1. What are the prerequisites for beginning this curriculum?

To optimize their use of The Lost Tools of Writing: Level Two, students need to know the basics of grammar, including parts of speech, punctuation, and sentence construction. A student who can write a paragraph independently from scratch can learn and use the tools in this curriculum. Students also need to be familiar with Level One. A student who knows how to use the common topics, knows the elements of a persuasive essay outline, and knows the schemes and tropes from Level One can learn and use the tools in this curriculum.

Students studying a foreign language, with a rich reading background, and who participate in discussions about books will find LTW aligns with and enriches their experiences. 

2. Who Should Use The Lost Tools of Writing?

We recommend implementing The Lost Tools of Writing as follows:

  • Any student in 9th grade or higher who has not learned these tools needs to learn them now. Without them, students simply have to work too hard. These students should begin with Level One and work through the curriculum in one year.
  • Any student in 7th or 8th grade who has a good background in grammar and basic writing is ready for Level One and should work through the program twice over two years.
  • A student as young as 6th grade who has been writing quite a bit already and knows grammar well should begin LTW but should take at least two years to complete it. 
  • Any student in 9th grade who has completed two years of Level One or in 10th grade or higher who has completed at least one year of Level One is ready for Level Two.

Every teacher needs to learn LTW classical rhetoric is the integrating element of the curriculum. So every teacher needs to know its tools and how to apply them to his or her lesson material. 

3. How do I use this curriculum with younger students? 

“Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast” (Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet). Consider taking a full two years to complete Level One. Emphasize structure and the discipline of following the process.

Though the curriculum is geared to the student with a little writing background, middle school students who have experienced basic writing exercises and who know the elements of grammar are prepared for this program. 

Teachers should begin using the tools of Invention as soon as they read to their students (pre-kindergarten). For example, the kindergarten teacher can and should ask whether the other animals should have followed Chicken Little, whether the ants should have given food to the grasshopper, and whether the Grinch should have taken little Cindy-Lou Who’s Christmas tree. The Lost Tools of Writing™ is a classical rhetoric curriculum and effective teaching implements classical rhetoric.  

We recommend you spend most of your time with young students building a strong foundation for future logic and rhetoric.  Enjoy time reading great stories and books, delighting in poetry, learning the basics of grammar, and enjoying words together.  This is the time to practice narration, sentence writing, and basic paragraph writing.  

4. Is this curriculum only for classical schools?

If you desire to instill virtues of truth, goodness, and beauty while teaching children according to their natures, using a curriculum designed to promote skills in thinking and decision making, then The Lost Tools of Writing™ is for you. Level Two introduces students to the right criteria for judging and assessing the decisions they learned to make in Level One. If all you want to do is teach them to write well, you won’t find a better program – but we believe you are short-selling your students. 

5. I’m not a writing teacher; I’m a homeschool mom. Am I qualified to teach this?

Homeschool moms are among our most satisfied customers because The Lost Tools of Writing™ builds better writers and teachers. We’ve put this program together in such a way that all you have to do is follow the process with your child. 

6. Why don’t you use familiar words like “hook”? 

The Lost Tools of Writing™ is a course in classical rhetoric. We strive to gently introduce students to the language of the classical tradition so that when they read great books by authors like Aristotle, Shakespeare, etc. there is no language barrier. 

Furthermore, we have found that the language of the classical curriculum is more effective because it is more objective and less prone to using subjectivist terms that work in one place but not in another. The strength of the language used leads to more precise thinking about writing, language, and the world that is named and discussed through language. 

7. What about other kinds of writing besides the essay? 

The Lost Tools of Writing™ lays foundations for every kind of writing and even speech in the persuasive essay. Writers who internalize the tools in Level One spend the rest of their lives applying and adapting them to different contexts, essay forms, poems, stories, or any specific instructor’s requirements. The foundations remain. Refining a strong base of knowledge and skill is more effective than being exposed to more or less disconnected ideas without the time to master them. 

Students learn stylistic techniques that they apply to reading and writing poetry; they cultivate a narrative sense to help them write stories; they practice gathering and evaluating testimony, the root of every form of research. Every essay practices logic, debate, and public speaking. 

Truly, this curriculum offers the trunk of the Tree of Learning. Your students will never read, write, speak on, discuss, or make a decision about anything unaffected by The Lost Tools of Writing™

8. Do I have to use this in conjunction with teaching literature? 

No. While literature offers an abundance of issues about which to write essays (since every story turns on the decisions and actions of the characters), students with a rich reading diet have plenty of material to draw from. They can and should write essays about historical figures who made decisions as well. Should George Washington have crossed the Delaware? Should Brutus have assassinated Caesar? 

