Check out the TOS Crew reviews of Writing Tales here!
~A Review by a satisfied Co-op Mother
Amy, your Writing Tales books are magnificent! WT2 made a huge impact on my son's ability in writing and literature analysis. His spelling improved dramatically, his grammar lights went on, his sentence structure came together and, best of all, his interest in writing took off.
For a while now, I have been interested in teaching
my children to write by using the Progymnasmata. The Progymnasmata is a series
of composition exercises used by the ancients and is based on the idea that
writing is best learned by copying a high quality model. After doing some
research, I purchased a writing program based on the Progymnasmata, and gave it
a try. It was NOT a success. The program we used seemed to assume that the user
was an expert at teaching these exercises, and therefore provided very little
instruction and teacher support. I finally gave up because it was just too
I was still convinced that this approach to writing
was a good one, however, and was on the lookout for a more usable program when
I heard about Writing Tales, which seemed to be just what I was
looking for. We have been using it for five or six months so far, and I have
not been disappointed. Levels 1 and 2, which are the only two levels currently
available, are based on the first level of the progymnasmata, Fable. (The
author admits that she does stray from the strict use of the Progymnasmata, in
that she allows in students, after doing a strict retelling of the fable, to
embellish their story with some of their own creative touches, without actually
changing any major details of the story). Students focus on learning the
mechanics of the English language through the process of studying, copying,
narrating, and rewriting classic fables and legends (the eight parts of
speech, capitalization, punctuation, quotations, vocabulary, spelling, and
dictionary skills are covered). No additional grammar program is needed in Level
1; students get plenty of practice while completing the grammar exercises and
playing a variety of fun games. Using an additional grammar program with Level
2 is recommended by the author, but many parents may think that this level
contains enough grammar practice and instruction as it is.
This program is so easy to use. Lesson plans for
both home and co-op setting are laid out very clearly in the Teacher’s manual,
and no preplanning is necessary, at least for the parent teaching the program
at home. In Level 1, which is written for 3rd and 4th
graders, each day’s lesson is fairly brief and not at all overwhelming. We
spend approximately 10-15 minutes per day at this level, with more time spent
on the day that my son rewrites the fable. In Level 2, which is written for 4th
and 5th graders, the lessons are longer, a bit more in-depth and
basic outlining is introduced.
The child I am using this program with has never
enjoyed writing of any kind before, but I have seen his interest in writing
perk up since we have started using Writing Tales. He has even
recently begun to write a short story on his own initiative—something that
would never have happened in the past. Not only is he more interested in
writing, the quality of his writing has definitely improved as well.
Please don’t think that only those who are interested in the
Progymnasmata should consider using this program; it is a terrific program, and
will give a solid start in writing to any student using it.
can’t tell you how excited I am about Writing Tales: Lessons in Composition
and Language Arts in the Classical Style. Oh, that’s right! That’s why
you’re reading this!...
The author’s tone is conversational; the stories are those I’ve found through
experience to be interesting to elementary-aged students. The print is large
and friendly, with generous space for a student to write. Editing checklists
are provided for the writing exercises. I really like the way later lessons
review and build on concepts from earlier lessons; this is especially evident
in the writing/editing checklists. “Lesson One's” checklist has the student
making sure that all words are spelled correctly and making sure that sentences
are complete sentences with appropriate punctuation. A checklist from later in
the book incorporates the grammar instruction that has gone on before,
including use of quotes and quotation marks, adjectives, and adverbs.
The student writing assignment in each lesson provides the material for writing
(the story) along with suggestions for the student's writing. Directions for
writing the rough draft for the lesson include encouragement along with simple
instructions. The author tells the student to re-tell the story in his or her
own words (a form of narration) and gives pointers and reminders. (“Try to show
the excitement of the Town Mouse and the calm of the Country Mouse with the
words that you choose” or “Choose your own adjectives to describe the garden
where the boys were standing...” or “Show how hard it was for the Cat to pull
the hot chestnuts out of the fire” or even “Don’t forget how angry the wife was
when the king let her cakes burn!”)...
