Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A TOS Review: Writing with Sharon Watson

This year, we embarking on that perilous journey called High School. I am literally freaking out! It’s not attractive, trust me. I have been filling notebooks with course of study possibilities and ideas. One of my concerns is obviously equipping my son with the necessary skills to produce a well-written document. To help me in my endeavors is a recent review. I recently received The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School, 2nd Edition from Writing with Sharon Watson.



I received a student text comprised of over 400 pages of context, in addition to a Teacher’s Guide (which comes in at just over 220 pages). There are a total of 23 chapters, which include:

Chapter 1: Thinking and Planning

Chapter 2: Opinion

Chapter 3: Persuasion–The Foundation

Chapter 4: Persuasion–The Next Level

Chapter 5: Persuasion–Logical Appeal

Chapter 6: Persuasion–Compare and Contrast Appeal

Chapter 7: Persuasion–Moral/Ethical Appeal

Chapter 8: Persuasion–Emotional Appeal

Chapter 9: Proofreading

Chapter 10: Proofreading–Common Grammar Mistakes

Chapter 11: Exposition–Letters of Condolence, Thanks, and E-mail Etiquette

Chapter 12: Exposition–Process Writing

Chapter 13: Exposition–Position Paper and Documenting Sources

Chapter 14: Exposition–A Devotional

Chapter 15: Exposition–Newspaper Writing

Chapter 16: Exposition–Biographies

Chapter 17: Exposition–Compare and Contrast

Chapter 18: Exposition–Literary Analysis

Chapter 19: Exposition–The Definition Essay

Chapter 20: Description

Chapter 21: Narration–Personal Testimony or Spiritual Journey

Chapter 22: Narration–Interview into a Narrative

Chapter 23: Narration–Personal Narrative

You can obviously see that this course covers a variety of writing projects. I haven’t seen very many writing curriculums that teach one how to write a devotion or a personal testimony. That’s exciting to me!


I found the Teacher’s Guide to be an excellent guidebook for the teacher. I find grading essays and papers to be fairly subjective. Unless there are glaring spelling and grammatical errors, sometimes it just comes down to personal preference. Sharon provides us with a terrific guide to grading essays. She even goes as far as to give us sample essays in A, B, C, D and F grade ranges. Rubics are also provided to help with grading.

The Student Text is easy to navigate. The course is intended for students to use independently. I thought she did a great job laying it all out there. If you read my blog at all, you might be aware that Josiah is dyslexic. This, of course, requires us to modify a good portion of the curriculum we use.  I also need to be more involved than perhaps the curriculum writer intended.

One thing that immediately stood out to me was how much there is to help the student become more organized. HALLELUJAH!


For example, the student is given specific instructions on the structure of their first essay – from word count, line space, font size…they are even required to use a paper clip instead of a staple. For myself, I found this information to be so helpful. There weren’t any special instructions or formats with every assignment. This was the required format for every project.

We haven’t reached this section yet, but there is a great chapter on writing letters and emails. One such lesson involves the condolence letter. I think the entire chapter needs to be required reading for every adult and teenager capable of penning (or typing) a letter. As far as the condolence letter goes the student is given some tips to follow.

1.       Don’t make it about you (ouch!). This is in my own words, but you get the drift.
2.       Keep it short.
3.       Avoid teaching life lessons. For example, “it’s all for the best.”
4.       Be specific about the kind of help you can offer.

Most importantly, all this advice is given with humor and a ‘down to earth’ attitude. Sharon doesn’t just leave the student hanging. She provides 3 examples of condolence letters and asks the student to ‘grade’ them based on a certain criteria. I LOVE that!

Of course, this chapter also includes E-mail Etiquette (lesson 6). Everybody needs to read this! Not just High School Students. There is even a sample business e-mail from Dorain Gray to Oscar Wilde. So funny.



Here are a few things I want to tell you.

1.       The lessons are intended for both beginner and intermediate/advanced writers. There are tips and requirements for all. 

2.       I think that the lessons are easy to modify for all kinds of learners. For example, the Teacher’s Guide includes 14-Minute Power Surges. Instead of 14 minutes, I only require 7 from Josiah.

3.       Speaking of the 14-Minute Power Surges…they are awesome!  They are writing prompts. The first Power Surge was to Compare your life to any job at the circus. Oh my goodness. Josiah chose a lion tamer. I don’t know how to feel about that.

4.       Don’t be afraid to use this if your child is a reluctant writer. The Teacher’s Guide provides great helps to engage them.

5.       Sharon is an entertaining writer. No dry and boring textbooks are allowed! This is a fun and, most importantly, thoughtful and thorough curriculum.

This is the 2nd Edition of this curriculum. I haven't seen the 1st, but we are told that the two aren't compatible. 

This is such a great product. I am heading into High School (reluctantly dragging my 14-year-old with me) with more confidence! 

You can connect with Writing with Sharon Watson via the following social media outlets. 


Writing with Sharon Watson Review

1 comment:

  1. Rebekah, what a delightful review of The Power in Your Hands! Thank you!

    Does your son know how lucky he is to have you on his side? :-)

    ReplyDelete

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