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Preface: Writing Projects

Writing Projects offers a radical approach to writing instruction. Drawing on the techniques of classical rhetoric, the series teaches writing through a collection of practical projects, from single-sentence proverbs to complex descriptions, stories, essays and more.

This first volume teaches the basics of stylish writing. It introduces sentences and diction; elements of narrative and theme; and critical uses of assertion, proof and argument. These important skills are taught through epigram, fable, short story and review writing.

Each project offers comprehensive, step-by-step instructions for a complete writing task, leading students from reading and analysis to original composition. The chapters incorporate a range of specialised strategies, including dictation, imitations, extensions, and practice exercises.

The content of each project includes:
- models of effective writing by established authors
- discussions of use and purpose that put the writing in context
- practice exercises to teach skills of diction, sentencing and figurative style
- marking guides to assist assessment and self-assessment
- quizzes and tests to build knowledge about writers, terms and styles

The learning is entirely activity-based, with suggested answers for each task supplied at the end of the project. The individual chapters can therefore serve as fully planned lessons for the classroom, or as independent study packages.

A word about the method

Writing Projects applies the techniques of a classical training system for teaching writing. All the methods used in the projects have been derived from research into the system of rhetoric-a discipline first codified by scholars around 500 BC. Along with grammar and logic, rhetoric has been a cornerstone of classical education for over two thousand years. It has produced some of the greatest writers and orators in Western literature, including Shakespeare, whose plays and poems reveal the rhetorical skills he acquired as a schoolboy.

Like the training systems on which it is modelled, Writing Projects makes careful use of imitative writing and copying tasks. The approach may seem alien to modern teachers, who fear that imitation will stifle students' creativity. Yet copying and imitation are powerful forms of learning. Classical scholars used imitation to teach their students concentration and correctness, laying a foundation of technical skill in preparation for subsequent invention.

More so than their counterparts in earlier times, modern students may have limited exposure to formal and literary uses of language. In daily life they use the abbreviated forms associated with modern technology. Imitating the styles and techniques of accomplished writers helps students learn the patterns and rhythms of literary language through conscious attention to structure, sentence forms, word choice, and punctuation. That learning will serve them well as they go on to develop their own personal styles.

Teachers who want to know more about classical instruction and rhetoric will find the following references a useful starting point for study.

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