We are 7 weeks into the school year and I have recently made a BIG curriculum switch, for Language Arts, for my 3rd grade daughter. The past month we did a trial run with the Brave Writer DART program and absolutely love it! I have been eyeing this curriculum for a long time, decided to give it a try, and am so glad I did. Many of you are interested in learning more and possibly trying it as well, so today I’m sharing why we made the change, how the program works, and our thoughts on why we love it.
Why the change?
My daughter was using The Good and the Beautiful Language Arts Level 3 for her 3rd grade year so far. There is nothing wrong with this curriculum. TGATB is a wonderful and thorough program, that we use for many other subjects and my other children still use for Language Arts. However, for my daughter, it was getting to be tedious, too repetitive (“boring” in her words,) and there were many parts she didn’t enjoy, so I would skip them. We have used TGATB every year since my daughter was 4, starting with the Preschool Course Book and going all the way up to now, Level 3. So, for her, I really think it was just time for a change and to try something new.
She is an amazing and advanced reader, so books and reading is one of her favorite things. Writing is NOT, and the only thing I felt like her TGATB workbook sort of just threw at you time to time, and she began starting to hate writing. I thought being able to learn grammar, literary concepts, and writing through good books would be something she would enjoy more. I sat her down and had a chat with her about trying something new or sticking with TGATB. She was immediately intrigued and excited with the idea of the Brave Writer program and wanted to give it a try. Since the DART Literature Singles are only 4 week guides, we felt comfortable putting aside TGATB for a month and trying out Brave Writer. If it didn’t work out for us and she didn’t like it, we could easily pick back up TGATB and continue on.
What is Brave Writer DART?
There are many amazing courses provided by Brave Writer and DART is just one of their levels to teach the mechanics of writing, grammar, and literature. DART is geared for ages 8-10. There is also QUILL (ages 5-7), ARROW (ages 11-12), BOOMERANG (ages 13-14), and SLINGSHOT (ages 15-18). Find all the Literature Singles HERE!
Each of these help you “explore, experience, and explain grammar, punctuation, literary analysis, and literary devices while reading great books.”
You can purchase all the guides within the DART program as a bundle or individually. (I just purchased individually to try it out for now. There is at least 20 different book guides to choose from.) It is a digital download, and is a 4 week open and go curriculum, featuring one novel each month.
Each DART contains weekly passages for copy work and dictation. It helps you on how to teach grammar, punctuation, spelling, and vocabulary through these passages each week. It offers discussion questions, book party ideas, and focuses on one literary device for each novel.
Each DART guide also comes with a Guideline pack that teaches you, the parent, all about how to use the DART program, how to teach different styles of copy work, and more. It also offers planning pages and how to add these lessons into your school day each week. This was very helpful and something you’ll have to refer back anytime you need additional help.
How does DART work each week?
Each week you are given a small passage from the book (1-2 sentences) you are reading together and will use this for copy work. You will also use this passage to help teach LA concepts (grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc.) Each week the passage is different, and your child does the copy work differently (which I love.)
For example, the first week they just copy the passage. The second week they do “French-style dictation” where they basically fill in the blanks as you read it to them. The third week they write down the passage with full dictation by you. And the final week they do “reverse dictation” which is where they are given the passage completely incorrect, and they fix all the grammar mistakes. We both loved how it was switched up and different each week.
Using the passage you are given, it guides you on different concepts to go over together throughout the week, and I would just do one each day. These are very short and quick. You are using the guide to show how different punctuation, grammar, and writing techniques are used. It is mostly just chatting about it together, which feels weird at first, but surprisingly effective for my daughter.
At the end of the week is also an activity, usually a small writing project. These have been really simple and FUN! One week, my daughter was learning about onomatopoeia (words that are spelt like they sound,) so her writing project at the end of the week was a comic strip and to use as many onomatopoeia words as she could (like BOOM, POW, Eek!) She thought this was so fun and gladly completed it, and my son wanted to do it too, so he joined her.
While you are going through this guide, you are reading the book together. It does not tell you how many pages or chapters to read when, it is totally up to you and how quickly and slowly you get through it. *Personally, I went through the guide before hand and looked at the passages it gave each week. It tells you the page number in the book, so I would find it and just try to make sure we were to that point in the book when we got to that passage for the week.
Here is an example of one week of DART (week 1) using the guide for Heartwood Hotel: The first day of the week we would do the copy work and any additional spelling. Each day throughout the week we would complete one of the purple highlighted sections. One day for the spotlight section, and the activity section at the end of the week. (*If you notice the dates I penciled in, this was a condensed week because we were busy. It is able to be very flexible and combine multiple sections at once because they are short and simple.)
We both LOVED trying this program. I am still amazed at how simple and organic it is, yet I feel like she learned so much and we had FUN doing it! It was a breath of fresh air to have her excited about schoolwork again!
It does feel very strange to not have a “workbook,” but as we have gone through it, I have been trying to trust the process and see how it goes. I have been pleasantly surprised on the positive impact it has made on my daughter. It’s such an organic approach to LA, and writing, and I’ve been noticing my daughter is able to identify what she is learning in many other things. Instead of learning grammar “rules” you’re seeing them out in real life stories and the world you are living in. As we continued to read the story together, she would stop me and point out different things she was learning about. I think this method has actually helped her retain the concepts better.
