Using the Brave Writer Arrow Guides

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This is our third year using the Brave Writer Arrow Literature Guides.  And we love them.  In fact, our family has adopted them as the core language arts program in our homeschool.

While the guides are fairly straight-forward, I know that homeschooling families love to read how people are making things work in their own home.

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What exactly are the Brave Writer Arrow Guides?

They are 3rd-6th-grade book specific literature guides designed for parents to guide their students through four weeks of language arts activities. The Arrow Guide includes weekly copywork/dictations passages alongside notes about the passage incorporating grammar, spelling, punctuation and literary style. Each guide also focuses on a specific literary element. The most recent guides (2016-2017 school year and beyond) also include “Big Juicy Questions” to foster discussion with your students.

Arrow Guides can be purchased individually by title or parents can purchase a year-long subscription for 10 guides and receive them once a month from August through May.  This will be our third year using the annual subscription. In addition, we purchased the Quiver of Arrows one year for my younger set of students. The Quiver is designed with titles in mind for 1st-2nd graders.

Do you read the book before, during, or after you begin the guide?

We always begin the book before we start the guide, even if we have to put off our Monday morning copywork plan for a day. It is important to have read at least through the copywork passage for the week. The first week’s passage is typically in the first chapter or two, so it isn’t hard to get to that point.

Once we start the guide, we just read a little each day and move at a pace comfortable to us that keeps us ahead of the weekly passages. Sometimes we finish the entire book by week 2 in the guide. Other times we have to read extra amounts of time to get caught up by week four.

Regardless of when we finish the book, we work through the guide in four weeks, completely one guide a month.

How do you break down the guide each week?

We are trying something different this year using loop scheduling (see below).  In the past, this is how an “ideal” week has looked:


(If it is week 1, you will want to begin your day by reading a few chapters or kick off the book over the weekend so you are ready for the copywork passage.)

I typically have the copywork passage written on my dry erase board.  If it is too long, I make copies to hand to each of my children. We read and discuss the spelling and grammar in the passage based on the notes provided in the guide. I let the kids mark up the passage on the dry erase board or the photocopied page.

I might ask them to circle all of the capital letters and then tell me why it is capitalized.  We might underline our favorite verb or dig for some colorful adjectives.  I pull ideas from the guide and make them up as I go along.

How we do copywork.

Then my kids begin copying the passage in their copywork notebooks. My younger children simply copy the passage under my writing because I write it on every other line of their notebooks the day before. My older children copy it from the guide.

I had no idea how difficult it was for some kids to copy it from the guide, so I am happy to write it in their notebooks the day before if they prefer it. I usually write it in there when they are doing independent work and just need me present to ask questions.


My kids finish the copywork passage or complete more of it as they are able.

If this is a good day for discussion, we finish the rest of the notes provided in the guide about the literary element. We also revisit grammar and/or spelling as needed.

If today is a bit crazy, then I put off our discussion until tomorrow.


Typically my kids finish the copying the passage today and we finish up any discussion left in the guide.

Thursday and Friday

If we had an ideal week, then we can use these days to complete a dictation activity during our “Arrow” time or just enjoy the fruits of our labor and read a little more of the book each day.

 A concrete poem activity from our Brave Writer Arrow Guide.
A concrete poem activity from our Brave Writer Arrow Guide.

I like to leave the end of the week open because we typically have some catch up to do on items we didn’t finish from our Mon-Wed plans.

Thursday and Friday are ideal times to work a little the literary element activity included in week 4. We typically do this during week 4, but sometimes it has been appropriate to start earlier. These days are also good ones to work on any Brave Writer writing projects that we have chosen for the month.

How do you use the Big Juicy Questions?

We will use them throughout the book. I will keep an eye on them and ask the appropriate ones as we hit that chapter or section. I will not have the kids write answers out to these questions as a group. I might work on partnering with my 6th grader to help her form a complete, written answer to one question for each book.

Is the Arrow the only spelling and grammar you use?

While I think copywork is an extremely effective way to teach both, I typically supplement the guides.
My middle two children need a lot of spelling help, so they each complete a formal spelling program.
We have dabbled in all sorts of grammar programs, though nothing very intense. We have read through most of First Language Lessons Level 1 and Level 2 together to memorize the definitions of important grammar terms. This year, I ordered grade level Evan Moore Grammar and Punctuation guides for the kids to complete 1-2 times a week when our Arrow activities are light.

How do the guides work with multiple grade levels?

The first year my 3rd and 5th graders worked in the Arrow Guides while my 1st grader and 4-year-old simply listened to the books.

The second year my 6th grader completed the Arrow Guides while my 4th and 2nd graders worked through The Quiver of Arrows.

The third year my 7th grader worked through the Boomerang Guides (7th-10th grade) while my 5th and 3rd graders worked in the Arrow Guides.  My 1st grader listened along to the Arrow Book.

