Some kids are natural writers, like my oldest who has been writing since he was little. Other kids enjoy certain types of writing, like story-writing, and that is a better description of my youngest. He loves making up and writing all kinds of fantastic adventures. However, now that he is in high school, I know I need to get him to work on more reports and non-fiction essays since that is the primary type of writing he will be doing from this point on. So, I was happy to check out The Power in Your Hands: Writing Non-Fiction in High School, 2nd Edition from Writing with Sharon Watson for this review. I used the first edition with my oldest and it went really well.
The program comes with a student book and teacher’s guide. It includes 23 chapters on topics ranging from How-to writing, to compare and contrast, to a variety of persuasive writing topics. There are also some chapters on grammar, which is a new feature I really appreciate. The new index is also very helpful when you need to find something fast. The very first chapters involve the writing process, from brainstorming, to getting started, to writing the first draft.
Like the first edition, lessons are written directly to the student in a pleasant, conversational tone. Chapters are divided into a few lessons, making it easy to set up a weekly schedule. Certain sections of the lessons are labled “Your Toolbox” which includes several noteworthy writing tips for students to remember. I chose to have my son record these in a notebook as he went through the course so he could find them quickly when he was writing. Review and practice exercises are peppered throughout the lesson, which I found helpful because it broke up the reading for my son. Moving from the learning section to a practice section and back to more reading made it easier for him to complete the lessons.
Examples of high-quality writing are also given throughout the book through a variety of essays, articles and radio scripts. I was glad to see this practice was retained from the first edition because I think reading examples of the type of writing you want students to achieve helps them when they are writing their own papers. Modeling is a very effective way to teach anything.
The curriculum includes several references to the Bible and includes activities that have students reading passages and summarizing them.
When students work on an essay, they are first guided through setting up a schedule, then eventually move on to making their own. A checklist helps guide them through the writing and makes sure they include everything they need to. Assignments are divided into different levels, with a different word count for beginning, intermediate, and advanced writers and some differentiated suggestions for each level too.
The teacher’s guide is much more than just an answer key.First, it includes a list of the major writing assignments in the beginning of the guide, which makes it easy for you to keep track of what your child is doing. There is also a very detailed section about grading papers, which I think is great. Sometimes it is really difficult to grade an essay because so much of it is subjective. The guide includes examples of graded papers with a rationale for their grading, so you can see what an A paper looks like, and what a B paper looks like and so on. One new feature of the teacher’s guide that is fantastic is the inclusion of the Grading Grids at the end of each chapter. They feature prompts for you to answer about the paper as you read it and a point scale for each one. This way, you can simply fill out the grid and add up the points at the end.
For my son, the pacing of the lessons was perfect, and the way the lessons are set up really helped him get a thorough understanding of each topic. We are not through with this yet, but I feel like he will be a much better writer when we finish. I would definitely recommend The Power in Your Hands to anyone looking for a solid high school writing program.
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