Writing is such a core part of our education that choosing the right Grammar and Writing class can be intimidating. VSA students are expected to write across the curriculum (yes, even in Math) so we’ve given careful consideration to how we teach Grammar and Writing.
In grammar school, students learn how to learn. VSA Teacher Summer Weaver says, “The goal of our Grammar & Writing classes is to equip students with methods and materials to help them succeed in future classes. When done well, your child will have the tools and confidence to communicate their original ideas in the logic and rhetoric stages.” But how do we get to that point?
If you’ve decided to sign your child up for an online class with VSA, good for you! You are taking great strides in your child’s education. A few things to be aware of if you are deciding to take an online Grammar and Writing class with VSA:
These are courses are rigorous, even at the grammar level. The class covers two curricula, a grammar and a writing one.
It is a team effort. Parents are encouraged to sit in on the first few classes with their students to help with the learning curve. They are also expected to keep up with assignments and due dates.
What students are learning is not the end product. The focus of the class is the process over the product. It may not be Pulitzer-worthy writing, but the process is important for students’ writing to flourish.
There are two options for online Grammar and Writing. The first consists of a combination of Shurley English and Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW). The second is a combination of Classical Academic Press’ Well-Ordered Language and Writing & Rhetoric. Both are excellent curricula. Shurley English uses jingles and repetition to ensure mastery of language. IEW uses modeling and note-taking (also called “keyword outlines”) to practice writing skills. Classical Academic Press focuses on concepts of grammar and how words work together to form sentences. Writing & Rhetoric teaches students through retelling stories and adding elements of their own. From personal experience, the Shurley & IEW class is more receptive to logic-minded students and the Classical Academic Press class appeals to more intuitive learners.
If your child is motivated and has never taken an intensive writing course before, they will likely succeed in the grade level placement. If your child is a reluctant writer, try starting one level below grade level. It might seem too easy at first, but the pace quickly picks up during the year, and you don’t want them to feel overwhelmed.
There is a writing evaluation for Diploma Program students to determine placement. However, non-Diploma students will need to evaluate their level based on what is covered in class. Remember, we want our students to be successful in class, so choose a level that is not so hard that they start to hate writing.
If you’d like to learn more about our Grammar & Writing classes, watch this information session focused on English Progression from Grammar through Secondary. You’re welcome to watch the whole video or click on the links below to go directly to the subject you’d like to know more about.
Classical Academic Press vs. Institute for Excellence in Writing
Grammar & Writing Shurley English
We have some really wonderful teachers joining us tonight. We have Mrs. Summer Weaver, Mrs. Mandy Southern, Mrs. King, Mrs. VanRyn, and Mrs. Stewart. And they're going to walk us through the Scope and Sequence of Grammar, Grammar and Writing Transition Composition One and Composition Two here at Veritas. So we're really, really happy that you decided to join us.
I'm going to go ahead and start our time in prayer. So if you guys will join me, let's offer this time up to our father. Father God, we thank you for this evening. We thank you that your Word helps us to make you known. And we are just so very thankful for your written Word. We thank you for the scriptures.
We thank you for the Bible, and we just thank you for those men and women throughout history who took the time to write down your words, we thank you that Scripture makes you known to us, and we're just so very thankful that we can continue to mimic and copy what you have taught those men to do and learn to write, to convey our thoughts and to just glorify you.
And we just thank you that we're able to foster our children, to raise them up, just to glorify you. And I ask that you help us to do that with us tonight in this session. Help us to just have ears to listen and hearts to yield to you, and help us just to bend our ears to what you have to do with this time.
I ask that you be with each of these ladies as they present their specialties, their love, the thing that they enjoy teaching, and we just offer this up to you and Your Son's Holiness, we pray. Amen.
So like I said tonight, we are joined by a teacher from every Grammar level, our composition level that we teach here at Veritas.
So, Mrs. Weaver will be joining us to discuss four years of Grammar and Writing. She and Mrs. Southern both teach some of those early years. They're going to be talking to you about Shurley and Classical academic Press, also the IEW that goes along with Shurley. And then Mrs. Laura King will be joining us. She's going to talk to us about the Grammar Transition Courses and Grammar Writing Transition Courses.
