For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Essentials in Writing - TOS Review

I have boys, and writing is one of those subjects they rather not do. When it is time for writing they say to each other "Run!!!!!!!".  So, when a new writing curriculum came up for review I jumped on it with mixed feelings, not sure of how it was going to be received. 

Essentials In Writing is a writing curriculum that targets students in grade 1 through 12. It is a complete and comprehensive curriculum because it seeks to cover parts of speech and composition skills in grade 1-6, and then in grade 7&8 covers the different writing styles, expository, persuasive, compare/contrast. In grade 9-12 the focus then turns to quality sentences, paragraphs, essays and Research papers. They even offer 2 High School elective courses on Creative Writing and Technical Writing.
Essentials in Writing's premise is to study writing as it applies to everyday situations. Their goal is to help students to become confident writers. 
Since my boys are in grade 2 and 4 I decided to try grade 3 so that both of them could benefit. My 4th grader has very little writing instruction so it was just right for him. My 2nd grader was able to follow without any problems.
How it works:

Essentials in Writing comes as a DVD (2 CDs) where you watch the lesson and listen to a live teacher. When you purchase the curriculum it also come  a printable workbook (PDF) containing worksheets or assignment corresponding to each lesson. The PDF workbook also contains answers to the assignments.
The program is divided into a grammar portion (about 28 lessons) and a composition portion (about 24 lessons). I had my youngest work on both the Grammar and Composition section and my oldest only the Composition part. It was pretty easy to include it in daily school routine 4 times a week.
We were able to play the DVD both on our TV and on the computer.
You can check out the table of content, samples of the video and assignments,  and the scope and sequence for each grade on their website.
Some topics we covered:
  • Subjects and predicates,
  • Nouns, pronouns, verbs
  • Plurals
  • Kinds of sentences
  • Writing a friendly letter
  • Writing a narrative
  • Graphic organizers
  • Parts of a paragraph
Our Opinion:

The boys, who normally hate writing actually enjoyed this program. They did not complain when it was time for writing. They enjoyed the teacher. At times they found him funny.
I think one of the thing they like best about the program is that the instruction is given in small chucks, step by steps, so as to not overwhelm students with too much information. For example one lesson would deal with opening sentence, the next lesson on closing sentence, then the next one will be on the body, and then finally they will be ask to put it all together in another lesson.
The writing section comes with a self-check list that the student can use to evaluate his work. My boys enjoyed that feature. It allows them to see for themselves where they can improve.
What I like about the program:
  • This program is easy to use. Stick the DVD in, watch and do the worksheet. Done!
  • The lessons are short and to the point.
  • The assignment are one or 2 pages long comprised really of 2-3 questions which involve circling or underlining answers and writing sentences (not too many).
  • The teacher is very engaging and pleasant to watch; very real to life.
  • It is very independent of the parent. I only helped when they asked and to check their work.
  • I love that it covers grammar too.
  • I love that it covers different kinds of writing: writing a letter, a narrative, a descriptive paragraph, yet without being overwhelming.
One thing I wish is that there would be more practice. It was slightly moving a bit fast. It seems to me that one could easily finish the program without the content being totally well assimilated.

I should add that the program has a classroom feel to it, as the teacher (the author of the program himself - who is a homeschool parent) is shown teaching an actual group of students. This did not bother me  or my boys, but might somebody else.

Another thing I am glad about this program is that it has helped the boys to write freely. Joho after the lesson on writing a friendly letter, decided to write a letter to his friend.

Other information:

Price: DVD + printable worksheet: $40, if you want to buy a hard copy of the workbook it's $20 extra.

The author: Matthew Stephens obtained his degree in Elementary Education from Missouri State University.  He holds a teaching certificate with the state of Missouri with emphasis in Elementary Education, Middle School and High School English.

For more information you can check their FAQ page.


1 comment:

Lori said...

I'm glad you posted this. I'm in need of a writing curriculum for the fall. I'll do a little more research on this. ~Thanks for the review.

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