Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review: Essentials In Writing

Essential in Writing logo photo EssentialsinWritinglogo_zps7affe1cf.jpg

As a part of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew I received the 11th Grade DVD program from Essentials In Writing to review with my high schoolers!  I have heard SO much about this program. Every year that I have homeschooled, it seems that I hear positive things about Essentials in Writing, so I was very happy to have the program here in the house to see what all the buzz was about!

While writing has been easier for some more than others in our homeschool, it still has been a challenge for all. Heather's agony of writing all those essays for college and scholarship applications is finally over. I think she stressed more over those essays than even over her SAT's! For some reason, everyone here loves their reading, and they are all top notch sentence diagrammers, but hand them an essay and you can almost feel their pain!

We watched the videos together, and I have to confess, we skipped around quite a bit. (Although as part of the review crew, we were encouraged to try out all the aspects of the program, not just start at the beginning, which would only allow us to review the grammar lessons).

The way the DVD is set up is that the beginning goes over basic grammar and sentence structure. It is designed so that this section can be skipped if the student does not need the review. My students watched portions of it anyways, even though none of them needed grammar review. They wanted to see what it was like, and of course, they wanted to compare it to their current workbooks.

My high schoolers are huge fans of interesting video learning. They found the videos to be a little dry and thought the teacher spent a little too much time writing on the board during the lesson time. They thought that the teacher could have been a little more engaging with the students.

Personally, I like video instruction because it has that 'classroom' feel. I know that is not popular with many homeschoolers, but I have found it to be very effective with the way my kids think and learn. My kids would rather be taught than sit and read material and be left to 'figure it out' on their own, and they like the variation of having other people teach them, not just 'all mom-all the time'.

I think the Essentials In Writing program does a very good job of 'covering all the bases' that a high schooler will need to prepare them for college writing, or even just to prepare them to write good letters. I was very impressed with the way it is laid out. It has a very logical progression from easy to harder assignments, and builds a good foundation of writing. The student starts off with learning (or reviewing) the writing process, and then just keeps expanding those exercises until before they know it.....they are writing different types of papers, culminating in a full blown research paper!

All the main types of essays are covered in this grade level:
  • Expository Essays
  • Persuasive Essays
  • Process Analysis
  • Cause/Effect
  • Literary Reviews
  • College Prep Essays
  • Research Paper
The research paper does double duty as a career study, which is a great assignment for a high school junior.

The lessons are set up for the student to have video lessons approximately every other day. The video lessons seem to average about 15-20 minutes. They are informative but not too long or repetitive. Then the student completes the writing assignments, typically over 2 days. There are about 150 days of lessons in a single grade level, and 72 video lessons on the 11th grade DVD.  It seems like a typical student would be completely done with the curriculum in about 30-40 minutes on any given day.

To see a sample of an Essentials in Writing 11th grade syllabus, click here.

One element of this program that I found absolutely outstanding was the grading rubric that is included for the teacher. Writing can be so subjective, and I have always found it difficult to grade my student's writing assignments. I know what I like to read, but feel that it can be so hard on them if I take points off just because I may not like the style, when in essence, their paper might be just fine. Several times, I have given their papers to others, asking for constructive criticism from a different source for another perspective. This grading rubric lays it down in a very black and white style, which makes grading writing assignments almost easy! If x,y,z is included, then they are given a "4", but if they wrote x and y but forgot z, then they get a "3", and so on!

One other thing to note is that this program focuses primarily on writing. While there is a small amount of grammar and sentence structure review (clauses, etc.) it is not going to be the meat of the lessons. There is also not any overlap with literature, vocabulary or other typical high school "English" themes. Some homeschoolers would appreciate this opportunity to fill in their own interests as far as literature and perhaps some SAT vocabulary prep, while others might really miss that structure of a complete "English" package. If you have a student who is strong in grammar, is a good reader, and can diagram sentences just fine, but only needs help and encouragement in writing, then I think this program would be a perfect fit.

Essentials in Writing has a high school creative writing program which looks very interesting and is available for purchase on their website.

Essentials In Writing has curriculum available for 1st through 12th grade. When you purchase a complete grade level, you will receive the entire grade level on DVD, as well as a CD-ROM to print all the worksheets and teacher information. If you do not wish to print all your own printed material, you can order a pre-printed book for an additional $20. The downloadable lessons are convenient though, especially if your student will be skipping over the grammar review at the beginning. A full grade level costs $40. It is my understanding that Essentials In Writing is converting all their programs to downloadable PDF files that you can access immediately as soon as you purchase the material, rather than waiting for the CD in the mail.

Since Essentials in Writing includes curriculum for all grade levels, click the banner below to see what other Crew members thought of the grade levels they reviewed!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the 11th grade Essentials In Writing DVD Program through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own, or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC regulations.

1 comment:

  1. Writing is often a struggle in our house too. I'm glad I'm not alone, and I'm glad to learn about a new option for teaching writing.


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