And then Mrs. and Ryan Stewart are going to join us a bit later. And they're going to be discussing Composition and who is a right fit and when that comes into play for your students. So I hope that this time is productive for you and that you learn something new. So this is just an overview of the sequence of how our courses flow here at Veritas.
We start in the Grammar school years with Grammar and Writing, and we actually offer two options. We offer both the Shurley option, and we offer the Classical Academic Press option. And then for some students, they're ready to go straight into Composition I. But we do offer a Grammar Transition course that is quite helpful and is encouraged for a large number of students and that Grammar Writing Transition course is taught using Our Mother Tongue and the Elegant Essays book, and Mrs. King will discuss that a little bit more. And then, we move into Composition I and Composition II, which are our Veritas written English books, and Composition books and our teachers will discuss that.
And then finally, for some students, they have the option to take an English elective, maybe in their 10th, 11th or 12th grade, and we'll review those just a little bit.
So that's just a big overview, a huge flyover of what you're going to be hearing tonight. I would like to invite Mrs. Weaver to join us. She's going to talk to us a little bit about Grammar and Writing in grades 3-6. And I'm sorry, I'm giggling. Our graphics kind of cover that part of her word.
So Mrs. Weaver would you like to join us and talk to us a little about Writing?
Yes. Thank you, Mrs. Mote. Well, welcome. I'm glad to have the opportunity to be here with you this evening. I have had the privilege of teaching Grammar and Writing Shurley IEW at Veritas for the past seven years, and this truly is one of my favorite classes to teach.
I love that in Grammar school, the students are learning how to learn, and I get to be a part of that process. At the beginning of the year. I tell my students that Grammar and Writing is a lot like building a house. You can't put a roof on your home until you have a foundation, and before you even can build your foundation, you must have a plan.
In our Grammar and Writing courses, we are giving students a strong foundation and helping them build their Writing toolboxes that they will need for future success. Students who complete the four levels of Grammar and Writing will be equipped with the methods and materials to help them succeed in their future classes at Veritas. At VSA, families have two options to choose from when planning out a course of study. Mrs. Southern will be explaining the difference between the two options in just a few minutes.
But I would like to take this opportunity to emphasize how important it is to stick with one course of study. Both of these are excellent classes that introduce concepts using different methods, and it is difficult to jump from one curriculum to another. Students will really benefit from a complete course study. Whether you choose Shurley IEW or the CAP classes. For all the courses that we provide, there is a recommended age range.
Our youngest students should begin in Grammar and Writing 3. You will notice that Grammar and Writing 4-6 has a recommended age of 9-12 on the first day of class. If a student is new to Writing, or they struggle with Writing, or even struggle or a struggling reader, I always recommend that they go down one level.
A motivated student who has never had an intensive Writing course can succeed in the grade level placement, but they need to understand that the courses move quickly, especially when you get up to level 5 and level 6. Each course spirals back and starts from the beginning of the curriculum, but the pace varies per course. I would rather see a student feel like the Grammar and Writing assignments are maybe a little bit on the easier side at the beginning of the year than to see them become very frustrated and overwhelmed at the midpoint because the class is moving too quickly for their learning style.
At this young age, it's important for students to be successful in online classes. My favorite part of the year is at the end of the course when students look back through all of their Writing assignments, and when they are placed in the correct level, they can see on their own the tremendous progress that they have made throughout the year.
The patterns and formulas students learn are just stepping stones. Our focus is process over product and perfection in the in the Grammar years. It's important to remember that what students are learning is not an end product. It may not be beautiful Writing, but it is the process that is needed to grow into beautiful writers. They will become those beautiful writers in Grammar and Writing 6 and Grammar and Writing Transition and Composition.
I wanted to give you a quick overview of our classes. Students will learn tools that enable them to tackle text complexity and rigor, and reading and Writing, speaking and listening. Students will practice jingles on a regular basis and use assigned practice sentences for the week to make sure that they master the concepts and part of speech.
