This is our third year using the Brave Writer Arrow Literature Guides. And we love them. In fact, our family has adopted them as the core language arts program in our homeschool.
While the guides are fairly straight-forward, I know that homeschooling families love to read about how it is working in other homes. I totally get that feeling as I feel the same way!
What exactly are the Brave Writer Arrow Guides?
They are 3rd-6th grade book specific literature guides designed for parents to guide their students through four weeks of language arts activities. The Arrow Guide includes weekly copywork/dictations passages alongside notes about the passage incorporating grammar, spelling, punctuation and literary style. A specific literary element is focused on in each guide as well. The most recent guides (2016-2017 school year and beyond) also include “Big Juicy Questions” to foster discussion with your students.
Arrow Guides can be purchased individually by title or parents can purchase a year-long subscription for 10 guides and receive them once a month from August through May. This will be our third year using the annual subscription. In addition, we purchased the Quiver of Arrows one year for my younger set of students. The Quiver is designed with titles in mind for 1st-2nd graders.
Do you read the book first, during, or after you begin the activities in the guide?
We always begin the book before we start the guide, even if we have to put off our Monday morning copywork plan for a day. It is important to have read at least through the copywork passage for the week. The first week’s passage is typically in the first chapter or two, so it isn’t hard to get to that point.
Once we start the guide, we just read a little each day and move at a pace comfortable to us that keeps us ahead of the weekly passages. Sometimes we finish the entire book by week 2 in the guide. Other times we have to read extra amounts of time to get caught up by week four.
Regardless of when we finish the book, we work through the guide in four weeks, completely one guide a month.
How do you break down the guide each week?
We are trying something different this year using loop scheduling (see below) In the past, this is how an “ideal” week has looked:
(If it is week 1, you will want to begin your day by reading a few chapters or kick off the book over the weekend so you are ready for the copywork passage.)
I typically have the copywork passage written on my dry erase board. If it is too long, I make copies to hand to each of my children. We read and discuss the spelling and grammar in the passage based on the notes provided in the guide. I let the kids mark up the passage on the dry erase board or the photocopied page.
I might ask them to circle all of the capital letters and then tell me why it is capitalized. We might underline our favorite verb or dig for some colorful adjectives. I pull ideas from the guide and make them up as I go along.
Then my kids begin copying the passage in their copywork notebooks. My younger children simply copy the passage under my writing because I write it on every other line of their notebooks the day before. My older children copy it from the guide. I had no idea how difficult it was for some kids to copy it from the guide, so I am happy to write it in their notebooks the day before if they prefer it. I usually write it in there when they are doing independent work and just need me present to ask questions.
My kids finish the copywork passage or complete more of it as they are able.
IF this is a good day for discussion, we finish the rest of the notes provided in the guide about the literary element. We also revisit grammar and/or spelling as needed.
If today is a bit crazy, then I put off our discussion until tomorrow.
Typically my kids finish the copying the passage today and we finish up any discussion left in the guide.
Thursday and Friday
If we had an ideal week, then we can use these days to complete a dictation activity during our “Arrow” time or just enjoy the fruits of our labor and read a little more of the book each day.
I like to leave the end of the week open because we typically have some catch up to do on items we didn’t finish from our Mon-Wed plans.
Thursday and Friday are ideal times to work a little the literary element activity included in week 4. We typically do this during week 4, but sometimes it has been appropriate to start earlier. These days are also good ones to work on any Brave Writer writing projects that we have chosen for the month.
What about the Big Juicy Questions now found in the guide?
We will use them throughout the book. I will keep an eye on them and ask the appropriate ones as we hit that chapter or section. I will not have the kids write answers out to these questions as a group. I might work on partnering with my 6th grader to help her form a complete, written answer to one question for each book.
Is the Arrow the only spelling and grammar your kids complete?
While I think copywork is an extremely effective way to teach both, I typically supplement the guides.
My middle two children need a lot of spelling help, so they each complete a formal spelling program.
We have dabbled in all sorts of grammar programs, though nothing very intense. We have read through most of First Language Lessons Level 1 and Level 2 together to memorize the definitions of important grammar terms. This year, I ordered grade level Evan Moore Grammar and Punctuation guides for the kids to complete 1-2 times a week when our Arrow activities are light.
How does it work with multiple grade levels?
The first year my 3rd and 5th graders worked in the Arrow Guides while my 1st grader and 4-year-old simply listened to the books.
This fourth year my 8th grader will work through the current Boomerang subscription. My 6th, 4th, and 2nd grader will work through the current Arrow Guides. My 2nd grader will only do what he is able to do in our discussions. He has a handwriting book and probably won’t do the copywork.
It looks a little different each time. You have to go with the flow in your own house.
If you are ready to pick a guide to try, you can check out my Top Ten Arrow Guides. I based my ranking on the guide content, so it might help you narrow down the one you’d like to use.
Have you tried the Brave Writer Arrow Guides? How does it look in your house?