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Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently Asked Questions

The typical setup is one book per student. Our basic set includes one Teacher Book and one Student Book.

“Money’s tight. Can my kids share the Student Book?”

It depends on your circumstances.

The books are non-consumable. If your kids share well and keep track of their belongings, you can order one Student Book for the early Stages. However, as students progress into the upper Stages of the program, they will be referring to explanations, assignments, and reference lists on a regular basis.

So, if your students are in early elementary school, you might start out with one Student Book and then later buy additional copies. If your students are in late elementary school or older, we recommend purchasing one book for each student.

The premise of Write By Number is that students must learn to write in a logical order, combining physical readiness with intellectual development.

First, they must be able to physically read (not just decode) and write. Then, as they begin reading and are exposed for the first time to written language, they can begin creating the most basic structure of writing–a sentence–which is taught in Stage 1.

This is a mastery-based program. Students cannot go to the next stage until they have mastered the first. This is an absolute necessity.

I know it to be necessary because the students I’ve worked with who have not had the time to really master each Stage don’t do well in the long run. Just like we would never expect a child to be able to dribble a basketball down the court without first teaching him to hold the ball and dribble the ball, we can’t expect a student to write a paragraph before he can write a sentence. If the sentence is flawed, the paragraph is flawed.

Unfortunately, in a fear-based dash to meet legislated state standards, most writing curriculum throws common sense to the wind and pushes students onward before they are actually ready.

So, be committed to mastery. This process works. You’ll have to trust me on this because you won’t see the results right away; the results take time.

Writing and grading writing can be one of the most time-consuming aspects of education. This program removes this frustration, which means that this curriculum will actually GET DONE.

You can even make your life easier and combine subjects! If your students are practicing their handwriting and need to write sentences, have them write the sentences for WBN in their handwriting curriculum book/pages. If your students have learned two things in history, encourage them to write things like, “I learned two things in history today,” or “I ran two laps during P.E.” These summary paragraphs can be submitted for grading in both subjects, cutting your grading time in half and their writing time in half.

When you do this, students will also be learning that proper writing skills are necessary in all subjects. One doesn’t just throw writing rules out the window when one switches to a different subject! However, if your students find it frustrating to be limited to writing about school subjects, and prefer to write about their personal interests, allow it. One of the goals of teaching writing with Write by Number is to remove the frustration usually associated with writing.

This writing program can be used:

  • with any language arts curriculum
  • as a supplement when tutoring
  • as one component in a self-constructed language arts curriculum
  • in place of your language-arts curriculum’s writing component

If the school requires completion of certain writing assignments, you can alter the assignments to standards that fit where the student is in the WBN curriculum. For example, if a second grade assignment reads, “Write a descriptive essay of the main character in the story,” and your student is in Stage 5, you could change the assignment to, “Write a 12323 paragraph describing the main character in the story, using no to be linking verbs.”

One of the advantages of WBN is that because it is modular, it is not tied to a school year. You can do whatever else you want in the language arts curriculum and just carry on with WBN from year to year until the student reaches Stage 12.

If you are in a brick-and-mortar classroom, you may have only one year with your students. Can you use this program? Absolutely.

Start at the beginning and get as far as you can with each student. You might only get your students to the point of writing five-sentence paragraphs. That’s something! Do you know how many adults can’t write a good, five-sentence paragraph?

Just giving your students the framework of thinking of concepts in terms of “powers” will shape their thinking, speaking, and writing, and might very well carry over beyond your classroom.

Many schools use Write by Number through multiple grade levels, and students just pick up where they left off the previous year. Get your whole school to use Write by Number and watch students succeed in writing!

Absolutely! WBN teaches a student to write in a way that will earn competent to exemplary scores on any essay portion of a standardized test. If a student has also mastered the creative art of writing, has a large vocabulary, and has the gift of clear communication, he or she will score off the charts. In addition, students who complete WBN will have learned correct grammar and usage rules while learning to write, and therefore will be able to do well on the usage testing portion of the standardized exams.

The goal of Write by Number is not necessarily to meet state standards, but it does in many ways! For teachers who need to document which Common Core Standards are met for each lesson, the Teacher Book provides a list of which standards, for every grade level, are met in each Stage. The overview page at the start of each Stage also lists common lesson plan goals and objectives, so no matter what the schooling situation, teachers and parents are equipped to document learning.

Laurena Townsend is a credentialed teacher with a master’s degree in English who has been teaching writing for over 30 years. Whether she was homeschooling her five children, tutoring students individually, or teaching in the high school and college classroom, Laurena has helped students of every ability become successful writers. She passionately believes that teaching writing should be simple for every teacher, and learning to write well should be achievable for every student.

Great question! The short answer is, “It’s expensive because it’s not cheap.”
We’ve all bought our fair share of cheap curriculum. But that’s the problem. You get a low-quality product. Or, you get consumable curriculum that ends up costing you more in the long run because you have to buy it every year for each student. Write by Number is non-consumable and designed to last through all grade levels. That means that your cost per year is minimal.