This curriculum provides an integrating tool for the teacher who wishes to incorporate all of the student’s studies and experiences into his scholarly reflections, thus reintegrating not only the school’s curriculum but also the student’s life. 

Opportunities for writing and persuasive discourse abound. They are as close as your dining room table and last night’s dinner discussion. Using literature, even a simple fable, offers the advantage of moving the discussion to a less personal sphere, but you are welcome to choose essay issues from any area of study. The world is rich with possibilities!

9. Does this curriculum teach literary analysis? 

The Lost Tools of Writing™ teaches students how to read literature closely by asking the universal question that drives every story. By doing so, it prepares for and gives life back to literary analysis, which too often is experienced as a detached academic subject for specialists. Every student should be a reader; not all of them should be specialists. Those who become specialists must not lose sight of the universal nature of story. 

Analysis is a special kind of writing that depends on the ability to read closely, think clearly, and express effectively. All three of these skills are taught in LTW, preparing any student to move on to more specialized kinds of writing.  This curriculum is not an explicit literary analysis program. Instead it aims to equip students to grow in their appreciation, understanding, and communication of the great ideas in literature. At heart, every author seeks to persuade the reader, and those skills need to be mastered first. The tools of literary analysis are derived from the tools in this curriculum, however, so the student who completes The Lost Tools of Writing™ is more equipped for literary analysis than the student who attempts it without the foundational tools.

For example, the student who is taught about motifs and character arcs, but has never reflected on whether the character ought to do something, will never understand why the motif is there and why the arc rises at it does. That is why so many students are bored by literary analysis. They don’t see the point.  

10. How will this curriculum prepare my child for college? 

See question 8 above. Additionally, anyone who knows how to arrange a paper can carry that skill into any situation. SAT writing, public speaking, research papers, and debate all benefit from a background in classical rhetoric.

College professors report to us that they are discouraged by the writing of most incoming freshmen. They also want more than five paragraph essays. The Lost Tools of Writing equips students to deal with any issue head on and to write an eleven paragraph essay that is easy to follow and easily expandable. The research paper, master’s thesis, even the PhD thesis amount to extensions of the tools mastered through The Lost Tools of Writing

Remember that The Lost Tools of Writing is classical rhetoric, and classical rhetoric is the trunk of the tree of learning. There is no subject area that you cannot study more effectively by mastering these tools. 

11. How do I grade the work? 

Appropriate forms of assessment must be applied to master any skill, but too often the way we grade writing doesn’t fit the nature of the art. Because we take assessment and feedback so seriously, we have included a guide to assessment in The Lost Tools of Writing™.  

The only practical question when you are coaching a student is the twofold, “What milestone has my student reached and what comes next?” (How students compare to other students does not matter).

Each Essay Cycle contains a set of milestones and the guide to assessment explains how to assess whether each has been reached. Specific checklists are included with each lesson.

12. What if I can only meet with my students one day per week? 

The Lost Tools of Writing™ has been used successfully in many different classroom and home situations. We recommend two or more meetings per week, but teachers have taught effectively in one class session per week as well. We present a once/week option in the Lesson Guides. Once you and the students are comfortable with the lesson sequence, you’ll find the rhythm that works for you.

Think of it this way: You are teaching your students that each step of the writing process is worthy of a week’s worth of thought and effort. If possible, encourage your students to communicate with you via email in order to accomplish incremental steps

13. What is the difference between The Lost Tools of Writing: Level One and Level Two?

The Lost Tools of Writing I teaches students how to read and how to make decisions. It teaches them the tools but does not expect them to use the tools perfectly. LTW II  teaches students the tools with even greater depth, and it introduces them to the standards of criteria for the judgments they make. Students who learned how to ask good questions in LTW I are learning how to find the best answers in LTW II. On a more practical level, LTW I teaches students how to write persuasive essays in general. LTW II  teaches the judicial address, a particular kind of persuasive essay. As mentioned above, it teaches how to make decisions but it also gives them criteria for making good decisions.

This is going to vary from person-to-person. All of the material taught in the videos is also in the workbook, but it's also presented in a way that shows you what it's like to teach it. We certainly recommend the videos, but they aren't necessary per se if you're willing to put in the preparation time. 
The complete set for both levels is made up a Teacher's Guide, a Student's Workbook, and instructional videos.