Introducing Cover Story Middle School Writing Curriculum :: a review and giveaway!

Product received for free & I was compensated for time to review.  All opinions are my own.

This month I’ll continue sharing a peek into some homeschool curricula and resources we’re finding SO helpful this year.

Today, let me introduce you to my 5th grader’s writing curriculum!

{The giveaway is at the end of this post}.

the box it all came in!

An Engaging Middle School Writing Curriculum

Yes….I know!  Cover Story is written for middle schoolers and I mentioned my 5th grader.  The beauty of homeschooling, true?  She’s a rather prolific writer and has so far handled the challenge well.

Long before learning of Cover Story’s release (September 2013), I was totally sold on their company and high school curriculum titled One Year Adventure Novel.  After reading several affirming reviews and watching their sample DVD, I just loved the approach, philosophy of teaching, and so much more.  My teen will be using Adventure Novel next year!

Back to the middle school writing curriculum.

Cover Story is truly a delightful and incredibly engaging program fully taught with video lessons. A complete language arts course including grammar, the basis is that students should pursue writing via their passions,

…therefore offering fuel and motivation to WANT to write.

If you can imagine a train riding down a track, I’ll use this to explain how Cover Story’s curriculum guides the student….

Destination?  The creative world of STORY.

The TRACK — each student completes their own themed magazine in the course of one school year.  Whether or not they actually bind it to look like a magazine is your student’s choice.

The TRAIN CARS — these are the individual components learned throughout the journey to creative storytelling.  We’re only 1/3 of the way through the course, but overall students learn to write:

  • poems (haikus, limericks, etc.)
  • short stories
  • advertisements
  • non-fiction articles and reviews
  • interviews
  • letters

Again, ALL lessons for each of the ‘train cars’ take place with Mr. Schwabuaer, the author of Cover Story, via the DVD-based lesson.  Mom or Dad are there to support, encourage, offer guidance and correction.

What my girl has to say about the magazine process:

“It’s a lot of fun because we’re doing things that I probably wouldn’t think of putting in a magazine, such as a review. Mr. Schwabauer teaches in several video lessons how to write a good review and what to include — it’s great!”

The Cover Story Curriculum Kit

Keeping in mind the vision of what this curriculum intends to do, let’s review the kit:

  • 6 DVDs with dramatized lessons:  anything but boring, each of the 70+ lessons is often presented complete with costumes and props to explain a certain concept.  I’ve heard my girl laughing, though she says ‘some things aren’t really all that funny, but that’s why you laugh!’
  • 1 DVD of grammar lessons:  completely optional, but included.  We haven’t used this portion, but here’s an overview (scroll to bottom).
  • 1 student book:  after each video, there is a corresponding lesson to further focus on writing strategies.  Find sample video lesson and pages from the student book here.

Each writing strategy taught is through a step-by-step process of brainstorming & planning, then outlining before actually writing.  The repetition is helpful and cements the entire learning process.

My daughter completes many of her writing assignments on the computer after doing a pencil & paper brainstorming process — there is space in the book for some writing, but you’ll need extra paper or to use a computer.

  • 1 teacher’s guidebook:  for me, this is a highlight!  I love how simple and straight-forward it is.  Really, some teacher’s books are so confusing.

Each week offers a guide (pictured above) of concepts covered in the video lessons, and how to guide the student — what to expect, how to evaluate their writing, and when to give unit tests.  Rubrics, tests and answer keys are all provided.

The guide includes several short stories which are used for the student to evaluate and learn from another person’s writing — and to see how another author utilized a particular writing style or strategy or how a story flows a particular way.

Brilliant critical thinking skills in the making!

  • 1 journal:  this is a beautiful hardcover book, and offers some writing already included from the fictional Professor Gunther von Steuban. The purpose here seems to be to observe life around you and to record what you experience, just like the professor.

For some reason, my girl found this aspect a bit burdensome (not that it will be for every student), so we laid it aside after a while.  The journal entry writing isn’t critical to learning any of the writing strategies.

Overall, my 5th grader is enjoying Cover Story very much!

While Cover Story strongly advocates children pursuing writing via their most passionate topic of interest, it is NOT a ‘fluff’ curriculum.

A quote from the Teacher’s Guide:  

“Writing well is work.  Sometimes it is liberating and inspiring and transforming work, but it is still work….the point of Cover Story is learning to love writing by nurturing the creative impulse….[The author believes] this is best fostered by helping students to explore their passion.”

Enter to WIN the Cover Story Curriculum Kit

The generous folks over at Clear Water Press are giving ONE winner the FULL kit (worth $149).

Enter to win below; giveaway runs until Monday, March 10th at midnight.  Winner will be notified on the 11th via email and will have 48 hrs to respond with mailing address before new winner is chosen.  Clear Water Press will mail the kit directly to the winner; continental US addresses only. Giveaway is now CLOSED – thank you!!

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Want to share your thoughts? Click here to send me an email.

49 comments

Brittany

I think my son would appreciate the “fun” side and DVDs since our current Grammar/Writing program is pretty dry and to the point. He does fine with it, but neither does he view it as FUN.

Mary Happymommy

The DVD of grammar lessons would be very useful to us!

Audrey T.

I think my daughter would most appreciate the DVDs with dramatized lessons. She would really enjoy learning in such a fun way.

I think my 6th grader would love the dramatized lessons!

My daughter would LOVE the journal book! And the step-by-step lessons look like they would be especially helpful in guiding her through the writing process.
What a wonderful giveaway – thank you!

