Archive for the ‘Teaching High School’ Category

How to Write Better in Five Minutes

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

How to Write Better in Five Minutes

#1 She was tired when she finished her paper at midnight.

#2 Sleepily, Mary slowly climbed under the cool sheets and let out a huge, satisfied sigh. Although she didn’t finish writing her conclusion until the clock chimed for the twelfth time, it was worth it. She couldn’t wait to hear what her political science professor thought of her innovative solution for immigration reform. 

What Makes Excellent Writing? 

First class writing can be hard to produce, but simple to spot. It immediately draws you into a scene.  What did you experience, if anything, while reading #1 above? What was different about #2? Did you ‘see’ a tired Mary get into bed? Did you ‘feel’ cool sheets…’hear’ the clock chiming?

Show, Don’t Tell

#1 tells you what happened, but #2 shows you what happened, as if you were there watching. #2 gives you ‘clues’ that Mary was tired, and that she finished her paper at midnight, without coming right out and telling you. A competent author will describe a scene, providing plenty of specific, sensory details that allow the reader to look over her shoulder at it. If it is well-written, the reader “sees” and “feels” what the writer wants her to “see” and “feel.”

Let’s take another example:

1. He was angry when he left.

 2. Miles stalked out of the house, muttering to himself.  The kids playing in the yard stopped mid-sentence, startled at the slamming of the car door and sound of squealing tires as he rounded the corner. 

Now it’s Your Turn

This is an ideal exercise for your late middle or high school student.  Or for you!

Directions:
Rewrite one or more of the following sentences so they cause the reader to ‘experience’ a situation or person. First, read the sentence, then envision a scene based on it. Second, use specific sensory details involving the main character (What does s/he  see, hear, smell, feel, taste?) to tell the reader what you want him to know. You will probably use more than one sentence. Remember: “show,” don’t “tell.” Be creative!

Teaching tip: ANY changes in this direction will immediately improve your student’s writing. Don’t expect perfection on this first attempt – just keep working on it and over time it will come more naturally.

  • The girl was happy that day. 
  • The boy is sick. 
  • The book was scary. 
  • He was not happy to see that the tree in his front yard had been cut down while he was on vacation. 
  • Chris had a lot of school work to do.

Post Yours in the Comments

We would LOVE to see one or more of your student(s) (or your) answers posted in the comments. I will respond to any posted–and feel free to respond to anyone else’s post as well! Student’s love to see their work published!

Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing

 

P.S. This lesson plan was adapted from our Middle School Daily Lesson Plans.

 

 

The Perfect Solution for Ninth Grade English!

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Essay Styles light bulb Idea go FDP-10020198

 

Public and many private school classrooms often have weak writing curricula.  After all, if you were teaching five sections of English with thirty five students in each one, would you have time to read and correct all of those essays?

So, for English they focus on other areas of language arts, while composition is shoved to the bottom drawer. 

With time for individualized instruction, homeschool parents have the perfect opportunity to teach writing, although many of us feel totally unqualified to do so.

Admittedly, composition is a little harder to teach than grammar or punctuation. After all, having a grammar reference written at your child’s level gives you guidance in those two areas… but that won’t help you much with composition.

What helps the most is having your student read, read, read top level literature. Additionally, habitual oral and written narration over that reading, especially if done from the early years, lays the groundwork for later composition. But that isn’t always enough… at least, it wasn’t with our children.

What do I do for Ninth Grade English?

During the high school years we wanted to ensure our students were comfortable and articulate expressing their thoughts in writing, so we developed our high school composition course, Essay Styles for High School.

We often recommend that advanced eighth graders and ninth graders prepare for high school writing by taking our Essay Styles course.  This excellent composition course offers instruction and even genuine high school-student examples of the five essays that are required with high school level writing: narrative, expository, descriptive, persuasive, and comparison/contrast.  

But what if there is no room in your student’s high school schedule for a composition class AND a typical ninth grade English course?  Simply add literature study to Essay Styles to provide your student with the perfect solution to ninth grade English. Then you have  all of your bases covered, as grammar, spelling and punctuation are more effectively taught through composition than with separate worksheet-based curriculum.

In our last post Cheri had inquired of our Info Desk how to add literature study to our Essay Styles course to make it a  ninth grade English course:

….I would be interested in making [Essay Styles] into a 9th grade English credit class.  How would I go about that with the literature?  Pick a few titles to have her read and write about?  I’m such a newbie when it comes to planning high school!  Thanks for your help!

