Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Writing with Sharon Watson Review

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I have usually stressed fiction writing with my oldest, who is now in ninth grade.  When he was in elementary school, we did thank you letters, business letters, etc., but, once he got old enough to do longer writing, we focused on fiction writing.  Now that he is in high school and has to be thinking about college essays and SAT essays, it is time to buckle down and really learn how to write non-fiction writing well.  This is where Writing with Sharon Watson comes in.  She has an amazing book called The Power in Your Hands: Writing Non-Fiction in High School that teaches persuasive writing, expository writing, descriptive writing, and narration.  

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Sharon Watson homeschooled her children for 18 years and has taught writing in various capacities.  She understands the frustration that some students have with writing and explains things very clearly in this book.  It is 410 pages and is chock-full of lessons, questions, activities, and inspiring quotations.  There are many examples of the writing being taught contained in the book, and the student is asked questions about the examples.

Jacob has been working through the persuasion chapter.  Amazingly, there hasn't been one complaint from him about this book.  (My kids are not afraid to share their dissatisfaction with the curricula we use.)  The lessons are short enough to not be cumbersome, giving the student the feeling of small successes that build upon each other.  The ideas for the essays are interesting, and the student is given the option of choosing something else if he/she doesn't like the topic.

When I asked Jacob what he thought about this writing program, he said, "I liked how it was planned out.  There were definitely some good writing techniques in it.  I can't think of anything negative in it.  I think it teaches the techniques well."

I asked him if he learned from it, and he said, "Yes, I learned different ways of writing reports than I knew before."

The Teacher's Guide was helpful for me.  Ms. Watson provides guidelines for grading.  These pages are entitled, "How to Earn an A", "...B," "...C," and so on.  Explanations for content and grammar grading are given as are scoring rubrics.  A guideline for proofreading marks is provided.  I hadn't thought of this until now, but I think I'd like to have Jacob use the marks.  I have him proofread and fix things, but it might be really helpful for him to use the marks to really look for specific things and be able to label them.  This would, I think, help him to be more aware to avoid the mistakes while writing in the future.

There are do and don't lists for each type of writing.  These are found in the student book but are easily accessible to the teacher in the teacher's guide.  Answers to all of the questions that are in the student book are provided.   Something that is in this guide which we did not have a chance to try is the "14-Minute Power Surge Program."  These are prompts that are divided into four per week from September through May (of course, you can use them according to any calendar).  The student is to take 14 minutes per prompt and choose their favorite one on Friday to proofread, edit, and hand in for a grade.

The student book, The Power In Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School, sells for $39.98.  The Teacher's Guide sells for just $14.98.

I am thrilled with this writing curriculum.  Sharon Watson obviously put a lot of time and effort into putting this together.  She had the student in mind when creating this and did a fabulous job.  Jacob loves to write fiction, not non-fiction; so when he says he likes it, that is a real compliment.  We have a lot we haven't done yet.  I intend to have Jacob finish the book.  He will continue to learn and, hopefully, become an excellent non-fiction writer, as well as fiction.


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