by Erin Chianese
We are saddened by the news that Dave Marks, creator of Writing Strands, passed away August 6, 2004. Dave is an "old timer" in the homeschooling products world. His writing program has been highly praised and utilized over the years; there is hardly a homeschooler who hasnít heard of Writing Strands. Dave Marks was a wonderful supporter of homeschooling and an excellent writing instructor.
Before developing Writing Strands, Mr. Marks spent nearly 30 years as a teacher of advanced high school English in the public school system. He was disappointed that students entering his classroom had not learned to write well, and in response, he developed writing methods to aid them -- later using these methods effectively with his own son. Dave was introduced to homeschooling through a family member and along with his wife, Lea, also a public school teacher, thought the program would be perfect for homeschoolers.
They began attending homeschool conferences on the weekends, promoting Writing Strands. It was so successful that they both were able to leave their teaching jobs and devote their time to their fledgling company, the National Writing Institute. Dave Marks became a popular speaker at conferences as well, and following his lectures, his booth was always flooded with parents. Today, Writing Strands is one of the leading writing programs used by homeschoolers, selling more than 30,000 books annually.
The program is based upon organizing writing into four types or "strands" -- Creative, Research and Report, Argumentative, and Explanatory. Once mastered, these enable a writer to be effective in all writing arenas of adulthood. The lower level books teach writing skills in Creative and Explanatory writing. Reports and Argumentative essays are not introduced until the upper levels. The beauty of Writing Strands is that as the studentís writings are enriched, his/her thoughts and visions of the surrounding world are also enriched.
Writing Strands is concise and simple, speaking directly to the student, allowing him/her to use the books on his own, later showing parents the resultant writings from each lesson. Writing Strands easily conveys concepts through exercises in building on the studentís thoughts. For example, aspects of the writing process (including point of view, description, movement, time, dialogue, and characterization) are suggested for the student to use to build upon a core sentence or paragraph.
Over the years, the National Writing Institute has received numerous letters and calls from users praising the program. The most striking of these are those coming from parents of college freshmen. These are full of gratitude because their collegiate sons and daughters are so confident in writing skills that they can concentrate on the actual subject matter and easily express their opinions and the learned material in essays, tests and papers.
Six years ago, Dave Marks decided to write a trilogy of novels, Draygonslaying Is for Dreamers. These novels are engaging and their purpose is for the reader to learn to discuss and critically analyze novels in particular and subsequently any form of literature.
Though pioneer Dave Marks will be sorely missed, his wife and family are still carrying on his labor of love. Writing Strands is going strong through the National Writing Institute. Mrs. Lea Marks has always played a major role in the business since the early days of helping to create and promote the program, sharing the mission of teaching kids the love of literature and writing. Daughter-in-law, Amy Marks, said the family has a "renewed dedication to Dave Marksí life work."
What began from frustration with the school system, and was designed specifically for homeschool use, has now come full circle back to the school system. Because of its success, fifty schools have requested and adapted the Writing Strands program for use in the classroom. The National Writing Institute is now developing a program specifically for schools. It seems that Mr. Marks and his family are truly fulfilling the vision of teaching all kids to learn to write. For more information about Writing Strands and the books published by the Marks family, go to www.writingstrands.com and see their ad on p.39 of this issue. E.C.
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