In the Teacher’s Guide you’ll find background information and lesson
plans for homeschool or co-op use as well as group activities, games, and
reproducibles. I’d highly recommend using this Student Workbook with the
Teacher’s Guide, otherwise you’d be missing quite a bit of good stuff...
Writing Tales is a wonderful all-in-one resource, whether you are
homeschooling one child or teaching a number of third and fourth-graders in a
co-op class. It is the sort of language arts curriculum we’ve been doing on our
own, except that here it’s all laid out with little or no planning needed on my
part, and the author has thought of things that I sometimes overlook due to
interruptions or busyness. The planning has already been done, all the way
through the year, and the lessons use interesting material for their basis. We
can be consistent in our approach to language arts and writing, and not worry
about gaps or being too hit-or-miss in our studies.
Now can you see why I’m excited about Writing Tales?
Ms. Hall has reviewed
each one of the Writing Tales books in detail; read each one of the
reviews in full at the Eclectic Homeschool website:
~ A Review by “Heather in VA” on the Well Trained Mind Message Board on Aug. 22, 2007
My initial thoughts of
Writing Tales Level 2:
I've spent the last couple
of days going over this and I am very impressed. I have not used Level 1 and
nearly didn't look at Level 2 because Level 1 just wasn't quite right for my daughter
but now I realize it was because she's ready for this level.
Each model takes 2 weeks so you have a total of 15 models over 30 lessons. That
gives you some cushion to adjust as needed, especially if you need more time
for a writing assignment. The exercises are very clear and include story
ordering, copywork, vocabulary, spelling practice (using words spelled
incorrectly in their rough drafts), outlining and grammar.
I especially love the outlining. She approaches this in various ways including
drawing pictures of events in key sentences of the story. There are exercises
to help pick important words from sentences which really look like they will
help the student understand key ideas.
Vocabulary includes synonym work and dictionary/thesaurus skills. Toward the
2nd half there are exercises on when to change to new paragraphs including
rules and mneumonics to help them remember. This might be normal but I've never
seen something like it before and I learned something LOL.
The grammar is pretty robust. My daughter has done Rod & Staff 3 and it
will go well beyond that. It definitely goes beyond Classical Writing Aesop
territory and into Homer. I'd have to see how much it overlaps but it definitely
is more than Aesop - from what I can tell in both grammar and writing.
The writing steps you through rough drafts, editing and final drafts. It allows
for creativity after the initial imitation has been achieved but without the
need to rewrite the model twice. Just rough and final drafts. And the models
are quite inviting.
The TM is very easy to use. It has both homeschool and co-op lesson plans in
the same book. It includes grammar games that look like fun. For example in the
first lesson you copy a Die Template from the Appendix and make it into a die.
Then you role the die and it will come up either 'Statement', 'Command',
'Question' or 'Exclamation'. Then the student has 15 seconds to compose a
sentence of that type. There are also helps in the TM to help memorize the key
All in all I give this a HUGE thumbs up. Not to mention how much easier language
arts will be for us this year. It really is all we need - besides reading of
course. I'll probably continue with our spelling workbook because daughter
enjoys it and it's very quick, but I don't even think that would be necessary
since you use the misspelled words from their rough draft.
I am very pleased.
~ A Review by Tina Franklin, Hockley, TX
Writing Tales Level One by Amy Olsen is a wonderful new resource for introducing
grammar level children to the first level of the Progymnasmata. This complete
writing and grammar curriculum includes a Teacher’s Guide (19.95) and a spiral
bound student book (14.95) for each child. The teacher’s guide has very
comprehensive lesson plans for both homeschool and homeschool co-op use,
including a “what to say” guide for each teaching time as well as some games and
manipulatives. Mrs. Olsen uses 15 traditional fables to teach skills such as
literary form, style, punctuation, spelling correction, grammar, outlining, copy
work and imitation. The workbook format is so easy to follow as it focuses the
student on a couple of skills each day leading up to the first and second drafts
of their imitation. This curriculum was written for 3-4th grade students but
could easily be used for an advanced 2nd grader or an older grammar
age child who has not yet been introduced to the classical style of
Thanks, Amy! It’s my new favorite!
son has a writing program called Writing
Tales by Amy Hastings Olsen. I must say that I was a little nervous teaching my son how to write. The funny thing is my son loves
writing. This curriculum has turned out to be the family favorite.
