Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Schoolhouse Review: Writing Fiction [in High School]

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She started filling the pages of notebooks with words when she was just a little girl.  At first they were stories of princesses and castles along with tales of Dorothy from the Land of Oz.  She progressed to writing fan fiction on computer forums and has, of late, been writing lyrics and narratives about a multitude of topics.  My Junior has so many stories that float around in her head that she simply MUST get them out.  Not only is she very creative, but she is also very talented.  She has a way with words that rivals that of our resident writer -- her dad.

 photo obj383geo450pg9p9_zpsb5b67bce.pngI believe that every student should learn the benefits of writing and be able to express their thoughts and dreams on paper.  I was excited to use a portion of the Writing with Sharon Watson curriculum with the Junior and couldn't have asked for a better fit than what we found in Writing Fiction [in High School]:  Bringing Your Stories to Life.  A composition course designed to be used for two full semesters (the equivalent of one high school credit), Writing Fiction [in High School] is full of fun assignments that help bring your stories to life.  Everyone has a story to tell and Sharon Watson helps students get their stories out of their imaginations and into print.

Students are introduced to a variety of writing styles and techniques through a plethora of literary examples found in newspapers, short stories, novels, movies, sitcom episodes and the Bible as they read and work on the lessons and assignments found in the 287-page student text.  Divided into 13 chapters, Writing Fiction [in High School] begins by explaining Facts about Fiction and issuing a challenge to students to "get started" writing.  As they read through the text, students learn about Point of View, study Fairy Tales (and even give a twist to an old story by making it their own), discuss Characters and Conflict, examine Dialogue, spend time with the power of Words, focus on the elements that make a story interesting in Theme, Plot, and Scenes, and then, put all of that together to hook their reader from the very Beginning and keep them interested until the final words in the End.  Rounding out the text, Sharon Watson explains how important it is for students to continually revise their work and shares how they might go about becoming published authors.

The Student Text is written in a conversational tone and can be used with independent learners or with co-op groups and can easily be adapted to meet the needs of your student.  There are two "tracks" written into the text -- one designed for all writers and one designed for students who have written a manuscript prior to beginning the course.  We chose to use Writing Fiction [in High School] in a group setting and the members of our group were varied in their writing experience.  Several of the students had already published manuscripts, some were just beginning to write, and others have been writing for quite some time (like my Junior) but had not shared much of their work with friends.  It was fun to watch all of the students open up and share their literary works with one another.

So, what did all of this look like in action?

One of my favorite elements of Writing Fiction [in High School] has been meeting with the writer's group that we started to go along with our study.  Sharon Watson suggests that students meet with a small group of their peers to get the full benefit of writing -- and I'm so glad she did.  Meeting as a group has been eye-opening for all of the students and has offered several ah-ha moments as they realized that people would not only READ what they've written, but would actually ENJOY it.  It is wonderful to see students encourage one another and build each other up.  (Ephesians 4:32)

 Because I was already teaching Speech to a class of high schoolers from our home school group once a week, it was easy to begin the Writing Away group {cute name, huh?} and have students sharing their literary creations and learning to critique and help improve one another.   So far we've met five times and the kids are really seeming to enjoy the time together.  I've briefly gone over the lessons from the chapters and explained the writing assignments that correlate.  Students have then gone home, worked on their assignments, and returned the following week to discuss their completed works with each other.  As a matter of fact, Speech class is almost over (they take their Final Exam on Friday) and they've decided they'd like to continue the writer's group  through the summer.  Isn't it exciting to see students who WANT to write, and learn, and improve their talents?
I love the intensity in their faces in this picture as they discuss their work.

The 76-page Teacher's Guide was an invaluable resource to me as I taught the lessons and explained the assignments to the group.   At our very first meeting, I asked each student to bring anything they had written so that they could get used to the idea that others would be reading their work.  I began with the first chapter and challenged them all to write, write, write and let the ideas flow.  One of their favorite assignments was to re-write a fairy tale from a different point of view. Have you ever thought about how the Prince felt in the Princess and the Pea?  How about reading the story of Cinderella as told by a friendly owl who watched from a high branch in a tree?   The assignments have spurred creativity galore in my students.  We've worked through the chapters together -- with me explaining the writing lessons and assigning work to be written -- and all of the students are eager to continue.  I'm thrilled with this.

One thing that is worth noting, beginning in Chapter 4 of the text students will need a copy of a book entitled The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick.  You can borrow a copy from your local library, order a physical copy online or pick it up at a bookstore, or download it for your Kindle like we did.  A science fiction novel written for students ages 8 and up, your writers will analyze the book in its entirety and will completely explore literary elements and character development through its pages AND will write about all of these.  Assignments and discussions are based on the reading of the book so it really is a necessity.  It's an easy read and the main character, Spaz, is an epileptic.  My Junior is EPIC (Epilepsy in Childhood) so she could definitely relate.  Your writing group will be intrigued.

For a glimpse of Sharon Watson's passion, make sure to visit the Middle School Prompts and High School Prompts pages on her website.  She engages students and draws them into the excitement of writing and helps them to see that they CAN enjoy the art of writing WITHOUT fear and worry.  Her passion to help unlock the stories that students NEED to tell is quite evident.

You can open the doors of literary composition for your high school students and help them begin bringing their stories to life by ordering both the Student Book ($25.05) and the Teacher's Guide ($9.95) today.  There is also a middle school writing curriculum (Jump In) and a high school nonfiction writing curriculum (The Power in Your Hands) available.  I just know you're going to find the perfect set for your family's needs.

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I was given the opportunity to use and review Writing Fiction [in High School] by Writing with Sharon Watson as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew.   You can check out the Crew Review and see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought as well (or just click on the banner below.)


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