Composition Curriculum Resources



If you or your child enjoys writing and/or likes to work without a traditional textbook, here are the resources I would recommend, and in the order in which I would use them.

Or until the child can write comfortably in manuscript. See The Three Rs for more information on this age level.

  • Read aloud daily from a variety of literature to increase his vocabulary.

  • Have him dictate his compositions to you or on a tape recorder.

  • Make booklets with pictures and have him dictate what he wants to say.

  • Make his dictations relate to other subjects being studied such as history or science. (I make my granddaughter little construction paper booklets. She cuts out pictures and pastes them into the booklet. We sometimes make it a theme booklet, like animals, flowers, insects, etc. Then I let her dictate to me what she wants to say about each picture and I write it on the page. She writes her name on the front to practice handwriting.)

Your child must be able to write comfortably in manuscript for these activities. Otherwise have him do them orally or continue with activities listed in PreK - Kindergarten.

  • Read aloud from a variety of literature that is above grade level to increase his vocabulary.

  • Start the lesson with warm up exercises.

  • Let him be creative. Encourage him to make up stories. Use one of these resources to get him started:

    -Creative Writing Ideas. This booklet has it all. Because it is graphically oriented, it is great for the Visual Learner. It includes forms for shape stories, draw and write stories, riddle crafts, sequence and write (cut out pictures, put them in any order, then write the story based on the order of the pictures), fill in missing words sort of like mad libs, story starters (write a story based on the given short sentence and picture), comics (color and cut out figures for cartoon. Then write in speech bubbles.), and other lessons. I like this a lot because it helps them learn to use descriptive writing, use all the senses in their writing, and provides some practical lessons as well (writing directions, how-tos, letter writing, and a short section on poetry.) A great resource you shouldn't be without. ISBN 1557996075.

    - Story Starters by Karen Andreoloa. I have not used this book, but have heard that others enjoy it. "Each story suspends the student in the middle of a predicament. He is then faced with the question, “What happens next?” . . . each story is illustrated with one or more engaging 19th century pictures. The settings are sometimes intense, sometimes funny, sometimes sweetly domestic, but always pose a challenge."

    -Cut & Paste An Animal Story. This is fun. Your child colors picture boxes, cuts them out, and then pastes them in any order he desires. Then he writes his story based on the order he has pasted his pictures. Purchase at education stores.

    - Comic Book Creator (Interactive):

  • Have him dictate the stories occasionally. You can either write them by hand or type them for him.

  • Help him create a picture autobiography. Collect pictures of your child from birth to present age. Have him paste one to a page in a composition book. Each day, have him write short captions to the pictures.

  • Make graphic “books” with him and let him label the pictures. Use resources such as:

    How to Make Books with Children: Science & Math Topics include magnets, dinosaurs, weather, seasons, electricity, plants, matter, sound, moon, solar system, five senses, animals, flight, animal camouflage, gravity, earthquake, habitats, my body, and volcanoes. This is a wonderful resource for multi-level teaching! Written for grades 1-6.

    - Big Book of Books and Activities by Dinah Zike.

    - Easy File Folder Reports by Evan-Moor. This is a brand new resource for your Visual learner and anyone who likes cut, paste, color, and crafts. Students create a 3-D file folder report that includes 3-D graphics and short writing assignments (perfect for the reluctant writer). Topics are All about Me, Explorers, Native Americans, Women of America, Black Americans, Incredible People, National Monuments, U.S. states (short enough you can learn about another state besides your own), U.S. Presidents, Inventions, National Parks, Seeds to Plants, Desert Dwellers, Forest Dwellers, Minerals, Life in the Oceans, Save the Earth, Endangered Animals, Holidays (New Years, Independence Days, Thanksgiving, Arbor Day, December Holidays). There is enough here that anyone could use this book. Recommended for grades 3 - 6. Published 2004. ISBN 1557999635.