This fourth year my 8th grader will work through the current Boomerang subscription.  My 6th, 4th, and 2nd grader will work through the current Arrow Guides.  My 2nd grader participates as he is able in our discussions.  He has his own handwriting book and probably won’t do the copywork.

It looks a little different each time.  You have to go with the flow in your own house.

If you are ready to pick a guide to try, you can check out my Top Ten Arrow Guides.  I based my ranking on the guide content, so it might help you narrow down the one you’d like to use.

Have you tried the Brave Writer Arrow Guides? How does it look in your house?


Using the Brave Writer Arrow Guides


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19 thoughts on “Using the Brave Writer Arrow Guides”

  1. We are using The Arrow guides this year for the first time. We are also using Jot It Down with my youngest and Partnership Writing with my oldest. It is so helpful to see how you scheduled it all! Thank you!

  2. I just watched your scope and it was SO helpful! This is our first time using the bravewriter program and I’m feeling overwhelmed (I really love the program and know once I get into a better routine:rhythm we’ll be able to get the most out of it). I wasn’t really sure how the Arrow would work for my second grader so I purchased the arrow for my 4th grader and quiver of arrows for my 2nd grader. I’m not sure if I should combine them or keep trying to do both. I would really like to have us all reading the same book but now feel bad after having purchased quiver of arrows!



      I am so glad it was helpful! I have used the Quiver and the ARrow with a variety of ages. The year we did the Quiver, I had a 4th, 2nd and kinder using it and it worked just fine. My 4th grader either listened with us or read on her own if she wanted. We had our conversations about the book together and we worked through the copywork activities together. I think you could definitely do the Quiver together and focus on the titles that you think would be best for the whole group. (We skipped Winnie the Pooh for personal preference – I can’t stand Pooh…sigh; and we skipped another but I forget which one) So you might be able to swing so eof the Quiver titles and then do some of the Arrow titles after that. THAT being said, I wouldn’t pressure yourself to use it if there are titles that your 4th grader won’t enjoy. Pick the ones he will enjoy. the Quiver is VERY similar to the Arrow, but just with titles more geared at 1st/2nd grade. Hope that helps!

      1. I think this answered my question. I’ve been trying to figure out if the program builds on itself or if I can just pick a few of the books, as I’m not a fan of Pooh either, and I don’t think my son would enjoy a couple of the other titles. Thanks for your review!

  3. Does this curriculum teach writing? Do children actually write papers? I see copy work & grammar but no actual “essays”…creative writing, persuasive, narrative…does this do that ever? I want to use it as we love good lit but I don’t want to have to have too many supplements.
    Thanks much!


      Yes. this is a writing program. The Writers Jungle is the core of the curriculum and the heart of the writing from K-12. The Arrow is a literature guide (one product) to teach literary elements, grammar, spelling, etc through literature. It is not a writing guide, though there are writing activities. If you are looking for high school level essays, I would check out “Help for High School” from Brave Writer or the online classes. Hope that helps.

  4. In my house, they just read what they want. I make sure that I keep lots of great library books around but I don’t typically “assign” reading. I might assign a reading time period, but they can pick what to read. Calvin and Hobbes is a current favorite 🙂

  5. Mary, how much time do you allocate for your arrow time daily? I’m looking at school schedules for the fall for my then 11yog and 14 yob.

    1. Hi Marcie,

      We typically spend 10-15 minutes on M, T, and/or W for lessons from the Arrow. We read a chapter a day and discuss it a bit. That varies from 15-30 minutes depending on the book.

  6. I have been looking at Quiver for my second grader and Arrow for my fourth gragder but am so apprehensive to start both. This is an add on to our Playful Pioneers curriculum (copy, dictation and crafts based on the Little House series). I don’t want to defeat myself by starting with so many different levels and read alouds. My fourth grader HATES writing, but he loves telling stories about all his ideas. He has amazing penmenship also! I think he would do well starting out with Quiver with his younger brother (who doesn’t like to write more than a sentence or so. ) What I’m thinking is they both work on Quiver and then next year they work on Arrow. I don’t want to push my oldest into Arrow with out making sure he has a solid foundation. Thoughts? It sounds like you’ve done this before and can give me some insight.

    1. I think that is a great plan! I had three kids in the Quiver one year and it worked well. Then you could move on to the Arrow, but adopt it for your younger child.

  7. Pingback: How We use Arrow Guides from BraveWriter in our Homeschool

  8. Janicke Moreno

    Hello, we just started using an arrow guide today and there was a lot of grammar notes to cover (spelling and vocabulary, verbs, nouns, subject predicate, possessive and common nouns, etc…) do you cover all of them at once? I tried to but I lost my 10 year old half way through. What ids your usual routine for how and when to cover the grammar portions? Thanks!

    1. I am sorry – we stopped using Brave Writer guides a few years ago and I can’t quite remember. But I wouldn’t try to do it all at once for sure!

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