Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Writing with Sharon Watson - A Schoolhouse Crew Review

Review Crew

In late May I learned I'd been selected to review another writing program for Writing with Sharon Watson.



I was so pleased the day I received, "hot off the press", my package containing The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School, 2nd EditionI received both the Student Textbook and the Teacher's Guide. 



I asked to be on this review because I want my son to be equipped for college composition courses. He has actually taken English 101, English Composition, at our local community college this past spring, under the "Dual Enrollment" program. He starts English 102 next month. 

English 102 is a course that will require my son "to read, analyze and evaluate non-fiction and then write arguments using logic and rhetorical techniques." My son tested as prepared to take college level English, and he got a "B" on his first course, but the description on this second course left me concerned that he really might not be adequately prepared for this course. The college class will teach him what to do, but I was so thankful to have this opportunity to spend some time using The Power in Your Hands to try to fill in any gaps!

I received both the student book, pictured above, and the Teacher's Guide, pictured below. 


Things that I love about The Power in Your Hands:
  •  You can use the program as a one-year plan, or you can use it as a resource, looking up the material you want to cover for the specific type of writing assignment you are assigning.
  • The lessons are written to be student directed (parental involvement not required), which is so appropriate at the high school level.
  • The material prepares the student for college-level writing.
  • The Teacher's Guide gives rubrics and help to the parent/teacher to know how to assign grades. (This was by far the area I have always felt most inadequate!)
  • I love the humor sprinkled throughout the book. (Page 1: "WARNING: Cheesy analogy ahead. Proceed at your own risk. And bring tortilla chips and maybe some salsa.")

So, while this material provides 117 daily lessons to walk the student through 21 writing assignments (essays, reports, narratives, persuasion, exposition, description and narration), it can be used by the assignment for specific types of writing. It also can be a shelf resource for years! I can totally see myself pulling this program out to help my son in his writing course at the community college next semester! 

the power in your hands
While we have had The Power in Your Hands for six weeks or so, we have certainly not gotten to all sections of the program that my son is going to need. We don't have a syllabus for his next semester's course, so it was choosing topics blindly as we worked through the chapters.

I needed to decide what to focus on with my son. We previously used part of Sharon Watson's Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide (and I reviewed it here on my blog). Some information from When Worlds Collide was also covered in The Power in Your Hands (and that is totally appropriate). Chapter 1: Thinking & Planning was mostly review for us. As I walked my way through the chapters, I realized I was going to have to just pick a place to start even though I'd be skipping other material I wished I could start with, that my son hasn't covered. My son is a lot closer to his next college English class than most high school juniors!

My son wrote a Literary Analysis Essay (Chapter 18) comparing two short stories that he had absolutely no interest in. I know colleges assign these. Working on material you don't care about to create a paper you don't care about is very "real world", but somewhat excruciating! He got through it.

We worked on a Definition Essay (Chapter 19). It was totally new territory for my son. He was struggling with this one, so I worked with him. Each time we thought he understood the concept, he'd work on the draft. I'd go over it with him and find he was lapsing into a persuasive essay. His concept was "What is a Home Schooler", but he kept sliding into a piece to convince the reader why they should home school. We had many draft revisions on this one, but he finally produced a fine essay.

My son also wrote a Personal Narrative (Chapter 23). He called it his memoir. I chuckled over that!... I tend to think of a memoir as something written by someone with a little more life experience than my 16 year old has...

There is so much in this book that I wish I could get into my son's head! So much to learn, so little time! I am so glad the Table of Contents of The Power in Your Hands is laid out so well. As my son receives his assignments in English 102 this fall he can tap into this program's content to help him complete his writing assignments. The content of The Power in Your Hands is so relevant to college writing that I think this book will be a helpful resource for my son for several years.

The Power in Your Hands is available in printed form or as a set of e-books. The student book is a consumable, so having it in e-book form might be handy if you have several students. 

The Power in Your Hands Teacher's Guide is fabulous! (Click picture for sample download.)

The initial section prepares the parent/teacher for the course and lets the parent know what is in the student book, what writing assignments are covered in the program. The next section (my favorite section) goes into great depth to describe how to grade the student. I find it difficult to balance my perfectionism ("This isn't good enough! Please address these issues!") against a randomness that loves everything my student writes (or that doesn't want my student to be discouraged). Concrete rubricks (provided in Teacher's Guide) take away the emotion and/or randomness and allow the student to know what he is aiming for. We both find that so helpful!

Guidelines for editing notation are provided to teach both the teacher and the student. Chapters in the student book are covered in the teacher book with explanations, rubricks, sample writing examples, etc. It is very well done.

If you have a student in high school and are feeling uncertain how to cover teaching composition, The Power in Your Hands might be for you. If you are using a curriculum for high school literature that gives assignments like, "Write a literary analysis comparing these two short stories," without much other explanation, you will find The Power in Your Hands helpful as well. There are certain types of essays and writing assignments your student should be familiar with before starting college and The Power in Your Hands will help prepare your student for these.

You can also get more resources from the Writing with Sharon Watson website. She provides tutorials, weekly writing prompts, teaching tips and more. I've been a newsletter subscriber for quite some time and love those weekly emails!

Other members of the Review Crew also reviewed The Power in Your Hands. To see other product reviews, please click the button below.
Writing with Sharon Watson Review

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1 comment :

  1. Diana, thank you for your lovely review, and congratulations that your son is doing so well in his dual-enrollment classes! I like what you say about The Power in Your Hands, 2nd Edition, being a resource; quite a few of my students have told me that they took it to college with them!

    I love what you write about trying to find a balance between grading too critically and loving everything your son writes. This is so true of us homeschool moms--being caught between wanting to teach and wanting to encourage.

    Thank you for your great review!

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