Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Schoolhouse Review: Essentials in Writing

Essential in Writing logo photo EssentialsinWritinglogo_zps7affe1cf.jpg

Essentials in Writing Grade 11 photo EIW11thgrade_zps8fbcb40b.jpg
My girl  is a writer.  She's been writing stories and fan fiction for quite some time -- filling notebooks with ideas and waking up in the mornings to share character sketches that have come to her mind during the night. She's full of ideas and creativity and she NEEDS to express them on paper.  When she's writing for herself -- to express who she is and the story she has inside of her -- I do not critique her style or grammar or sentence structure in any way.   I desire to encourage that creativity by making sure that she has plenty of opportunity to write.  But, I also know that there are times when she needs to be directed in a more formal writing style.   I aim to make sure that she knows all of the fundamentals of writing -- the essentials needed to be confident when she arrives on a college campus.  I want to make sure that she can write research papers and formal essays with the same ease that she creates stories and fan fiction tales.

Grade 11:  Essay Writing Research Paper by Essentials in Writing is proving to be just the tool needed to make sure that she has this skill set.  A video-driven, comprehensive language arts program based on the idea that you must actually study writing in order to properly apply writing to daily situations, Grade 11 has four major focuses {sentences, paragraphs, essays, and research paper) and is one of the most homeschool-friendly, delight-directed curriculums I have used.  Through video lessons and writing activities, students have the opportunity to review basic grammar, sentence and paragraph structure in the beginning portions of the lessons and move into essays and research papers in the latter portions of the lessons.  What I find most refreshing is that the curriculum is not designed to be completed consecutively and students are ENCOURAGED to take a break between each composition section to focus on literature, vocabulary and spelling.  This was perfect for my Junior as she didn't get "bored" or tired of completing the writing assignments -- and therefore did not feel the urge to complain.  I like the fact that we are able to spend time on all components of language arts and choose to work with many of the different things that she enjoys.  

Essentials in Writing is intensive writing instruction through fun and engaging assignments.  Students watch a step-by-step video then complete correlating worksheets and/or assignments.  The video itself is presented by Matthew Stephens -- program developer and certified teacher (he's taught almost every grade level) -- as he stands before a whiteboard and walks students through each lesson.  After they have watched the video, students have the chance to master the topic just taught by working through a worksheet (or multiple worksheets depending on the subject matter) and a set of assignments.  Assignments often present options to individualize instruction and move students quickly through work they fully understand.  

My daughter found the writing assignments both interesting and easy to complete.  She enjoyed the active element of the writing exercises where she was directed to research things that she likes on the internet and look for specific sentence types.  Definitely not your typical writing exercises, an example of the engaging aspect of the assignments is found in this one:  On a sheet of notebook paper, write a paragraph (six or more sentences) detailing your post high school plans. Use a variety of sentence structures including compound, complex, and compound complex sentences.

So, how did it actually work in real life?  Mr. Stephens suggests that students approach all lessons in the same manner:
  1. Look at the worksheet/assignment for the current day's lesson.  (Be familiar with what you are going to learn.)
  2. Watch the video lesson.  (My Junior watched each lesson on her own.  They each lasted between 15 - 20 minutes.)
  3. Complete the assignment.  (Most lessons should be done in one day.  Obviously, the research paper will take longer.)
  4. Look at the next lesson.  (See what you will be learning.)
This is exactly what my Junior did to successfully complete each day's work.  I wanted her to be able to review several portions of the Essentials in Writing program so we decided together which sections she would work on during the review period.  (She will go back and do missed lessons until course completion.)  For this review, she worked lessons in both sentences and paragraphs and then began working on the research paper.  [We chose to skip the section on essays at this time because she is actively writing these same types of essays for her Speech class.]

I appreciate high school curriculum that can be completed on a mostly independent level as I am needed by my middle school children in a more hands-on capacity.  I printed the worksheets for the lessons my daughter would need and then left her to complete the assigned work.  She read over the day's worksheet, watched the video lesson, completed the writing exercise, and previewed the next lesson in about an hour each day.    

