Home Education · Odds and Ends

Review of “Essentials in Writing”

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We are really enjoying this all inclusive language arts program “Essentials in Writing” which was written by Matthew Stephens, a former middle school English teacher.  He offers instructional DVD courses for 1st through 11th grade and 12th grade is due to be ready for release on August 13th of this year, 2013.  All of the lessons are taught by Mr. Stephens using a white board as if teaching to a classroom.  There are printable follow up worksheets/assignments for the lessons available in PDF format, while sometimes Mr. Stephens gives the student an assignment on the DVD.  He does have preprinted workbooks available to purchase for an additional $20 as well. I had the pleasure of reviewing the “Essentials in Writing” for Tenth Grade: Essay Writing and Research Paper which can be purchased for $40 (the cost is the same for each grade level).  We received 3 DVD’s with the video lessons and printable assignments.

Essentials in Writing Grade 10 photo EIW10thgrade_zpse9ce70e0.jpg

This is the suggested approach for using this curriculum given on the website www.essentialsinwriting.com and so this is how we used it!  We found this format to work well.

1.  Look at the worksheet/assignment sheet for today’s lesson.

2.  Watch the video lesson.

3.  Complete the assignment.

4.  Look at the next lesson.

The “Essentials in Writing” for Tenth Grade: Essay Writing and Research Paper covers grammar review, sentence composition, formal paragraphs, the writing process, the process of writing formal and informal essays, using effective writing techniques and the process of writing research papers.  Mt. Stephen’s DVD lessons are very easy to follow and he breaks each step down into very understandable sections of information.

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Following the lesson, there was an assignment for the student.  Most assignments took a single day; however, the assignments with a longer writing assignments took a few days.  It is suggested that you can take a day or two break in between writing assignments.  We used a 3 ring binder to hold the assignments and daily notes.  We also highlighted key concepts so that they would be easier to locate at a later date.  My daughter created a lovely cover for their collection of work.

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Basically, we followed the suggested format, as it worked well from the start.  With our printed daily lessons in hand, we would sit down to watch the video lesson together.  It was a good chance for my girls to also practice their note taking skills as they watched the video lesson, and if we needed to, we paused the video for them to catch up with their note taking.

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After the video, we implemented the lessons provided, but I tailored them to meet the individual needs of my twin daughters.  Both of my girls have a chronic illness and for one of my daughters I had to keep her assignments very short, as she is just getting back in to doing lessons after a year of being unable to do any school work.  For my other daughter, I tried to have her use her new skills in the writing assignments she was already working on or to polish previous writings (most of which are visible on our blog)!

We all 3 felt that Mr. Stephens does a great job of giving just enough grammar review and is very thorough in teaching sentence structure.  Both of my girls were able to put his lessons directly into their writing.  He explains everything in a very clear and concise manner.  He provides scoring guides and rubrics to help assess the essays and research papers, as well as samples of students’ work to help guide the student in their writing and parents in their assessments.  Mr. Stephen’s provides graphic organizers that are key in helping to organize one’s thoughts before the writing process begins and then a checklist for the student to make sure that they have included everything they needed to.

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All in all, I believe this is an excellent curriculum.  I have considered and examined quite a few writing programs.  I have never found one that I thought was as clear, concise, thorough and as user friendly as “Essentials in Writing” by Matthew Stephens.  The best news of all is that it is quite affordable and I will be able to reuse it with my younger kids.  We did a bit of each section for this review, but are now in the beginning and will do each lesson through to the end.  I loved this program so much that I am going to purchase one of the sets for my 4th grade son.  He watched the girls and begged to do the program with us.  This is definitely a complete language arts program with an emphasis on composition, that I am thrilled to have found!  I think I have even learned a few things to enhance my own writing!

Happily Sharing This Review with You,


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