Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Power in Your Hands (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

The Power in Your Hands (Writing Non-Fiction in High School) from Writing with Sharon Watson - A Homeschool Coffee Break review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew on kympossibleblog.blogspot.com

This is a review I've been looking forward to working on and writing, because The Power In Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School, 2nd Edition from Writing with Sharon Watson has been on my wishlist for awhile. We were able to work on reviewing this updated edition, and get a head start on the upcoming school year as well. For the win!

Writing with Sharon Watson Review

Curriculum from Writing with Sharon Watson is popular with homeschoolers, and for good reason. 
Sharon Watson is a veteran homeschool mom and co-op teacher of literature and composition that has been sharing her relaxed and conversational teaching style with homeschoolers through resources like  Jump In!Writing Fiction [In High School, and Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide. And of course - The Power In Your Hands. This updated edition has numbered lessons to make it easier to keep track of daily work; a shortened lesson on the emotional appeal speech; an improved index; and specific grading grids in the Teacher's Guide to make evaluating the essays easier.  
The Power In Your Hands is written directly to the student, so they can work more or less independently, and learn how to write quality essays working at their own pace. This means the atmosphere is more relaxed and personal, and the instructions often contain a touch of humor too! Students will learn to write a persuasive essay; a compare-and-contrast essay; a biography; a literary analysis; and a research paper. They'll be prepared for the new SAT essay and for college writing.

Writing with Sharon Watson Review

How did we use it?  Kennady has just finished 9th grade, and I didn't have writing courses chosen (other than this one on my wishlist!) for the following years, so this is what I plan for us to use for 10th grade. After looking at the lessons, I think that since she'll also have other writing assignments, we can probably use this over two years. In any case, we decided to get started by working on it three days a week or so this summer. There are 117 suggested daily lessons, guiding the student through 21 essays, reports, articles, and narratives all together. 

Chapter 1 is an introduction and helps the student understand their own writing personality and the importance of planning and choosing good topics. Chapter 2 begins the real meat of writing with working on Opinion Essays. The different orders for presenting points are given and the student is given a couple of short assignments in coming up with arguments for or against certain positions; and figuring out how to organize their arguments before actually being asked to start putting pen to paper on their first full opinion essay. The process is explained clearly, with plenty of practical examples and advice. Even the exact format for handing in drafts and finished works for grading is explained clearly.  Kennady found it easy to read the lesson and do the Practice assignments as given, and rarely asked me for help. She liked that the beginning and end of each lesson was clear, and when it continued to the next page, the book said so - sometimes in a humorous way:
And just when you thought it was safe, you find another order on the next page.
We'll be ready to start in with Chapter 3 (Persuasion) when the new school year starts, because she is now working on her Opinion Essay, using everything she's learned in Chapter 2; which includes lots of practical tips on writing a great hook to introduce the essay, and a strong conclusion; and advice on how to manage time when working on a writing assignment.

The Power in Your Hands (Writing Non-Fiction in High School) from Writing with Sharon Watson - A Homeschool Coffee Break review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew on kympossibleblog.blogspot.com
brainstorming about bicycles and credit cards and other topics

The Power in Your Hands (Writing Non-Fiction in High School) from Writing with Sharon Watson - A Homeschool Coffee Break review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew on kympossibleblog.blogspot.com
with some Mountain Dew for fuel! Ha!
We were very intrigued by the collection of 14-Minute Power Surges included in the Teacher's Guide. These are writing prompts designed to encourage students to write without being graded on ev-er-y-thing. I think you know what I mean. That's too much pressure, but teens need lots of "starter material" for the essays that they will be graded on. So what you can do with these Power Surges is give them a prompt four days a week and each time they'll write on that topic for 14 minutes. On Fridays they would be able to choose one of those papers to complete, proofread and polish for grading. These can be used as a break from the program or as a yearlong program by themselves. 

What we did was try a couple of the Power Surge prompts chosen at random a few times over the weeks we had to prepare for this review. I thought they were good practice for getting some writing in when we didn't have enough time to get through an entire lesson. The prompts are listed in the Teacher's Guide with sixteen for each month in a calendar year, four prompts for four weeks in each month. There's a wide variety of topics that lend themselves to different styles of writing - persuasion, description, narration, etc - and the topics are creative. Just from our quick sampling of the prompts, we found a mix of light-hearted and serious, challenging and "easier" ideas.

Writing with Sharon Watson Review

Also in the Teacher's Guide is a detailed Grading Toolbox for Teachers, explaining how to give a grade, and what types of things a paper should demonstrate in order to earn an A, B, and all the way down to an F. Well, hopefully we'll not ever have to give a D or an F, right?! Since students are encouraged to be their own editors, the Teacher's Guide gives plenty of instruction on proofreading marks and just how to do the job of proofreading and editing well. Of course the answer key is included, as well as evaluation forms and rubrics to give clear guidance in grading each of the writing assignments.

What we liked best:
  • the comfortable and conversational tone in which both the Student Text and the Teacher's Guide are written. Neither of us felt like it was over our heads or that something was being dumbed-down for us. 
  • the work is broken down into manageable chunks, and knowing where the stopping place was for each day is helpful.
  • the flexibility of the 14-Minute Power Surges. I know those are going to be a great tool as we get going with this course full time in September, especially as I'm planning how to use The Power in Your Hands over a two-year period!
  • I am a HUGE FAN of clear and detailed grading rubrics for writing assignments. And these are probably the best I've ever seen. Seriously.
What I need to mention:
  • we have not used the first edition, but according to the information on the Writing with Sharon Watson website, the second edition is not exactly compatible with the first. In other words, you may be frustrated if you try to use a first edition Teacher's Guide with a second edition Student Text or vice versa. That's because page numbers have changed, and at least the emotional appeal assignment section is quite different. For more info on that, I do suggest checking the other Crew reviews, because some of the members have used the first edition and would be able to compare.
Our bottom line: We came into this review with high expectations, because I'd heard so many good things about the program and was hoping that I'd be able to get it for Kennady; and because Kennady herself recognized the writing style of the sample pages we previewed (We previously reviewed Illuminating Literature), and said, "Yes, Mom! Ask to review that!" I'm happy to report that The Power In Your Hands met our expectations and will indeed be our homeschool's writing course for the upcoming school year.

Writing with Sharon Watson Review

Would you like to tap into The Power in Your Hands? Here's what you need to know:
Find out more about The Power in Your Hands and see more High School Prompts.

Pricing: The Power In Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School, 2nd Edition is available through the website. The Student Text is $45 and the Teacher's Guide is $20. Samples are available for both.

Recommended Ages: This text is intended for students in Grades 9-12. For younger students, consider the middle school book Jump In!.

You can follow Writing with Sharon Watson on Facebook or on Pinterest.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other reviews. Some Crew members reviewed the 21 Grading Grids for Popular High School Essays so be sure to check out all the reviews!

Writing with Sharon Watson Review

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Sharon Watson said...

What a fun review to read, Kym. As for conversational style, you have a great one!

I love the pictures of Kennady--she makes it look fun!--and the all the specific features you mentioned about The Power in Your Hands, 2nd Edition.

Thank you!

Kym said...

Thank you, Sharon! I'm honored that you stopped by to read our review. Kennady was good enough to let me take a couple pictures when she was sitting at a table working - more often she writes while in bed! LOL

Sharon Watson said...

Many of my students write while in bed as well. It's a good strategy to write where you feel comfortable, as Kennady already knows!

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