 Thanks again,

Cheri

 

How to Add Literature Study to Essay Styles

Hi Cheri,

Oh, you are very welcome!  It is agonizing to try and decide what to do for high school, particularly!  :-)  I’m glad to help!  You are exactly right about how to make Essay Styles a basic 9th grade English course.  Just read  books per semester (roughly 2400 pages, depending upon the difficulty of the reading) and do a variety of assignments with them. One great book to help your high school student to get more out of her high school reading would be How to Read a Book, by Mortimer Adler.   I will tell you right now that for high schoolers, it is a dry book.  :-)  What we did with that book is just read 5 or so pages at a time and discussed it. (I read it with my first child and just discussed it with the other. It helped me get more out of my reading, too!) All the assignment you need for that book can be oral and/or written narration and discussion.

Another  useful non-fiction book for a new high school student is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens  - an apt assignment for this would be written narrations over each chapter.  Here are some other book and assignment ideas:

Les Miserables – This book is about 1300 pages and in ‘older’ vernacular so it could be “the” book for one semester!  There are LOTS of assignments you could get out of this one*:

  • have your ninth grader write a ‘reading response journal’ charting which pages were read at each reading session, a short summary of that day or week’s reading, and her response to the reading
  • a report or essay on the French Revolution as described in the book
  • a “personal letter,”  one character might write to another character
  • vocabulary study — have your student circle in pencil unfamiliar words and go back later to define after trying to figure it out in the context of sentence
  • research and write 2-4 paragraphs about the author
  • choose a monologue or scene from the book and dramatize (perform) it
  • write short character sketches about each of the main characters (what do they “look like,” background information about them, how do they change throughout the course of the book, referencing page numbers and events that are the catalysts that change)
  • after reading the book and watching the movie, write a comparison/contrast essay discussing their similarities and differences.

*You would never choose to do ALL of those assignments ~one longer one and one shorter one would do.

Actually, most of those assignments could be used for other books, too, with the exception of the one about the French Revolution, of course.

Other great reading:

Note that the Kindle version of a few of these are free on Amazon. (You can also download a free Kindle app for your p.c.)

 Dana-

Your answer is very helpful.  I have printed it out and will definitely be referring to it.  I really enjoyed the 7 habits book for myself and did not realize they had one for teens- great idea!  And thanks for helping to make high school a little bit less scary :)  

Hopefully this post has made high school a little less scary for you, as well.

If it has been helpful or you have additional questions we could address, please let me know in the comments below!

Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing

Photo image courtesy Idea go via freedigitalphotos.net

How to Combine High School and Elementary History Study

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

How HS and Elem Students can Study History Together

It makes sense to have all of your children study the same period of history at the same time. But what if you have a high school student and two elementary students?

Sounds challenging.

This is the question recently addressed by our Info Desk:

Hi-

        I have a few questions regarding your curriculum that I’m considering for my kids next year.

        My oldest daughter will be entering high school, 9th grade, next year.  I also will have a 5th grader (my son is pretty smart but also severely dyslexic which hinders his independent reading and writing), and a 1st grade daughter.

        I am trying to figure out how I can keep them all within the same time period for history.  I see your curriculum could accommodate some of that possibly, but what I’m considering is the American History I for my oldest.  Would there be a way to incorporate that for my younger 2, or would I need to consider the unit programs for all 3?  Quite honestly, that seems a bit overwhelming.  I guess I’m just looking for some recommendations.  The kids are all spread apart just enough age-wise that I have a hard time planning things together.  I know my oldest needs more high school level work and I don’t want to frustrate my younger 2 either.  It’s a bit hard to coordinate :)

        Also, from what I understand- the Secondary Unit Program is book lists and ideas to incorporate into the school year (I hope I’m not over-simplifying it), yet the American History I is more of a complete- not necessarily day by day- but more broken down and more in-depth study of a certain time period?  Is that correct?

Thanks for your time and input- it is greatly appreciated!!

Grace and peace,
Cheri

Hi Cheri!

Thanks for your inquiry!

You do have a spread of ages — I can see that could be challenging, but our curriculum can easily accommodate.  Our American History I covers four units:

  • Colonial Life
  • Revolution
  • Westward Expansion, and
  • Civil War

Our Unit Programs include the same four units. You may easily have everyone study the the same historical periods/topics at the same time by using American History I for your 9th grader and our Unit Programs for your 5th and 1st graders.

I recommend you order the Primary Unit Program  for your 1st grader,  the Intermediate Units  for your 5th grader, and American History I (scroll down a bit) for your 9th grader.

Then, follow the schedule of American History I for your family and spend nine weeks on each of those four units using your unit programs.