Writing is incorporated into each lesson, whether it's through Excellence in Writing or the CAP curriculum. And parents should expect to provide consistent oversight on a daily basis, especially when our live classes are not meeting. Homework will average between 2 and 4 hours a week, but that really depends on your child. If your child comes to class prepared every day with their material open and their pen or pencil in hand, that time might decrease a little bit because we do start our homework in class and if they are being focused, paying attention and have their materials with them, most of the time it won't be on that higher end 4 hours per week, it will be 2 hours. And sometimes I have heard from students it doesn't even take them 2 hours because they're in class. They're working with us in class, and we are starting the process of our homework in class every class session.
There's a few very important things to remember when you are placing a student in one of our Grammar and Writing courses. Grammar and Writing at VSA is a rigorous course, but growth comes from hard work. Grammar and Writing is challenging, and it may not be a favorite class, but that's okay. We have a great time, and we learn a lot each year, and students are proud of their work at the end of the year, even if they struggle. And throughout the year and they say, “I don't like this class!” At the end of the year, they're very proud of where they have come and all of their accomplishments. Students will be equipped with the methods and materials to help them succeed in all of their future Writing courses and even beyond Writing courses. When they have come up through our Grammar and Writing program here at Veritas.
And so I would like to turn this over to Mrs. Southern. Now, she is going to explain the difference between the two options you have at Grammar and Writing the Shurley IEW and CAP courses.
Good evening and welcome, everyone. I'm glad that you're able to attend or able to watch this archive later to help you as you're better at making choices; you're making a choice of your grammar and writing. There are those two options, and I do teach both Grammar and Writing 5 IEW Shurley and Shurley IEW Grammer and Writing 6, as well as the two new course offerings of Grammar and Writing that have offered this year using we call it CAP, which is Classical Academic Press. That's just an acronym for the publisher of the curriculum. And it is a combined grammar– and we have a grammar, a book, and a writing book, but they're both by the same publisher.
So I was going to give you just a few pointers and a few things on what is CAP and what are some of the similarities and differences. So there's a few of my notes here. As you can see that the CAP program, the Grammar is called the Well-Ordered Language. And right now we use four of their books throughout the Grammar program as well as– I guess we actually use eight because there's two books per year, and then it’s a systematic and sequential Grammar skills that is similar to what we do in Shurley through repetition and memorization. We also will be analyzing and something that is unique to the Well Ordered Language and the CAP program is we diagram. Diagraming: we don't do that in the Shurley program, but we analyze, we do analyze in Shurley. But within the Well Ordered Language, we will be diagraming from after our and analyzing the different parts of speech. And of course, we love to use our memorize and use our jingles as those will help solidify the elements and using those with some fun chants and with our jingles, as well as essential elements through the activity pages, through the workbook. So it's a Grammar book, and it's also a workbook all in one.
And this year has been it's been, of course, the piloting year for both CAP 5 and CAP 6 as well as the Level 3 and Level 4. Rebecca Jacoby is actually the teacher of those two courses, the three and four. And she and I have worked so, and we have coincided as we have together built this program for our presentation here at Veritas.
And through this there is a lot of interactive games we use through listening and speaking as well as we will be using example models with poems and literary excerpts. And that's CAP will be using that. And that's some of their strong points of how they teach their Grammar.
Now, students coming in, this is not going to be an easier option necessarily, but it's not going to be a difficult option and more difficult option. It's just going to depend on the strength and that of how your child likes to learn. And so it's not necessarily easier, but it's just a different presentation as Mrs. Weaver has already stated. But it should be– CAP would might seem to be more manageable and preferable for those different learning styles as it just has a different presentation in the way that we learn Grammar.
A noun is still a noun, and adjectives are still additive all the way. Now let's talk about the writing program.
So in the IEW, I have used the IEW program in my own homeschool for this is. I would say this is my 16th year now of using the IEW Writing program, and well it has Writing skills that will use to retell and imitate, and to innovate in different type– by using different types of writing. But the Style and Structure, it also uses the checklists in all their writing assignments. And that's some of the big, that's some of the key components to the program that Mr. Pudewa has created in the Institute for Excellence in Writing. And so it's very structured, and it's very structured and has a very structured and style technique approach to it.
Now looking at the CAP, the Classical Academic Press, the Writing Rhetoric, it is going to be a lot stronger than using the sense of that. You'll see, you might see throughout if you do any research on your own, you're going to see this, but this big word [unclear], and it's going to use it's don't let that word scare you or anything like that.
It is going to prepare students for rhetoric, which is the art of writing well and speaking persuasively. And so the CAP writing that is taught is working through exemplary models like the Charlotte Mason method, which uses the rich living models and will give narrative using narratives and expository descriptive persuasives while development and integrated public speaking is practiced as well.
And so before book one of the Writing in Rhetoric as well as now, I'm going to talk about both of them. The students should be able to identify and write a complete sentence and that would be in the third and fourth grades. So before the book that we use in third and fourth grade, and – don't coordinate the than the letter number of the book to the actual grade because that's going to be a little different.
And so, the foundational skills that are built by this book are given in bite-sized pieces that are manageable and doable, and workable for the child. And we have we've been having a lot of fun this year. We're right now in the past persuasive writing and getting ready to begin– we finished our persuasives, and now we're going to start our research which will brand out into quarter three. And so that is my presentation for that part of that little difference of what CAP compared toIEW. And so now I'd like to turn it over to the next. And Mrs. King, as she will begin talking to us about the transition.
All right, good evening. Thank you again for being here. And thank you so much, ladies, for setting up my slides so well. So Grammar Writing Transition is actually what you would think it would be based on the title of the course. It is a bridge or a transition for students who may be struggling a little bit with grammar or maybe have never written formal papers or maybe just are a little bit on the younger side, and they need that extra time to develop their skills, to develop their depth of knowledge in grammar before they move into a composition course.
So Grammar and Writing Transition is not just geared for brand new students, although it is very helpful for brand new students. It's not just geared for students who have had Shurley Grammar; although having Shurley Grammar is a great foundation, and now I know about CAP, I did not know that we had another course that did any sentence diagraming, which we do ad infinitum it seems like sometimes in our Grammar and Writing Transition course.
So the books that you see here on the screen are ridiculously small. So I'm going to show you something that's actually a little bit more visible. It is actually a book that's large enough to hold in your hands. So this is Our Mother Tongue. And if you'll notice, here at the bottom, we do the second edition. It's going to be really important for your students to have the second edition. I've had many, many people over the years who have come, and they've said, “We did Our Mother Tongue with our kids years ago, so we're just going to use the same book.”
Well, unfortunately, and fortunately, they have updated the edition of the book. So it's very, very different. It is not the same. The sentences won't be the same; the lessons won't be in the same order. So it will be important for you to go ahead and purchase the current edition of that one.
And then it is an addition to that one. And we also have Elegant Essay Writing Lessons. Now, if you look at the cover of this, you'll see a symbol that should seem familiar to many of you, which is the Institute for Excellence and Writing. Now, what I don't want us to think is that this Elegant Essay book is another IEW book. It actually is not. What this book assumes is that the students are coming into the course with a base knowledge of the different stylistic techniques so they know how to do sentence openers, they know how to do l y adverbs and quality adjectives, and strong verbs. However, this is a transition course, so we do have a lot of students who come in who've never experienced that before. And that's okay because one of the goals in Grammar of Writing Transition is to come alongside the students and bring them up to prepare them for moving on to their composition courses.
So Grammar Writing Transition has a little bit of a unique set up in that day one each week whether it's a Monday/Wednesday course, Monday would be day one. If it's a Tuesday/Thursday course, Tuesday would be day one, and day one primarily focuses on grammar. Now we're talking about parts of speech review. Our book is also going to start off with the very basics, just like Mrs. Weaver had said, that they all circle back to the beginning. Well, Our Mother Tongue does, too, in a way.
It's not the same exact structure that you'll see in Shurley Grammar, but it is similar. It's going to start off with nouns and verbs, and then it will move into adjectives and adverbs, and then it just basically moves on from there. It will also basically go through maybe the first semester, and then it will start to cycle back to those topics again.