So what goes into making a book that’s durable, functional, and beautiful?
Our books are printed in the USA by a small, local business devoted to quality. Most books are printed in China because it’s cheaper. Domestic, print-on-demand companies struggle to produce consistently good colored text. Write by Number books are assembled individually using top-quality products.
We use color ink and thick, coated paper. The colors used in the curriculum are essential, so printing in black and
white on plain paper is not an option. The paper has to be of the highest quality for vibrancy, and the heaviest weight for durability.
We know Write by Number is an up-front investment, which is why we make that investment worth your while. We offer a 14-day free digital trial so you can be confident that you’re making the right choice for the long haul. We also offer monthly and yearly digital subscriptions so you can use Write by Number as long as you want before (or without) investing in the print edition. When you’re ready to buy the print books, PayPal’s “Pay Later” option lets you spread out the cost into four installments over six weeks, if you need to.

No. If you would like a printed version of Write by Number, you will need to purchase the books.

Yes. Though the worksheets are made to be completed on a separate sheet of paper, you may contact us and we will send the pages to you so that you can print them out. You must be a verified customer to receive the PDF.

How are they similar?

  • Both have been in use for over 30 years
  • Both are based on methods developed by previous writers
  • Both teach clear structure
  • Both employ repetition
  • Both use checklists for evaluating student writing
  • IEW Dress-ups and Sentence Openers are similar to WBN Sentence Patterns

How are they different?

  • The content is different.

    First, WBN’s content scope is tightly focused on grammar and writing. IEW takes a more comprehensive approach to language arts.

    Second, each program starts in a different place. WBN starts with a single sentence on any topic, whereas IEW starts by teaching keyword outlines with predetermined topics. So IEW will eventually have students writing their own content, but in WBN a student can choose a topic from Day 1. If you want to tie your student’s writing to your history, literature, or science, you can do it with WBN. The content of the writing is not the focus; the focus is the process of organizing one’s thoughts and outputting them in a logical order.

    The third content difference concerns style. Both WBN and IEW teach techniques for making your writing more interesting. With WBN, that’s accomplished through learning grammar and applying it in your writing on a daily basis. We call the grammatical structures Sentence Patterns, and the goal is to give students a toolbox of skills to help them be more creative in how they express their thoughts and to develop their own writer’s voice. IEW uses dress-ups in a similar fashion, but more of them are strictly stylistic. So an IEW student may very well get the impression that every “good” composition must have a who-which clause and a very short sentence. In addition, both WBN and IEW have “banned” words, but WBN’s list is much shorter and the “bans” are temporary to help students break certain bad habits in their writing. After those habits have been corrected, students can go back to using those words without overuse.

  • The structure is different.

    First, WBN is a mastery-based program, and IEW is spiral-based. In WBN, students move through the program one time, progressing as they master each skill. You can easily speed up or slow down the pace based on your student’s individual needs. In IEW, students repeat a cycle of nine units of content every year at increasing levels of difficulty.

    Second, WBN has one set of books: a Teacher Book and a Student Book contain the entire program. With WBN, every student, young or old, starts at the beginning. IEW has many products with many levels, and several different formats to teach the IEW method. That variety can be helpful, but the trade-off is the potential for information overload. IEW’s website has a flowchart to help you choose where to start, but it can still be confusing.

    Third, one of the most dramatic differences you’ll see is that WBN is very easy to start. IEW was developed with the goal of teaching people how to teach writing. Their flagship product is called Teaching Writing with Structure and Style. If you’re using an IEW theme-based book, the publisher assumes you’ve been taught the IEW method already. You need to understand IEW’s keyword outlines in order to teach the program effectively, even if you’re using the video lessons. So the learning curve with IEW is much steeper than WBN’s. With WBN, you, the teacher, start by editing one sentence, and we give you guidance as you go. So even if there’s a grammatical concept you never learned in school, you can edit your students’ writing with specific instructions on how to fix errors.

    Another dramatic difference is the level of teacher involvement. WBN is written to the student, so an independent learner can read the lesson and complete the assignments. Your main job is editing. If you have a dependent learner, you’ll need to read the lessons to your student. Fortunately, the lessons are short. In contrast, IEW expects that you’ll be presenting more information as long as you use their program. Even if you minimize how much time you present the information in IEW, it will take more time per day for your student to complete an assignment, especially if you’re using the video lessons. So, WBN takes less time per day to do a lesson. If you combine a WBN assignment with one from history, science, or literature, you can streamline your day even more.

    The final difference is cost. WBN costs ~$285 for a Teacher/Student Book set, which many parents think is steep for a program that “only” teaches writing. So while the up-front cost is higher, over the long run you will spend more using IEW. One year’s worth of IEW with video lessons runs about $169, but that’s only for one year. A second year of IEW video lessons will put you well past what you would spend for WBN print books. If all you use are IEW’s theme-based books, you’ll spend $35 a year on IEW for one student, and the books are consumable. The WBN Student Book is non-consumable, so you can use it with multiple students at the same time, year after year.
    If you really want to minimize your up-front cost with WBN, then a digital subscription is the way to go. For $5 a month or $50 a year, you can get view-only access to the Teacher and Student Books in their entirety at If you only plan to use WBN for a few years, an annual subscription is the most cost-effective option.

    Both WBN and IEW are solid, proven curricula that will successfully teach your students to write. The one you prefer will depend on your own unique needs and circumstances. Remember, the best curriculum is the one that actually gets done.

    By Brenda McAlpine

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