  • Teach him what a sentence is and how to write a good one. Use resources such as:

    - How to Write a Sentence by TCM. This is an easy-to-use resource for specific instruction on writing sentences. It includes sentence structure, capitals and punctuation, subjects, verbs, and adjectives. A review game and an award certificate is included. 36 lessons. I recommend doing two per week for an 18-week course, finishing the year with How To Write a Paragraph (see below). ISBN 1576904989.

    - Write A Super Sentence Grades 1-3 by Evan-Moor. This is an excellent resource for helping your children learn to use Who, What, Where, When and How to add interest to their writing. 15+ lessons. Includes reproducible forms and Sentence Wheel, Pull-Through Sentence, and Flip Book activities. ISBN 1557996067.

  • Teach him what a paragraph is and how to put one together. Use resources such as:

    - How to Write a Paragraph by TCM. 36 lessons. Covers how to come up with ideas for writing, how to develop a main idea, how to stick to the main point by using topic sentences, using explanations or what next to write the body of the paragraph, paragraph endings, how to describe using VENN diagrams, persuasive writing, ISBN 1576904946.

  • Teach him the beginnings of outlining.

    - Four Square Writing, Grades 1-3 by Teaching & Learning Company.

  • Teach him some writing tricks. I love this resource: Writing Tricks Plus by David S. Dye. This book contains short lessons on how to incorporate writing tricks that will make your writing much more interesting: simile, metaphor, idioms, personification, vaunting verbs, hyperbole, and much more.

    As they are ready, begin to prepare them for report writing. See 4th-6th below.

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Or as soon as your child writes comfortably in both manuscript and cursive.

  • Continue to read aloud to him to improve vocabulary and give him good writing models.

  • Teach your child to type (Use resources such as Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing Deluxe 17 Win/Mac and Typing Tutor.

  • Allow him to type composition assignment, if preferred. A composition lesson does NOT have to be a handwriting lesson.

  • Start the lesson with warm up exercises.

  • A new favorite (2016): Writers in Residence by Debra Bell. Here's what I like about it: (1) It's not graded and doesn't use "dumbed-down" vocabulary, so any student will benefit from the lessons. I plan on using it in my foundational comp class for Jr./Sr high. (2) It covers all the important grammar rules needed at a foundational level, and the rules are reviewed throughout the year to help the students master them. (3) For the composition lessons, Dr. Bell uses interviews and sample writings of famous authors for inspiration and modeling good writing. Her step-by-step instructions are easy to follow, thorough, and effective. I am very pleased and highly recommend this for anyone looking for an effective, foundational writing course.

  • Use Writing Strands, beginning with Book 3, if you only want to purchase one resource. Use these other resources for specific skill improvement:
  • If he hasn’t learned yet, teach him what a sentence is and how to write a good one.

    - How to Write a Sentence, Grades 2-5 by TCM.

    - Write a Super Sentence by Evan-Moor.

    - Writing Fabulous Sentences & Paragraphs - Grades 4-6 by Evan-Moor.

  • If he hasn’t learned yet, teach him what a paragraph is and how to put one together.

    - How to Write a Paragraph by Teacher Created Materials.

  • If he hasn’t learned yet, teach him how to outline. Use resources such as:

    - Four Square Writing, Grades 4-6 by Teaching & Learning Company

    - Descriptive Writing by The Mailbox. Purchase at local educational bookstores.

  • Have him outline short magazine articles.

  • Begin to work on report writing once he has mastered the basic sentence, paragraph, and outlining. Report writing is easier for most kids than creative writing. Use resources such as:

    - How to Write a Simple Report by Teacher Created Materials.

    - How to Write Simple Science Reports by Evan-Moor. Thirty dinosaur and wild animal topics. (Excellent to use along with science units on each topic.) ISBN 1557993793.

    - Complete Writing Lessons For the Primary Grades by Marjorie Frank. I use the exercises in these books for kids of all ages! ISBN 0865301638.

    - How to Make a Book Report by Teacher Created Materials. Includes character reports, plot reports, story detail reports, author/illustrator reports, book recommendations, and book presentations. ISBN 1576905039.

