The Lost Tools of Writing

  • How do you help the student who is paralyzed by the blank page or the blinking cursor?
  • How do you inspire confidence and capability at the same time?
  • What do you do with the gifted young writer who just needs the tools to help her become a great writer?

These are some of the questions that motivated the development of The Lost Tools of Writing. 

Good writing does not spring up from formulas or systems. There is no "secret" or "break-through" method that will make your students good writers or you a good writing teacher. Rather good writing is the product of dedicated practice developing key skills. To write well one must look at it like an art or a craft that demands careful attention and persistent hard work. In fact, learning to write well is not so different from learning to play the piano or sculpt a human figure or shoot a three point shot in basketball. The Lost Tools of Writing™ uses time-tested exercises as tools that will guide you and your student as you make the effort to become better writers and better writing teachers.

This program is based on the idea that all writers face three universal problems—from 14 year old students to Pulitzer prize winners: every writer has to come up with good ideas, every writer has to organize those ideas clearly, and every writer has to express those ideas effectively.

So we've adopted the three Canons of classical rhetoric to solve those problems.

  • First, there is Invention, a series of tools and skills that teach aspiring writers to come up with good ideas.
  • Then there is Arrangement, which is made up of tools and skills that help students organize their thoughts in an organized, effective, and coherent fashion.
  • And, finally, there is Elocution (a fancy word for style), which is made up of skills and tools that allow the young writer to creatively, effectively, and purposely express their thoughts.

Once the aspiring writer grasps how to employ these tools effectively the stresses and confusions that accompany writing begin to fade and with it the fear that often comes with writing assignments.

Currently offering two levels, Lost Tools is an ideal composition curriculum for students seventh through twelfth grade who already have a relatively solid understanding of grammar and sentence structure and who have at least a rudimentary amount of writing experience. 

Students younger than that typically are not prepared for the deeper level of thinking towards which LTW guides them. Students, regardless of age, should NOT begin Level Two until they have completed Level One for it lays the key foundations upon which all other writing is built.


Good writing and good thinking necessarily go hand-in-hand. And learning to write and learning to think deeply similarly go hand-in-hand. The same exercises that teach a student to write well also teach them to think deeply. The Lost Tools of Writing™, therefore, can be taught in conjunction with history, science, philosophy, humanities, religious studies, music, art, even math, and certainly english. By insisting that students write about what they are learning in their other courses, teachers can employ the exercises in the The Lost Tools of Writing™ to help the students think more deeply about the events, people, and ideas taught in those courses. In that way The Lost Tools of Writing™ is truly cross-curricular.


The Lost Tools of Writing™ strives to attain two ends: first, to cultivate wisdom and virtue in students through the practice of classical composition. Second, to provide a curriculum that enables teachers to teach composition following the classical modes of instruction. As a result, students and teachers both gain judgment, discretion, and discernment in their writing and teaching while renewing their enthusiasm for the joys of learning.

The Lost Tools of Writing™ Level One does not presume to be the culmination of a student’s writing career. Rather, it lays the foundation for higher level thinking, writing, and speaking skills. It prepares students for intensive readings of great works, story-telling, poetry writing, oratory, debate, teaching, and other human activities that involve thinking, communication, and decision making. It lays the foundations for high school and college-level writing and thinking.


The Lost Tools of Writing™ follows a classical approach to writing. You will learn terms like “canons,” “topics,” “schemes,” “tropes,” etc. Each new term will be introduced one at a time and in a way that makes it easy to understand and use.

Additionally, The Lost Tools of Writing™ follows a classical approach to pedagogy, or the way students learn. Each lesson is structured on what the ancients described as the inductive, or the didactic (from “didaskein,” skilled teaching), mode of instruction. You will lead your students from particular instances (types, or examples) to universal ideas (concepts) through the stages of the trivium as described by Dorothy Sayers in her essay, “The Lost Tools of Learning”.

You may fear that The Lost Tools of Writing™ is a very complicated program. Be at rest. We offer detailed lesson guides and provide several avenues of support (see the upper right hand corner of this webpage). We will be with you every step of the way. You will be pleasantly surprised by how simple it is to teach the complex ideas that are the tools of writing when you break them down to simpler ideas and teach them one at a time. That is what The Lost Tools of Writing™ enables you to do.

Through the systematic step-by-step approach that follows you will guide your students down a path of depth and breadth unlike any they can follow with any other approach to writing.