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.
….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!
How to Add Literature Study to Essay Styles
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:
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
- Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
- Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
- To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
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.)
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!
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