Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Essentials in Writing (Schoolhouse Review)

Essential in Writing logo photo EssentialsinWritinglogo_zps7affe1cf.jpg
Company: Essentials in Writing
Product: Essentials in Writing 7th Grade Level (1st through 12 grade levels are also available)
Price: $40 (DVD with video instruction and CD-ROM with printable worksheets, assignment sheets, and answer key
$20 Optional Pre-Printed Workbook
Essentials in Writing Grade 7 photo EIW7thgrade_zps7e459c7d.jpg
I’ve tried a lot of different writing curriculums with my children and have never found just the perfect one. Some focus on creativity and creative writing, others work on specific skills and writing genre, and still others seem to jump around too much. I think everything we’ve used has helped my children’s writing skills improve, because the more they write, the better they will be at writing. Still, I never felt as if I found a great program, one that would really prepare them for good high school or college level essay writing.
Essentials in Writing is a sequential, video-based curriculum with the goal of creating “confident writers.”  Each lesson is introduced and taught by the author, Matthew Stephens, in a short video segment. Then the student does the daily assignment, which may be a worksheet or a writing assignment. Larger assignments, such as essays or research papers are broken down into bite sized pieces, keeping the projects very manageable for students who might be intimidated by a large assignment.
From the Essentials in Writing site:
“In Seventh Grade, your child will learn:  detailed sentence structure, additional grammar, additional capitalization/punctuation rules, proper use of a friendly letter, using the writing process to compose narrative, descriptive, expository, and persuasive writing (including formal paragraphs), and five paragraph essays, compare and contrast writing, response to literature essay, effective writing skills, multi-paragraph composition, the process to complete a research project, other forms of written communication, and other topics.”
Our Thoughts:
I really like this program! It is living up to my expectations. Emily spends about 30 minutes a day doing her assignments (sometimes more, sometimes less). First, she watches the video lesson, which is 5-10 minutes long. The instructor, Matthew Stephens, teaches the concepts clearly while writing examples on his whiteboard. He then explains the student’s assignments. Some lessons have 2 or 3 days of assignments to go with one video, so Emily will proceed through the assignments and go back to the video lessons when needed.
The 7th grade curriculum covers clauses, run-on sentences, comma splices, complex and compound sentences, and prepositional phrases in the early lessons. In lesson 7, it begins to teach the formal writing process with lessons on paragraphs, then on various types of essays.
Emily enjoys writing, but I do think that even the most reluctant writer would do well with this program. The lessons are very clear and every major assignment is broken down into “bite-sized” pieces. The personal narrative, for example, is written over 4-5 days, from outlining to rough draft to final copy. A student who might be overwhelmed with an assignment to simply “write a personal narrative” is given ideas about what to write, and incremental assignments that are simple to do until the project is completed. A scoring guide is included for each major writing project that helps the parent grade the essay and helps the child understand which areas could be improved upon.
I’ve been watching the videos with Emily about half the time, just to keep up with what she’s doing. I also briefly look over her finished assignments and help her make revisions or corrections. But for the most part, this program takes very little of my time and allows Emily to work mostly independently. Her abilities are being stretched, but she has not been frustrated. Most importantly, she is learning to recognize and understand the difference between good and mediocre writing.
I thought about sharing Emily’s narrative essay about her most embarrassing moment, but unfortunately, it turned out too embarrassing for me to share!
This is a program that we plan to stick with. After using it for a month, I’ve already recommended it to several others!
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product 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 I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

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