For this review, we got to try a product from Writing With Sharon Watson. The company offers writing curriculum for students in grades 5 and up. We used The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School curriculum set. This program was written as a follow up to the popular Jump In writing curriculum for middle schoolers.
This curriculum is intended for high school students, and I used it with my 9th grade son. The student text contains lessons on all the major types of writing students will encounter in high school and college. Each chapter is broken into daily lessons, with some chapters taking a few days, and others taking about two weeks. We began with the first section of the book, opinion and persuasive essays.
I liked the fact that the lessons were written to the student in a clear, conversational tone. My son was able to read and follow the lessons on his own. For the most part, lessons took him an average of 30 minutes to complete. Each day contained a short lesson that allowed him to practice what he was learning about. The lessons build on each other, and I can see how, when they are completed in order, your child will have very strong writing skills at the end of the program. The lessons we worked on included topics like how to organize your thoughts when you brainstorm, which gave my son a repertoire of methods to choose from. He liked the writing assignments because they were not difficult, but I could tell he was really understanding the information!
Some of the lessons also included evaluating writing samples based on what was learned in the lesson. I think this is a very valuable way to teach writing. Having students analyze others writing to look for errors will help them edit their own. At the end of the chapter, there was an assignment to write an essay using the skills used in the lesson. Each essay had a word count and clear directions. I would assign a due date for the essay (usually 1-3 days depending on the length of the essay) and my son would turn it in. The teacher’s guide included a checklist for editing and a list of popular editing symbols, which I let my son use when he did his own editing. He could also refer back to it after I edited his paper.
The teacher’s guide portion of The Power in Your Hands is awesome! First, it has a section on “14 minute power surges”, which are short, daily writing assignments to give your kids more practice. There is a prompt for every day, and the work is not graded. The author simply wants to get kids in the habit of writing every day! As an English teacher, I feel this is very important. Writing is a skill that grows with use. While writing daily may be a struggle at first, it DOES get easier with practice. And the fact that the writing surges are not graded takes the pressure off. I did these short prompts with my son as part of his journal three days a week, and I can tell you, as time went on, the ideas came to him faster and faster.
There is also an extensive section on how to grade papers. Each style of writing has its own rubric (students have copies of the rubrics in their workbook, so the expectations for their papers are very clear), and there are even examples of what an “A” paper and “B” paper and so on look like! This makes it so easy to score your child’s writing! It also makes it easy to explain to them what you are looking for in their papers.
I feel that The Power in Your Hands is one of the most solid high school writing programs I have seen. I truly believe that if you use this program in your homeschool, you will develop a student with strong writing skills they will be able to use in college and beyond. This book would be excellent prep for the writing portion of the SAT.
With 23 chapters and over 100 daily lessons, this book is a very full writing curriculum. If your child is a reluctant writer, you may want to go slower, and spread the curriculum over two years. I plan to use this program again when my younger son gets into high school (at this point, I am seriously considering Jump In for him next year, he needs help with writing and if it is similar to this program, I think it will work!). The student text costs $39.98, and the teacher’s guide is $14.98. I would strongly suggest you purchase the guide to go along with the book, and I think that the price is absolutely worth it!
To find out more about The Power in Your Hands, and the other programs available from Writing With Sharon Watson, check out their website here: