Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Approaching the Dreaded Five Paragraph Essay with Ease

I receive questions from time to time about how I handle the subject of writing, especially for the older children. I have to admit I don't often post about our writing exercises, mainly because they are pretty much the boring, day to day type of exercises, and activities you might find anywhere.  Whenever possible, as with all our subjects, I try to let learning happen naturally.

The children write letters, fill in Mad Libs and Sunday School papers, write journal entries, create comic strips, and fictional stories.One of D's friends from another state, for instance, recently sent him the beginning of a story to add to, and send back, as a collaborative writing project.  I love that sort thing.

Whenever I come across something the children have written, from notes to lists to signs for their doors - such as, "No boys allowed!" I correct any obvious grammatical, or spelling errors, and leave the corrected papers in place for the children to find, and ponder at their leisure.   Add to this a good deal of individual and family reading, along with a number of video and computer games, that require typed in instructions, or dialogue, like Animal Crossing or Scribblenauts, and an occasional Grammar Made Easy type text book for those days when I'm suffering through a flare up of  UPD (Unschooling Panic Disorder), and you pretty much have our approach to writing, at least for the younger children.

With my oldest now officially in high school, and starting to look toward a GED, or some kind of high school equivalency diploma, SATs, ACTs, college applications, and entrance exams, and then the world of higher education ahead, we've started looking for ways to develop and hone his essay writing skills, starting out with the dreaded, five paragraph essay.  Actually, I never dreaded essay writing, or least if I ever did, I received enough practice at it during my high school years to make it feel like second nature by the time I reached college.  That is what I would like for my children - not necessarily to love writing five paragraph essays, but to be familiar enough with them, so as not to be afraid, when confronted with one during a test situation.

And, that is why I am very happy to have found Steck-Vaughn's GED Essay workbook.  T (age 14) and I have been working through it for the last week, or so, and while I can't say he's loving the process, he is learning, and I'm quite impressed with the organization of the book.  It walks the student through writing typical test type essays with the easy to remember acronym POWER - Plan, Organize, Write, Evaluate, and Revise.  There is a chapter dedicated to each section of the acronym, followed up with chapters for improving, and refining the process, and covering typical grammar and spelling mistakes to be avoided. I'm looking forward to the grammar refresher course, myself :)

As a whole, the workbook takes things slowly, and offers a number of practice exercises, moving from simple brainstorming, right into creating essays, through a series of simple, easy to grasp, steps.  Nothing is overwhelming, or intimidating.  It's just step, step, step - to a no stress essay.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

Wow, I can't believe T is a high schooler! Time surely flies when you are having fun. I like your relaxed approach to writing.

Phyllis said...

I have never heard of a homeschooler getting a GED before. In this area GED's are thought of as lesser than an homeschool diploma. It is interesting how things vary in different parts of the country.

Ticia said...

I was with you in high school. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. At least essay writing, I loved writing stories.

Have you ever heard of letter stories? It's where two people write a story through letters and both people are writing as a character. I just read a fun young adult novel with that idea behind it and was struck by how much fun it would be.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Phyllis - I used to think that GEDs were a lesser option too, but I have a nephew who went from high school drop-out, to GED, to community college, to state university on to a private university, and now has a doctorate in mathematics and works in the space industry double checking numbers as a favor to the rocket scientists. GEDs went up in my estimation :)