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Frequently Asked Questions

Peruse answers to commonly asked questions about Write Ahead.

How long has Write Ahead been in business?

Write Ahead launched in November or 2018. Some of Write Ahead’s milestones are illustrated in the below figure.

Are Write Ahead classes interactive?

Classes are all led by a live instructor and are interactive. The format is hands-on, whereby instructors spend minimal time lecturing. Instead, we encourage students to learn through experience, analysis of examples, practice, and feedback. Instructors will, for example, explain the criteria of a strong topic sentence (thesis statement for older students) and ask students to rank examples (our brains learn by comparing), model how to create one, then ask students to practice, during which instructors provide feedback. For every element of writing, the pedagogy takes students through a cycle of learning criteria, reviewing examples, modeling, practicing, and receiving feedback. 

What are the credentials of the Write Ahead instructors?

All instructors and trained and vetted by co-teaching a class with the program’s founder, who ensures they have learned the pedagogy, can engage students, can foster critical thinking, and can lift writing quality. The most important characteristics sought in teachers are energy and enthusiasm, a sense of humor, intellectual curiosity, and a love of reading (which correlates with strong writing). All instructors who fit this criteria either have teaching experience as a background or attended an ivy league university.  

Can Write Ahead teach my STEM child how to write?

Students who consider themselves strong STEM students tend to experience quick improvements in their writing with our program.  We teach a process to follow, which STEM-oriented students appreciate. We explain what steps they should complete and how to “check” the work to ensure the output of each step accomplished its goal. STEM students tend to transition from unsure of how to approach and evaluate their writing to confident in their ability to proceed and assess their results. 

How many essays do Write Ahead students complete during a class?

The number of essays depends on the class:

  • During the 3-week intensive summer session, students complete 2-3 essays.

  • During the 8-week summer session, students complete 2 essays. 

  • During the school-year classes, students complete 5-8 essays.

How do I convince my son or daughter to attend a Write Ahead class?

The most compelling selling points for parents to use with their children are:

  1. The class has no homework

  2. The class will improve their writing quality

  3. The class will make writing assignments for school and homework easier and, more importantly, faster!

How does Write Ahead’s online writing class format operate?

When the pandemic started, Write Ahead had to move from in-person to online classes. We have found the online format provides many benefits over in-person classes for students in the 4th grade or above. Working together in a shared Google doc allows instructors to see student work as it is being produced and to provide feedback in real-time. This has transformed the impact of the class. Instructors can see when anyone is going off-track, disengages, or is stuck and help them determine how to best move forward without delay. The online format also allows students to work in parallel (for example, all students can answer a question at the same time) vs. in series, which has increased engagement. The online format also allowed for a decrease in the student-instructor ratio to 6-1, which has further increased effectiveness. 

 

For parents who are concerned that the online format will not work well for their child, our policy allows anyone to drop a class anytime for a prorated refund (net of credit card fees and downpayment). Only 4% of students drop early, usually due to sports conflicts, and the majority of that 4% have re-enrolled at a later time for continued enrichment. 

What is the difference between the school year and summer classes?

The school-year classes are not fundamentally different from the summer classes; however, as there are more classes during the school-year sessions, we are able to cover many strategies, techniques, advanced grammar rules, literary devices, genres, and sentence structures that can't be covered during the shorter summer session, as well as provide additional practice and feedback opportunities. Students typically complete 6-8 essays during the school year, while over the summer, they will complete 2-3. 

 

Given the additional depth, school-year classes tend to experience greater enrollment compared to summer classes. 

Does Write Ahead teach grammar?

Grammar is covered in the class. The grammar concepts vary by age. High school students are taught the grammar needed for the SAT and ACT, as well as the most common grammar mistakes that cloud writing clarity. Younger students are taught more basic grammar. However, we first focus on teaching students how to develop and prove a strong argument, i.e., how to ensure their content is strong. The short duration of summer classes only allows for cursory grammar coverage, while school year classes allow for greater grammar depth. Of note, we have invested significantly in our grammar lessons to ensure students:

  1. understand the grammar rules,

  2. practice through identifying and correcting mistakes,

  3. practice through application or usage,

  4. remember the rules through regular exposure. 

We have tailored the content for learning grammar to consist of Greek mythology summaries to try to maintain engagement in what is often considered a less-than-stimulating subject.  For example, can you identify the parallel construction mistakes in the following sentences: 

1. Cronus, a Titan, swallowed each of his children as they were born. His wife Rhea was upset about not being able to spend time with her children, so she come up with a plan, wrapped a rock in a baby blanket, and gives the wrapped rock instead of baby Zeus to Cronos. 

2. When Zeus grew older, he freed his five siblings from Cronons, and the six of them became the first Olympian gods. These Olympians were able to maintain their power, to rule the universe, leading the lives of both gods and people. 

3. Gaia believed they should be grateful that Zeus freed them from their father, so she decided to suggest, to ask and command them to accept Zeus as their ruler. 

4. The ambitious Zeus readily accepted this honor. But how would they divide the world? They had to decide who would rule the heavens, who would rule the sea, who would rule the earth, and the Underworld.

Do you assign homework?

There is no homework. Homework has not tended to be effective, as the most effective learning takes place during class interactions. Learning results from discussion and real-time feedback on their writing.

Is the class a good fit for my son or daughter with learning differences or a neurodiverse learning style? 

The writing pedagogy we use, SRSD, was originally developed for alternative learning styles.  If you search for SRSD and dyslexia or ADHD or dysgraphia you will find many empirical studies showing writing improvements. About 20 years ago the pedagogy was carried to general ed and demonstrated writing improvements as well. The explicit, structured approach tends to work well with many different learning styles. 

How do Wrtie Ahead’s essay classes progress from year to year?

Core writing strategies related to planning or outlining before writing, integrating critical thinking into arguments, and editing techniques are maintained and reinforced from year-to-year. What changes is the level of insight and fluency sought in the writing.  This is best demonstrated with an example, at the 3rd grade level, we want students to write a topic sentence that turns around the prompt (dogs make better pets than cats), for 4th/5th we teach students to add a central idea to their topic (dogs make better pets because they are loving), for 6th and 7th the thesis statement should include a result or impact (dogs, with their loving and affectionate personalities, make better pets due to increasing the happiness of a family), by 8th grade the result or impact should delve into the human condition (dogs make better pets due to improving their owner’s confidence through the power of their unconditional love) and a high school thesis statement should include a universal truth (dogs as pets inject love and affection into a household leading to increased composure illustrating that an encouraging home environment aids in overcoming daily obstacles).  The rest of the class is then tailored around proving the thesis statement and fluency at whatever level of depth is appropriate for the grade level.  Each year progresses to more advanced sentence structures, vocabulary, editing strategies, literary techniques, quote integration, depth of analysis, and extension of the concluding idea.

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