{Crew Review} Essentials in Writing Grade 11

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If you’ve followed my blog for awhile you’ll know that I have, at times, really struggled with finding a writing instruction program for my girls.   Though awesome at supporting and helping with our home school, my husband gives little input to specific educational goals.  Except for one.  Our daughters must learn how to write well.  They must be able to organize their thoughts and compose an essay.  They must be able to write a research paper. 
Turtlegirl has always been on the advanced side of things for language arts.  She’s done well with grammar,vocabulary, and spelling. She’s had less formal instruction with writing essays and even less instruction with research papers so we were thrilled with the opportunity to review Eleventh Grade Essays/Research Paper Curriculum from  Essentials in Writing 

A Bit About the Curriculum

Grade 11 has 3 DVD discs containing video lessons for four sections: Sentences,  Paragraphs, Essays and Research Paper.   There are 8 lessons in Section One reviewing concepts such as comma split, appositives and the who, which, or that clause.

Section Two: Paragraphs contains 11 lessons.  The first lesson reviews a formal paragraph and then using two lessons per paragraph type takes the student through 5 paragraphs:

  • Expository
  • Persuasive
  • Descriptive
  • Compare and Contrast
  • Cause and Effect

The lesson covers planning the paragraph and the second lesson teaches drafting the paragraph.

Mr. Stephens breaks Section Three: Essays into a subsection discussing the writing process and the structure of the formal essay.  He then uses 7 lessons per essay to teach on 4 different types of essays:

  • Expository
  • Persuasive
  • Process Analysis
  • Response to Literature

With 16 lessons, Mr. Stephens walks the student through the research paper.  Section 4 begins with an overview and finishes with adding a title page and outline. 

In addition to the video lessons, the program also includes a PDF Student Workbook.  Though no answer key is given, Mr. Stephens shares two methods for scoring compositions and suggests using the sample essays included in the workbook,as well the samples in the video lesson, be used as guidelines.  As a teacher/parent I appreciate the inclusion of options for scheduling and the notes for time requirements for assignments.  I also appreciate the checklists for scoring!

Along with the Student Text, there is separate PDF file Letter to Parents. This letter to the parent contains the same information as pages one and two of the Student Text but also includes a suggested approach to the program and a brief explanation of how long a lesson should take.

Using the Program:

Both the Student Text and the Letter to Parent clearly state that this curriculum is not intended to be used consecutively.  Mr. Stephen offers two options for laying out the lessons.  The first option is for those who are on track for 11th grade whereas the second option is available for those “who are behind and want to complete additional assignments throughout the year.”

The idea of taking a break between sections and essays appeals to me.  Though we choose not to take those breaks during the review period, I intend to follow the suggestion of doing literature studies during those breaks.  Mr. Stephens also states that breaks can be as long or short as we desire to fit out schedule.  I appreciate this flexibility and encouragement to include more grammar or more vocabulary or literatures studies. 

Though not intended to be used consecutively, the program does not suggest skipping over paragraph instruction and jumping into essays, but it does recommend the breaking up for the essay lessons with the research paper.  Mr. Stephens recommends doing two essays from Section Three with a break between each essay and then moving to Section 4 to complete the research paper.  After taking a break, the student should return to Section Three and complete two essays with a break between essays.

She started each session by reading through the Student Text and then watched the matching video lesson.  After completing the video portion, Turtlegirl would complete the lesson.  Some lessons were subdivided into multiple days work.  For example Lesson 1 of Formal Paragraph Structure has 1A and 1B with each letter to be completed in one day.

Working on Essentials in Writing

Thoughts from Turtlegirl:

“I like it. I like how he takes you step-by-step and shows you how to plan out the paragraph/essay but still tells me that it’s OK to make changes while I’m writing. I like the fact that he takes care to explain what he’s doing and why. I like that the workbook and the vides work hand in hand so that if I don’t understand in the workbook, I can try re-watching the video. I like how the writing process is divided into pieces that are easy to do and understand. “

Some Final Thoughts:

Using Essentials in Writing is like having a private tutor work with my daughter on her composition skills.  I love that Turtlegirl has been so independent with this program.  I have always been intimidated by writing programs that tell me to “model the writing process.”  Matthew Stephens does the modeling for me!  Turtlegirl has been taking what she learns about paragraph and essay writing and applying it to her paragraphs and essays for her social studies class and other subjects. I’m impressed enough with this program to put on my “possible curriculum for next year” list.  The 12 grade program should be available this summer and I will have to consider it for Turtlegirl because the 11th grade program is going so well.

Those Important Little Details:

  • The Curriculum:  Eleventh Grade Essays/Research Paper
  • The Author:  Matthew Stephens
  • The Publisher:  Essentials in Writing
  • Other Grades:  This program is available for Grades 1 through 11   Grade 12 “coming soon” 
  • Price: $40 (This includes the Physical DVD Lessons and the PDF Student Text containing the Student Worksheets.  An optional pre-printed workbook is available for $20 for those who do not wish to print out the PDF worksheets.)
  • Format:  Physical DVDs for the Video Lessons.   I received the PDF files on disk 3 of the DVDs. However, Essentials in Writing is now providing the PDF Student Text as an email download. 
  • More Questions? Check out the FAQ page.
The Schoolhouse Review Crew had the opportunity to review grade 1, grades 3-11.  Check out the Crew Blog post to read more reviews!
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All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.


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