Why, you might ask? One major reason is you know your child likes it when
he changes the theme songs of his favorite show to "Writing Tales."
If you know the theme song to Veggie Tales, sing this song to the
tune: Writing Taaaales, Writing Taaales, Writing Taaaales, WRITING
TALES!! Whenever it is time to take out the lesson, my two sons sing this
in unison. I know it sounds strange, but you can't make this stuff
up. I never would have thought to sing a song to it. If you would
like, I give you the rest of the verses. I just want to tell you that
that is how much my son loves this writing program.
my testimony! This program is so user friendly. Ms. Olsen does an
outstanding job of simplifying instructions and directions. She gives
little helps and games in the appendix to get the child engaged in the
lessons. For example, I had to make these cards that said, "Questions,
commands, statement, and exclamations." I would read a type of
sentence and my son had to run to the correct card. My younger son wanted
to play. There are other games, but we got really silly with this
one. I like that in the appendix there is a write up of the story.
I copy it, cut it up, and scramble it and have my son try to put
it in order.
the odd weeks, we read the new story and go over the new grammar
lesson. On the even weeks, it is more of a review of the previous week,
but the child can make a few changes to their rewrite of the story. So,
the child gets to add their own creative touch. The story that I
submitted in the previous article is a sample.
my son likes it because it fun and keeps his interest. I like it because
of the ease to implement the lessons. It starts off simple, but gets more
challenging. It is definitely a classical approach to writing with a
little twist. It is similar to Classical
Writing in some of its ideas. I would recommend for third
grade and up.
~A Comment by Cory Hook,
Homeschooling Mother of Six and Co-op Teacher
“As far as I’m concerned, Amy’s book is nearly perfect.”
~ A Review by Dorothy in NJ
My son is aliving example of the dramatic benefits of Writing Tales. Since working
through and learning with Writing Tales this school year, he is writing with
MUCH greater cohesion, grammatical correctness, and creativity. He LOOKS
FORWARD to writing each rough draft and final copy! He now thinks writing
is fun. I am so thankful for this excellent text!
~ A Review by Sandra in NJ
Writing Tales is fantastic! It has
gotten my non-verbal boys excited about writing. They absolutely can’t
wait to write their story each week. They are learning to write well and
are having fun at the same time—a great
~ A Review by Michelle in NJ
I have been privileged to teach a writing class in a homeschooling co-op this year using Writing Tales II. This curriculum is SO well laid out and easy to follow. It makes it a joy to teach my class! The kids come to class each week excited about what they have written. It has been a joy to watch these kids become more confident writers as they have used the steps incorporated
in Writing Tales! They are not intimidated by writing but truly enjoying it! I plan on using Writing Tales I with my own daughter at home next year. Thanks Amy!
~A comment from “Oh Elizabeth”, a Homeschooling Mom, on the Well Trained Mind
WT (Writing Tales) includes lots of games and age-appropriate activities.There
are prompts for creative additions. WT has an extremely user-friendly manual
with plans for individual or weekly co-op lessons. WT has vocab, but doesn't
try to turn it into your spelling class. (Important if you already have a
spelling program you like!) The WT grammar is delightfully presented with some
words of explanation, games, etc. that I would not have thought of and that I
think will be terrific.
WT's strength is lightening up the tone and making the whole thing more FUN. WT
is SO pleasant to implement, clearly laid out, not overwhelming,
age-appropriate, and enjoyable. I could go on and on! Look at the samples and
see what you think. It's VERY well-done and is so enjoyable! :)
~ A Review by Marcy Salvatore in NJ
Writing Tales has opened the world of writing to my son, who now has learned to approach
writing methodically and creatively. He can't wait to get to his rough and
final drafts and loves polishing them up. Grammar, punctuation, spelling and
outlining make this a thorough, effective and delightful Language Arts