Angi Wirrick

I think my child would LOVE the entire idea of this curriculum. He would like the idea of creating a magazine of his own. This sounds like a great way to have him be creative without actually realizing he’s doing school! Brillant!

ckilinsk

I have a very reluctant creative writer so opening up her imagination would open a whole new world of confident writing for her.

Martha

My son would love the DVD lessons and the shorter format of magazine articles to write. I think my older daughter would also enjoy this with him as they have tried their hand at making their own magazine in the past, but weren’t totally satisfied with the finished product.

Elena

they would like the dramatized lessons

Sharon Normark

I think my son would enjoy the dramatized lessons most. He loves trains and dreams of writing his own novel one day.

Maria Mitchell

My child would probably most appreciate the dramatized lessons on DVD.

Nicole

I have been looking at this program for months! I really think it would work well for my kids. It looks like it would engage all of them.

Gwen

This is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Something up to date. Something that makes writing fun. Something with visuals. Something creative .

Jasmine

Wow, that sounds amazing! Thanks for the chance to enter the contest. 🙂

Gabrielle

My child lives writing so I’m sure she would enjoy most aspects of the program. I think the highest benefit would come from learning about different types of writing.

Jeff

Looks like a great program!

Michelle

We love Cover Story! A well needed change for our homeschool. I am looking forward to seeing how my son grows with the program.

SilverMoon

My 8th grader will like the creative writing worked in and steampunk flavor, and my 5th grader will enjoy the quirkiness and humor. I’ll enjoy them enjoying their writing curriculum!

Brandi Leach

I think we would most appreciate the detailed instructions!

My so would love the fun videos. I watched the sample on the website and thought it was cleverly done!

Nicole

My daughter would really love the unique flavor here! We are right on the cusp of enjoying the writing process.

My son and daughter will love the video component of this curriculum! Thanks for the review and giveaway.

Melissa C

I think she would love the dramatized lessons and the short stories. She wants to be a writer, so I think Cover Story is a great way to start learning the process.

Karolyn

I think my son would like having a magazine he created to show others.

Sarah

I think my son would love the dramatized lessons.

My kids would love a writing curriculum like this! Thanks for hosting this great giveaway!

Sharon Spahr

My daughter would love the independence and the finished product to show off!

Tna R.

I think that my daughter would like the humorous dramatized lessons on DVD the most.
This sounds like a really neat curriculum. Thank you for sharing it with us. 🙂

Dorrie

I was checking into this product for my 8th grader. it would be wonderful to win it! Thank you for this opportunity!

DeeAnn

We need to find a good writing curriculum and this one sounds interesting! Love your blog!

Cathy

I think my daughter would appreciate the fun aspect of the dramatized lessons.

Amy Marshall

I think they would like the DVDs and the comedy of it!

Carol S.

I really like how self-contained this is! I’m so tired of picking something from this vendor, than another, etc. I need something more cohesive and this just makes perfect sense. Love the DVD idea!

Jessica

My son would appreciate the fun DVD’s…he would be able to relate to the storyteller & characters! Right now he’s not a fan of writing, but I think this program would turn him around!!

Jodie

My twins would love the Steampunk aspect of this curriculum!

Abbey

I know my sons would enjoy the whole thing really. From the way it’s laid out to how it’s presented, from learning how to joyfully write to creating their own peice. We’ve watched the demos and can’t wait to get started! I don’t think the kids will be the only ones learning 😉

Erika

My son would get a kick out of the videos! We have looked at this curriculum and have it on our wishlist!

Tamara A.

I believe she’ll find the interviews fun because along with being a creative writer she’s also a chatterbox lol
However, in my heart I’m lead to think that the fact that all her works come together to form her very own magazine is what’s going to motivate her the most. Knowing that theres a purpose for it to all come together into one body of work will probably be most thrilling.

My children would love Cover Story! Such a great idea!

KellyP

The multimedia approach is fantastic. My son is a reluctant writer, but he’ll take instruction in video form, especially if it’s a little off-center. 🙂

Rondi

We haven’t really done much writing in the way of curriculum. I would love this curriculum to get started. It looks great!

My 6th grader LOVES to write and she shows particular interest in playwriting and fictional stories. I think she would really enjoy the dramatized lessons and writing anything fictional. She really does love a good challenge though and we are on the hunt for a solid writing curriculum. This looks fantastic.

Monica Porter

This sounds really interesting for my boys entering 7th grade.

I feel like my kids would appreciate how non traditional this is. My kids have a “this looks like busy work!” alert that goes off and prevents them from trying lol

kim mcdonald

Would love to win this for my daughter, who would like to start a magazine on photography

Melissa

My daughter is 12 and LOVES to write! It is a challenge to find her activities to keep her challenged and engaged, but still be age appropriate. She would flip if we were able to do this program!

J

Parents should be aware that this curriculum contains quite a bit of violent references and stories. For instance, there is an account of a massacre in Sudan, a barbaric story in which a princess must choose whether her love is violently killed or given to be married to another woman whom she despises, a story of a sniper picking people off only to end up killing his own brother, a hanging, and more. While I enjoy the teacher’s DVDs when he is doing creative or funny skits, and I do think he covers a good range of story writing elements, I am really disappointed at the amount of violence shared. I’m sure there are many wonderful stories that could’ve demonstrated the necessary writing elements without so much disturbing reading.

Nikki Brooks

Could you use this for high school to get a student interested in writing? Also, why can’t I find a used set online? Thanks.

[…] I’ll only share a quick peek; I have a more detailed review with my daughter’s thoughts on what she loved over at Domestic Serenity. […]