Additionally, I would recommend one more thing for your rising 9th grader.  Has she taken a high school level composition course yet? If not, I would recommend she take our Essay Styles  course along with her American History I course.  That would allow her to become familiar with the high school level essay styles she would be asked to use in the American History course.

In awarding high school credit for our Essay Styles course you have two choices: you could award her  credit for an English elective, or use Essays for a 9th grade English credit, if you study some literature along with it.  (Ask if you need more information about that.)

Your thoughts about the  Secondary Unit Program are correct. It contains quite a bit of information about teaching from sixth through twelfth grades, along with many book selections arranged by time period and topic, but it is an unstructured program. In other words; it is like a lavishly appointed salad bar with lots of choices, but you put together your meal among all of the options available.

American History I is more like a sumptuous dinner delivered right to your table. It is structured,  specifying what books to read, yet giving you some assignment choices for each book, along with evaluation tips of what to look for as you grade your student’s assignments.

If you have further questions, Cheri, please feel free to write again! We would love to help.

Hi Dana-

Thanks for your thorough response to my questions.  You make it seem NOT overwhelming :) I had forgotten to ask about the Essay Styles course and you answered it – thanks!  I would be interested in making it into an English credit class.  How would I go about that with the literature?  Pick a few titles to have her read and write about?  I’m such a newbie when it comes to planning high school!  Thanks for your help!

 Thanks again,

Cheri

Our next post will answer Cheri’s question about adding literature study to Essay Styles to make it a well-rounded 9th grade English course. In that post I will list several excellent high school level book options for American History as well as give you several assignment ideas that would fit almost any high school level book.

Stay tuned!

Have a great week!

Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing

Using this Simple Graphic Tool Will Make You a Better Teacher

Thursday, October 17th, 2013
Tools-by-Grant-Cochrane-via-freedigitalphotos.net

Tools-by-Grant-Cochrane-via-freedigitalphotos.net

No matter what type of homeschooling curriculum or methodology you use, this simple graphic tool will help you be a more effective teacher and your student a better learner.

The Rubric

This is my favorite graphic tool because it is SO helpful, on so many fronts, for both me and my students! Maybe this is something you have never done, but I have been guilty of quickly throwing an assignment at a student, without really thinking it through, let alone sufficiently explaining it. And then I would wonder why it wasn’t at all what I was expecting when it was done!  Especially if you are a newbie at homeschooling, I bet you have struggled with this, too.

A simple rubric often eliminates this problem by:

  • helping you think through the assignment before you give it.
  • giving you a clear, concrete way to explain exactly what you want your student to do.
  • providing a written reminder to your student of what he’s aiming for as he works on the assignment.
  • offering you the perfect tool to evaluate and discuss your student’s work with her.

Rubrics work equally well with written assignments, oral presentations, hands on projects or anything else you might dream up, for history, science, language arts and many other subjects you teach. You can make your rubric as simple or complicated as you want, depending upon the age of your student and your grading criteria.

Sample Rubric

 

Sample Rubric from K-5 Manual

 

 

 

 

 

 

This rubric is a simple one suitable for a story written by a late elementary student.

 

 

 

 

 

Personally, I did not grade my children at that age, but I did use a rubric to insure that we both understood what was expected in an assignment.

How to Make Your Own

  1. View and download this sample of  of a (blank) basic rubric.
  2. Decide which skills or concepts you want to evaluate.
  3. List the most important ones in the first column on the left.
  4. Create a table in Microsoft Word or software similar, or use the blank grid provided on the Train up a Child Publishing Tools CD if you happen own one of our Unit Programs. Type or write in the criteria under the numbers with the highest number being the best score. Notice the wording on the sample criteria to help you develop your own.
  5. You may add rows or columns if you would like a more fine-tuned system.
  6. Share the rubric with your student to explain your expectations for the assignment. Encourage her to check the rubric while she is working on the assignment to make sure it is completely finished before  it is turned in.
  7. Evaluate the assignment using the rubric and calculate the points if you are giving your student a grade for that assignment.
  8. As the teacher, you determine the grading scale depending on the number of elements and whether certain elements are more important than others. With our example, a possible grading scale would be:

9—12 points                Passing

below 9 points          Reteach

Another possible scoring system could be:

10-12                  A

8-9                      B

below 8           Reteach

I actually waited as long as I could to begin formal grading; I didn’t begin until half way through middle school. But whether you decide to grade earlier or not, rubrics will still go a long way to ensure you and your students are on the same page with assignments and evaluation.

Have you used rubrics with your students? When did you start using them and how have they worked for you?

Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing

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Six Tips for Raising Leaders

Monday, September 30th, 2013

world history high school course

Have you noticed recently that the world is becoming notably less tolerant of our biblical beliefs? Moral relativism and immoral perspectives are not creeping, but charging,  into our communities, public education system and even into our churches.

This situation is not going to be improving any time soon, and in no time at all our children and grandchildren are going to be on the front lines.

It is our jobs to prepare them!

Coming from a corporate background prior to marriage, kids and homeschooling, I’ve always had an interest in leadership. But there is a difference between training leaders in the marketplace and training them at home.

As Christian parents we not only want to raise leaders; we want to raise godly leaders.

I know it is a lot to ask harried moms struggling  to get in the academic basics, but it is crucial that we look at the big picture and intentionally raise our children to be godly leaders. What could be more important that that?

So, how do we raise godly leaders?  Here are six tips:

 

1.  Teach the Word daily and model integrity.

  • Men and women who are leaders have integrity. Integrity is moral uprightness; displaying strong principles based on truth. Without daily teaching of the Truth, your children will not know how to recognize it from the falsehoods constantly bombarding them from our culture.
  • When an integrity issue comes up, put the books away and deal with it immediately. There are some non-negotiables when it comes to behavior, and integrity is one of them.
  • As Christian parents, hold yourselves to the same standard and remember that you have little ears and eyes listening and watching. And when you are at fault for something – apologize immediately. Just as they are accountable to us, we are accountable to God.

2.Keep your eyes on the big picture: share your vision for your children with them from an early age.

Teach your sons and daughters that they are made in God’s image, and that He has given them strengths and special talents to accomplish great things in His kingdom. Share with them how excited you are and how you anticipate watching those special gifts and talents develop as they grow up!

Remind them of this periodically and identify and reinforce these gifts and talents as they appear.

3. Train your children to have sound physical and mental habits.

Probably because my husband and I lived so far away from our parents, we had no clue how to raise children.  Then we moved to the South where children’s roles are very well defined, and we learned the secret: You train them to have good habits.

As Charlotte Mason wrote:

“The habits of the child produce the character of the man . . .every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.”

Habits are skills that are cultivated in our children by training, repetition and accountability. Character is molded through habit training, whether they be physical habits or intellectual ones.

4.  Read and discuss stories that show children as leaders.

If you are using a literature-based homeschool curriculum (and I hope you are!), read historical fiction and literature with characters who demonstrate the leadership traits you would like to see in your children, such as: integrity, humility, responsibility for self and others, reliability, initiative, willingness to be self-sacrificing, ability to learn from mistakes, resistance to peer pressure, willingness to tackle difficult problems with a positive attitude, diligence, and  perseverance.

5.  As you study history and current events, regularly point out and discuss examples of exemplary and poor leadership.

History is full of examples of leadership and good character, as well as their opposites!  If you use a Charlotte Mason-style, literature-based homeschool curriculum, you have the perfect opportunity to set a feast of inspiring characters before your children on a regular basis!  Choose books with plenty of examples of great men and women of the past, and in your discussions and assignments, compare and contrast them with others, as we do in our high school World History I course, subtitled Lessons in Leadership.

Additionally, do not wait until your kids are old enough to vote to discuss local and national candidates for public office. Talk about the jobs candidates are campaigning for as well as their track record and experience. Identify leadership experience within their backgrounds.

The newspaper and other media are full of articles of both exemplary and poor leaders. Draw their attention to these snippets and help them to identify these differences in discussions.

6. Give your children opportunities to practice leadership inside and outside the home.

From being responsible for their own belongings at home, teach them to be responsible for pets, chores and their own school supplies. Let them be responsible for a family event, such as a service project, teaching them to plan, anticipate, organize and communicate with others what their roles will be. Give them a small garden to research, plan, plant, weed and harvest. Encourage industriousness and entrepreneurship.

Let older children be responsible for helping to teach younger children at home, as well helping teach Sunday School, Youth Group, etc., at church. Help them expand into service to the community, such as spearheading a neighborhood or road clean-up project.

Encourage them to earn all or part of the money for their own activities, rather than just handing money over like so many other parents do. (This happened regularly with friends of my son, particularly, and it was very difficult at the time but our firm stance on this issue has reaped benefits now that he is in college and has to manage his own expenses.)

 

We owe it to our children to prepare them to live in the world they will be facing in just a few short years.  They must be mature, steadfast and well-grounded to be who they were designed to be.

What are you doing to encourage godly leadership in your children?  What are your biggest challenges to instilling leadership characteristics in them?

 

Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing

 

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