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.



Classical Writing Instruction: The Grammar Stage

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

Grades 1-4: Writing With Ease      p1040167

Narration – Putting Thoughts into Words

  • Skill: holding words he has heard in his mind long enough to say them back/restate them.
  • Not asking for original ideas.
  • Not asking him to put his ideas on paper.

Copywork – Putting Words onto Paper

  • Skill: visualizing the sentence.
  • Requires labor, fine motor skills, and an understanding of the mechanics of writing.
  • Allows him to focus on the process itself, separate from figuring out what to say.
  • Allows the beginner to build the needed visual memory of what written language looks like.

Dictation – Putting the Visualized Sentence on Paper

  • Skill: holding the visualized sentence in his mind long enough to write it down.
  • Able to accomplish this because his mind is stocked with images of properly written language.
  • Not asking them to come up with ideas and also put them on paper.

Summary Thoughts:

You are concentrating on the mastery of the process of putting ideas into words and words onto paper.

You are not requiring original writing which requires “ideas into words; words onto paper” AND coming up with an original idea.  (Don’t discourage original writing; just don’t require it or “grade” it.)

Group description from one of our picture studies.

Group description from one of our picture studies.

I had the privilege of implementing these practices with several students during Writing Camp this summer. It was delightful to see them work diligently with each of these elements. We also had some fun with visualizing vocabulary from the day’s writing.