    -Newspaper Reporters, An Introduction to Newspaper Writing by Teacher Created Material. Purchase at education stores. ISBN 1557341370.

    - Newspaper blanks available from Teacher Created Material or use a word processor to create their own. Purchase at education stores.

    - Guided Report Writing by Evan-Moor. Specific areas covered are choosing a topic, formulating subtopics, locating information, taking notes, converting notes to paragraphs; responding, revising, and editing; producing final copy; and including graphs, illustrations, maps, and charts. ISBN 1557997322.

    - Online Resources: 6+1 Trait Writing Lesson Plans:

  • Teach him how to write letters, thank you notes, memos, envelopes, resumes, faxes and more everyday writing.

    - Everyday Writing by Teacher Created Materials. ISBN 0743936159.

  • Begin teaching him descriptive, explanatory and persuasive writing. Use resources such as:

    - HOW TEACH NONFICTION WRITING/3-6 by Evan Moor. ISBN 1557998000.

    - Explanatory Writing by The Mailbox. Purchase at education stores.

    - Persuasive Writing by The Mailbox. Purchase at education stores.

    - Descriptive Writing by The Mailbox. Purchase at education stores.

    - Descriptive Mysteries by Critical Thinking Books. Purchase at education stores.

  • Introduce creative writing using resources such as:

    - Cut & Paste An Animal Story by EduPress. Purchase at education stores.

    - Creative Writing Ideas. Forms for shape stories, draw and write stories, riddle crafts, sequence and write (cut out pictures, put them in any order, then write the story based on the order of the pictures), fill in missing words sort of like mad libs, story starters (write a story based on the given short sentence and picture), comics (color and cut out figures for cartoon. Then write in speech bubbles.), and other lessons. ISBN 1557996075.

    - HOW TO WRITE STORY/GR 1-3 by Evan-Moor. ISBN 1557998019.

- How to Write a Story, Grades 2-5 by Teacher Created Materials

- Story Ideas:

- Story Builder:

  • Teach him to write poetry using Poetry Patterns by Evan-Moor. This is a wonderful resource that covers all forms of poetry writing. ISBN 1557997330. Also check out 30 Days of Poetry, a 30-day lesson plan covering all forms of poetry writing.

  • For additional work in composition, use:

    - Expanding the Writing Process With Elaboration, Challenging by Teacher Created Materials.

    - Writing Strands by National Writing Institute. This is an excellent series. If you have a budding author, this is the best composition curriculum out there. I recommend starting this in 2nd grade and work through 12th grade. See Composition Textbooks Recommendations for recommendations by grade level for more information.

    - Teaching the Elements of Powerful Writing Using Great Fiction and Nonfiction Models by Jane Sullivan. Scholastic. This resource is a diamond in the rough! It took a lot of effort on my part, as the teacher, to understand the concept, BUT it was well worth the effort. This is not a quick-fix, easy-to-do worksheet approach so if you're looking for something quick and easy, you will need to look elsewhere. Instead, this is a resource that can be used throughout the year to teach specific techniques in writing by reading good literature, breaking it down into lessons on writing strong leads, using your senses, creating characters, and more. I found this resource extremely valuable and helpful in training children to write both fiction and nonfiction. I recommend it to those who are willing to take the time to teach children to write interesting and effective compositions. The technique can be applied to any literature of the same type, so you could substitute your own books instead of the ones suggested. ISB 0439517818. Gr 3-6+

  • When ready, prepare him for research report writing using resources such as:

    - How to Write a Research Report by Teacher Created Materials.

  • Teach him how to write letters, business letters, thank you notes, resumes, etc.

  • Use Writing Project Ideas for ideas to integrate composition with other subjects.

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7th - 12th grade

  • Require him to read a variety of books and/or continue to read to him for vocabulary development.

  • Have him read 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Gary Provost. I make this required reading in my high school comp classes.

  • Start the lesson with warm up exercises and writing prompts.