I asked the Junior to share her take on the entire curriculum with you and this is what she said:
I'm a writer, or I like to think myself as one. I love to write because writingopens the door to a world that has never been discovered. The only problem is Ireally don’t like writing "classes" or grammar books.  Don't get me wrong --  I lovegrammar and the rules of writing,  I just don’t like having to learn them from abook.  That might be one of the reasons that Essentials in Writing is working forme.
 Essentialsin Writing, Grade 11 has been easy to do and enjoyable to listen to.  Matthew Stephenspresents everything in a way that is easy for me to understand and to comprehend.  Watching each lesson has made it easier for me to understand what I'm supposed to be learning and doing.   I learn things betterif I can see them, hear them, and even read them aloud.  Mr.Stephens says that it is best to be able to think things through out loud and that works for me.  I make sure to get out of everyone's way so I can talk.   
Being able to watch and listen to Mr. Stephens' explanations of how to plan a paragraph has allowed me to be able toreally grasp the concept in a new way.  He breaks down the planning of a paragraph into numerous steps and that is quite helpful since I can understand the purpose for everything fully instead of justhalf way like with some of the other programs that I have used in the past.  I have never used actual paragraph plans or checklists when writing, but now I am learning how to use both and improve my writing for my readers.
Aftereach video lesson, I was presented with an activity to use my creativity to write either different kinds of sentence structures and types or different types ofparagraphs.  The activities made sense and were not very difficult -- unlike most other writingprograms that leave you with a headache and massive hand cramps.  My favorite paragraph assignment was "If you had the opportunity to meet any person (living or dead) who would it be, why would you choose that person, and what would you want to say when you met?  
I'm also working on my first-ever research paper and using the step-by-step instructions from the Grade 11 Research lessons.  According to Mr. Stephens, there are 8 steps to writing a research paper.  Who knew?  I called myself a history major in Spanish class the other day and my brother won't leave me alone about it.  Mom has been talking to me about narrowing down what exactly it is I would like to do after college and the research paper is helping me to decide what my career options are.  I know that I'd like to teach history on a college level one day but history is a pretty wide topic.  Through the detailed research steps, I have been able to narrow down my topic to mythology in the historical context and have completed my note cards and outline.  I'm currently working on the draft and organization of the paper.
All in all, I have found Essentials in Writing easy to use, follow and understand.  It really is fun.   I would suggest usingEssentials in Writing to further your knowledge in a way that won't make yourhead hurt but that will allow you to be creative and open the door to undiscovered worlds -- or undiscovered parts of you.
I am super impressed with the quality of the worksheets and assignments.  I encourage you to look over the Course Syllabus so that you'll know exactly what is covered and what is expected in Essentials in Writing Eleventh Grade.   $40 is definitely not a bad price for an entire year of High School English credit.  The 72 video lessons cover 150 daily assignments -- perfect for the Junior year as your child begins preparing for college admissions.  There is no Answer Key to writing assignments but rather Checklists and Scoring Guides to aid in assigning a grade.  These can be graded by parent or student.  Completed assignments must follow a specific set of guidelines including font, type size, and spacing -- something I REALLY appreciate to help prepare my daughter for expectations in college.  My College Freshman's instructors require the same things so my Junior is getting great experience.

Something to note:  I printed the worksheets as we used them (for purposes of this review we did quite a few lessons in each section), but will be printing the entire file (168-pages) now since my Junior will be continuing this to completion.   If you prefer an in-hand copy of the workbook and do not want to print your own, the website offers the option to purchase a pre-printed workbook for an additional $20. This workbook is an exact replica of what you receive via PDF. (Upon purchase, you will receive an email containing a link to access the PDF files.). Isn't it refreshing to find a company that truly has our best interest at heart?


~Disclaimer:  I was given the opportunity to use and review Grade 11:  Essay Writing Research Paper by Essentials in Writing as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  The opinions stated are mine and mine alone.  I was not paid to share my thoughts and feelings with you.  I received the DVD/CD curriculum in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any way.  You can check out the Crew Review and see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought as well.   I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.~  Pin It Now!

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a course my girls would enjoy. As they have matured, I appreciate programs like this that allow them to be more independent with their lessons.


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