Essentials in Writing

Essentials in Writing is a writing program created by Matthew Stephens, a former middle school English teacher. The DVD curriculum covers grades 1-12. For this review, I got to use the 9th grade curriculum, Essay Writing/Research Paper, with my oldest son.

While the elementary programs of EIW do include grammar, the 9th grade program does not. However, there are grammar lessons woven into the other lessons (for example, comma placement is taught when studying clauses). The focus of the 9th grade program is sentences, paragraphs, essays, and the research paper. Each of these areas is further broken down into smaller areas, like clauses and complex sentences, organizing and drafting paragraphs, planning and drafting essays, types of essays (i.e. expository, persuasive etc.) and the steps of writing a research paper.

For each section, there is a video lesson and corresponding worksheets the parent can print out ( a PDF is included on the final DVD). Video lessons vary in length, with shorter lessons at the beginning of the program (when studying sentences) that gradually get longer as you move into paragraphs and essays. For this review, I had my son work through the sections on clauses and compound/complex sentences (areas he still needed some work on) and then move into the first section on sentences, and finally, do the lessons on the personal essay.

Each day, my son would watch the video with Mr. Stephens, and then we would go over the worksheets together and he would complete the assignments. To start, I would say that Mr. Stephens is very clear and methodical in his teaching. I (and my son) liked the fact that he clearly modeled on the white board exactly what he was talking about. This made the concepts very clear for my son. The videos are high quality and easy to watch, and the length seemed suitable for my 9th grade boy (i.e., he didn’t complain about having to watch them!).

The follow up assignments were effective. The worksheets usually included the examples from the lesson, and then some type of practice assignment for the student (i.e., write 10 compound sentences). Assignments grew in length and involvement as you moved on through the topics so, while you could easily watch a video and complete the assignments for the Sentences section all in one day, as you get into the paragraphs, essays and research paper, you will likely need to spend one day watching the video and discussing the assignments, and then a few days working on the assignments. I think you could complete one section of the later topics per week, depending on your student.

One of my favorite parts of this program is that it gives you samples of “good examples” of the different types of writing along the way. Like, there are samples of “good” paragraphs, as well as “good” essays and even a research paper. I think this is very helpful for students, as they can get a good idea of what they should be aiming for. Of course, editing your papers is also covered, and I think the examples are useful for that as well.

The current cost of the 9th grade Essentials In Writing DVD is $40.00. For that, you get 3 DVD’s with all of the video lessons as well as the printables. I think this is an excellent value and I highly recommend it. In the future, the company is converting to PDF downloads of their materials, so that cost may come down even more. You can learn more about the DVD I got to check out here:

Essentials in Writing does have programs for grades 1 and up, to see what other Crew members thought of 9th grade, and the other grades we got to sample, click here:


**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 expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

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