how well they did.
  • Don’t give in to the “my-child’s-writing-more-than-your-child” pressure from others.



Unit Study Template

Creating a Unit Study                                         
To aid me in standardizing my ideas and practices for unit studies, I created this short mission statement.
• To expand knowledge through:  reading of real books.
• To expand knowledge through: increasing their vocabulary in various topics/subjects.
• To expand knowledge through: experience and hands on interaction with the topic/subject.
• To expand focus through: long observation and attention to the details of the topic/subject.
• To expand confidence and retention of knowledge: through narration, journaling, puzzles, etc.
• To encourage hard work and perseverance through: independent work assignments.

That led to the following template. This became a great organizational tool in my lesson planning last year when I was teaching a unit study on My Side of the Mountain.

(Check ‘On Their Own’ work)
Expanding Concentration and Observation Skills: Drawing copy work of the day.
Encouraging Laughter : “Mad Libs” on topic.
Enabling Retention: Narration, journaling, acrostics, puzzles, quizzes…
Extracting Background Knowledge: Play ‘Know/Want to Know’
Expanding Knowledge: Research topic of the day using ‘real’ books.
Expanding Awe and Wonder: Plant/animal of the day.
Expanding Experience/Curiosity/Confidence: Hands on activities.
‘On Their Own’ assignments

  • reading assignment
  • age appropriate research
  • vocabulary work
  • copy work
  • nature notebook entries