I am also surprised, and thankful, for the connection this curriculum has brought us. I know it might not always be this way, and I don’t know how it was possible, but we literally both laughed through every lesson. It must be in the way Julie Bogart wrote these lessons and used examples that would be understandable to younger kids, but they are just fun! They are not written like textbooks, but more like a conversation she is having with you, and I love that. Since it doesn’t use a workbook, most of the lessons are reading together and then chatting about it. I would teach her a concept from the guide and then we would talk about different ways it is used in real life. I really enjoyed that she was excited to do LA each day and have that special time with me.
Before we even finished this guide, she was asking if we could keep doing this and what the next book was going to be. 😊
If you have children that are close in age, this program would be amazing to do together family style!
Does it meet state requirements for LA?
Yes! There are multiple DART guides to choose from and she will continue to use DART until age 10. Each guide may introduce your student to new concepts (like adjectives or onomatopoeia), but some might be an easy review (such as punctuation.) So, as you go through more guides, I feel like you are getting a great balance of new and still practicing what they have already learned.
I also researched the average public school Language Arts and writing requirements for 3rd grade and used the book Home Learning Year by Year (great book to have!) All the concepts that she should be introduced to and learn throughout 3rd grade are included in the DART guides. So even though these guides seem so simple, she is learning what she needs to learn at this age.
To ease my mind, I have been adding just a few additional resources as we worked through the DART. You do not have to use any of these, I just like them for extra practice and expanding my daughter’s vocabulary. As time goes on, and we get more used to using the DART guides, we may not need all of these anymore. For now though, they are really simple to use and have been a great addition.
Grammar– I added this small Grammar workbook from Scholastic as an independent review and practice of certain concepts. As we are learning different literary topics each week, I go to the index of the Grammar book and can find a worksheet for her to practice. If we don’t discuss the same concept again the following week, I’ll also have her do a page to review what she learned previously. These are simple, quick, and she is able to do them on her own.
Spelling– I am also adding more spelling. I use these FREE spelling lists (available for each grade level) each week. At the beginning of the week I’ll give her a pre-test of the words and whatever she spelt incorrectly are the words we will work on throughout the week. THESE are some great activities we love to use to practice spelling.
Vocabulary– My daughter is constantly asking me what words mean, so I though adding this simple Word A Day workbook would be great for her. It is VERY simple and quick to do each day. Each day you are given a new word, the definition, and some examples. At the end of the week, there is a quick 5 question quiz to review the words they learned. She can also do this on her own.
Writing- Partnership Writing
Brave Writer also offers a great writing program for ages 8-10 called Partnership Writing. This guide offers 10 different writing projects to work on writing skills and gain confidence in writing. Some examples of the projects are breaking secret codes, humorous homophone mini books, designing imaginary maps, writing tall tales, and more! Fun writing activities that are not your traditional essay format, but to help them develop a love and ease of writing on their own. There are also writing project guides for other ages, such as Jot It Down for ages 5-7, Building Confidence for ages 11-12, and Help for High School for ages 13-18. Find them all HERE. We will probably add this guide in the new year, doing a writing project every other month.
Book Report/Final Project:
At the end of each DART guide there are many fun ideas to do a book party. Since my daughter is the only one doing these, and we have a lot of other things going on, we are passing on this for now. This would be fun to do if you are using the guides family style for multiple children!
At the end of each book, I thought I would put together a fun book report project for her to wrap everything up and be a great keepsake. For Heartwood Hotel, I created a large tree out of construction paper. I found a clipart outline of a leaf on Google images and wrote questions in each one. I also printed these on construction paper. She filled out the questions, cut out the leaves, and added them to her tree. *We glued the whole thing inside a Manila folder so it was easy to fold up. For future books, I’ll just come up with a fun idea based on the setting or main topic of the novel to create a book report project.
Planning– How we complete DART each week
This is an open and go style curriculum, however I do like to go over everything the week before we jump into a new week and make any quick notes. At the beginning of the week, I will look through the passage and concepts that we will be learning. I make note of the date (day of the week) I hope to complete each section (you can probably see an example in the photos above.) We usually do one section/concept each day and the activity at the end of the week. I will also check the Grammar book I am adding to see if there are any practice pages she can do for a certain concept she is learning and make a note of it. That’s it! She does the Word A Day book every day on her own, and I do spelling with her at the beginning of the week and work on any incorrect words throughout the week. These lessons are very simple and take no more than 15-20 minutes each day and we use a regular spiral notebook to do any copy work or spelling in. At the end of the month, when we have finished the book, she completes the book report project I create for her.
Worth it to try?
Absolutely! If you are interested and have been wanting to try Brave Writer, and you think it would be beneficial to your child, definitely give it a try. Just try one guide (one month) and see if it is a good fit for you. After that month, if it doesn’t work for you, then you can easily go back to what you were using before.
I have had my eyes on this program for a long time and hesitated leaving our TGATB curriculum because it is what we have always used and it worked great. However, knowing my children and how they learn best, it has been so beneficial just giving it a try and seeing how amazing it turned out to be.
If you have any questions about the DART guides, please leave me a comment or send me a message. I am not an expert by any means, this has just been our first one, but I can try to help or point you in the right direction.
I will also be doing a quick flip through of the entire guide on my Instagram stories (will save to a highlight- DART) so you can get an idea.
*Update: HERE is a blog post reviewing our year with the Darts and the books we read, as well as all the book reports we completed.
I hope this was helpful to you!
Have a great week!