  • Continue working on research papers

    -My current favorite book for teaching the research paper is: How to Write a Great Research Paper by Beverly Chin.

  • Continue working on creative writing.These resources will help your child develop “professional” writing techniques such as using vivid verbs, descriptive adjectives, concrete nouns, using similes, and more.

    - Writing Strands - Creating Fiction . This is my favorite for serious writers.

    - Wordsmith, New Edition . Includes both grammar and composition for 7th - 9th graders.

    - Wordsmith Craftsman . Includes both grammar and composition for 10th - 12th graders.

    - Expanding the Writing Process With Elaboration, Challenging by Teacher Created Materials. Purchase at local educational bookstores.

  • Work on persuasive writing and critical thinking for college.These resources will help your student develop skills needed in college:

- Persuasion Points by Brian Backman. An excellent resource for teaching persuasive writing. I use this as one of my resources for my classroom. If I were buying only one resource, this would be the one I would use.

- Writing With a Purpose: Persuasive Writing by Barbara Doherty. I like this resource because it teaches the students how to recognize facts from opinions, how to understand point of view, and how to recognize and use a variety of persuasive techniques to persuade. I use some exercises out of here at the beginning of our lessons in persuasive writing.

- Persuasive Writing by Saddleback Educational Publishing. Another resource I use in the classroom when introducing persuasive writing. This one helps your students to learn to use the best words for persuasion and provides practice in writing persuasively in a variety of projects such as a movie review, an advertisement, a letter of complaint, etc.

-Inferences & Drawing Conclusions by Linda Ward Beech. This is a skill that can be taught and is extremely useful in college. Grab this while you can - currently out of print.

-Writing to Inform and Persuade by Carolyn Kane (Carson-Dellosa). Unfortunately, this is also out of print, but if you can find a copy, it has tons of information on how to teach the logic needed for persuasion essays. Students are introduced to induction, fallacies, hasty generalization, post hoc fallacy, syllogism, premises, false dilemma and the slippery slope, etc. There are other books that do this, but this one has been created for younger students and is easier to understand for those of us who need a bit of help!

  • If you have a student who is serious about becoming an author, try some of these resources:

    - Seize the Story by Victoria Hanley. A fun book that your teen will enjoy reading and that will help him write a fiction story.

    - Anatomy of Nonfiction by Margery Facklam and Peggy Thomas. This book is one of my favorite resources for teaching students to write true stories, stories for magazines or nonfiction books. The techniques used here are also perfect for teaching your student to write reports that gets A's!

    - Writer’s Market Guide (for current year) by Writer’s Digest (

    - any books published by Writer’s Digest - check the library.

    - Join a writer's group: Society of Children's Book Authors and Illustrators is a national group with regional chapters. The authors who attend write anything from board books to chapter books to young adult novels. If you want to get published, you MUST network and what better way to network than through a local writing club. Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America for mystery writers. American Christian Fiction Writers, and Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America are some additional ones to check out.

    - Online courses such as

  • 1. Writer's Digest Online Workshops. I took a course from Writer's Digest and was delighted to find that I was able to work with a Christian writer. You can read the instructor's bio for this information.

    2. How to Think Sideways - I purchased the Create-A-Character, Create-A-Plot, and How to Write Page-Turning Scenes and found them very information for not a lot of money. I haven't tried any of her onlne classes, but they look interesting!

  • If your student is going to college:

    - Essential Writing Skills for College and Beyond by C.M. Gill. Get your teen to read through this for information on how to write an essay for college.

    - Essay Writing Step-by-Step - Newsweek. This is an excellent resource for learning college writing skills.

Assessment Resources for Teachers:

For more information on teaching composition, download my free Composition Mini Workshop for Parents (pdf document)

Looking for a composition tutor or an online class? Send your student to a local co-op (Cornerstone Tutorial Center in Tulsa, OK) or enroll him in an online class. Check out my classes at Cornerstone (Cindy Downes' Tutoring) or through distance learning if you live outside the Tulsa area.

Don't forget to keep track of what you did for composition in The Checklist!



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