Saturday, March 16, 2013

REVIEW: Essentials in Writing for Grade 9 by Essentials in Writing

I had an opportunity to review the Essentials in Writing – Grade 9 program from Essentials in Writing with my 13-year old son, Hayden.  He is just about to begin 9th grade, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to see if this writing program would be a good fit for him.



Essentials in Writing offers a whole series of writing course DVD’s and .pdf files of student workbooks for grades 1 through 12.  In addition, they will soon offer two additional high school writing elective courses in creative and technical writing.

The goal of these courses, taught in video format on the DVD’s by former middle school teacher, Matthew Stephens, is to instill a sense of confidence in your students’ writing abilities and to help them enjoy studying language arts.

Each course includes both grammar and writing components and is considered a complete language arts program.  Each type of writing is broken down and taught in smaller chunks to help the student grasp each style of writing in smaller components and subsequently put them together to complete the assignments.  Mr. Stephens even gives the students writing samples so they can see the concepts applied in a completed work.

Take a look at a sample lesson to get a feel for it.  You can also examine the syllabus to get an idea of what’s covered and how it’s laid out.

When you order this program, you will receive a DVD containing the lesson videos and a CD-ROM containing .pdf files of the printable worksheets for $40.  In the near future, they’ll be transitioning away from the CD-ROM to a digital link you’ll receive with your order that will allow you to print the worksheets.  There is also an option to purchase a hard copy of the workbook for an additional $20 in case you don’t want to print it yourself, but the contents are identical.



The grade 9 program has four segments:

    • Sentences
    • Paragraphs
    • Essays
      • Personal Essay
      • Persuasive Essay
      • Expository Essay
      • Compare and Contrast Essay
    • Research Paper

It also has a resource section at the end of the printable student workbook with handy graphic and paragraph organizers.

The parent letter that comes with the program lays out your choice of two recommended schedules for completing the course.  The program is not meant to be completed on a continuous schedule.  Instead, there are opportunities for breaks to be inserted between sections and between essays. 

During the review period, I had Hayden try out a sampling of lessons from the Sentences, Paragraphs, and Essays sections to get a good feel for how the program was laid out and what the different types of lessons were like.

My husband and I sat and watched some of the video lessons from the DVD with Hayden.  Hayden and I thought it was great to have the visual benefit of the video lessons, seeing each step and concept explained, but we all felt it was a little bit dry in its presentation.  The teacher is very soft-spoken, and we had to turn up the volume a lot to follow it.  Hayden found it made the most sense for him to follow along with the written lessons while watching the videos.  He felt the lessons were very doable for him, and he seemed to have a greater level of confidence in completing the assignments than I’ve seen before. 

In keeping with the high school level of the course, the assignments were not worksheets where the student simply identifies parts of speech and the like on pre-written sentences.  Instead, the student writes out his own sentences that demonstrate the concepts.  This demonstrates a greater level of understanding and also provides additional grammar and writing practice for the student.  I wasn’t sure how Hayden would react to that, but he seemed to do just fine with it.

The essay lessDSCF0283ons include a selection of writing prompts from which the student can choose to help him focus on a topic for his essay.  Then there are graphic organizers that take the student through the steps in the writing process.

Hayden found the graphic organizers helpful in getting his thoughts down on paper and putting them in a meaningful order.  He definitely needs this kind of guidance before starting to write a paragraph or essay.  Each lesson also provides him with a sample of a properly written paragraph or essay for comparison.  Then at the end of each essay type, there is a checklist for him to use to help him check his overall grammar, structure, and format.  In addition, there is a scoring guide for the teacher to use to help in the process of assigning a grade.

Overall, I thought the course was well thought-out.  I know that using this step-by-step process will help Hayden to develop better writing habits, and in time, getting his thoughts on paper in a cohesive way will become second nature to him.  We plan to continue using this course for 9th grade, and I’m anxious to see how his writing improves over the course of the year.

Take a look at what other Crew members had to say about the various levels of this program by clicking the banner below.


Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are mine or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC Regulations.