Now, instead of staying at the same basic level on defining what a noun is and identifying it in the sentence, they're going to also add some elements that you might see in Latin, so case number and gender, and then they start to work through the level of language in that way. So you notice up here, which says day one, there's not just parts of speech, it's not just identifying them in a sentence. We actually strongly recommend that students parse the sentences much like they do in Shurley Grammar.
Again, if they've never had Shurley Grammar, it doesn't mean that they won't be successful with this. But we want the students to be able to look at a sentence and break it down into pieces to know exactly what every word is doing, what that job is in the sentence. And then, we also work on diagraming.
Now, I'd have to get with Mrs. Southern to see how our diagrams compare. But as we move through the year in Grammar and Writing Transition, we will start off with a basic structure of diagraming, subject, and verb. So again, for students who have never had diagraming, maybe they didn't take the CAP program, or maybe they're incoming from another educational environment, or maybe just some other curriculum. We will walk them through the steps of diagraming sentences, and we'll actually end up with some very interesting ones by the end of the year, which are actually a lot of fun.
Now, day two of the week. So whether that is a Wednesday or Thursday, we primarily focus on writing. So that's where we're going to have our structure of introductions and conclusions. We're going to make sure that they understand what a body paragraph is. Kind of affirm their idea of what a topic sentence is and really, really focus on these two statements.
There's a couple of people in this class that I recognize, and they could probably still tell you how you form a thesis statement in Grammar and Writing Transition class. But the structure of a thesis statement is to give the topic of the essay in the thesis statement along with an opinion and three supporting points.
So when I get to the type of essay, I think that I'll be able to cover those ideas that you have or the question about the topics. And we're also going to send the students into breakout rooms to work on peer feedback. At this age– this class is geared toward approximately 11– 14-year-olds, again, varying backgrounds and different levels of ability.
But as they give peer feedback, it helps them to understand what constructive criticism is. So we're very cautious in the way that we approach it. We want the students to be respectful but also to give feedback that their peers can actually use. So when I have the kids go to breakout rooms, I always tell them, “It's your job to make sure that your breakout room group has the best thesis statement that they can have in their essay or the best hook to their essay or the best introduction and conclusion.” And we just keep working through that.
The students do have readings to do, whether it is in our mother tongue or the elegant essay prior to coming to class. The readings are not extensive. It might be six or eight pages at the very most, and they do not have to do homework prior to showing up to class, with the exception of reading.
So if they read a lesson, they don't have to accomplish that night's homework before coming to class because we will cover those concepts in class and frequently work on some of those activities together so that they know exactly what's expected of them when they have the assignment due that night. It says up here in that third bullet point, at the very end, it says Parents Graded Grammar exercises.
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What you will have the opportunity to do as parents is you will actually mark your student's papers, the grammar exercises only you'll mark them to let the students know what is incorrect. They will have then the opportunity to go back to their own books, read through the lesson again, figure out what they did wrong, make corrections, and then they upload that assignment to the homework tab.
So the homework and grammar is graded on accuracy. That's still very important, but completion also. So it kind of marries the best of both worlds with that. Now during breakout rooms, as it says up here in the fourth bullet point, they do have class practice, whether it is on Grammar assignments or Writing assignments, and then they share their draft work in breakout rooms as well as having teacher conferences.
So I will pull students into a breakout room and I'll say, “Hey, you know, I notice that your thesis statement is a little weak, or maybe you need to work on your hook or do you have any questions for me?” So we have the opportunity for them to have not only peer feedback but direct teacher feedback before they hand in a final draft.
So in Grammar Writing Transition, they have one major writing assignment per quarter. The first one is kind of what you think of back in the day of what did you do over your summer vacation. Now obviously, it is not structured the same way, but it is a personal, descriptive essay that helps them to become acclimated to the class. It gives them a great opportunity to get to know one another, and they're not bound by all of these strict rules on MLA formatting.
They also create a slideshow so, a PowerPoint presentation. They know exactly what is expected of them, and they get to present it to the class, which is a lot of fun for them. When we move in the second and third quarter, though, we're going to go away from the personal narrative or the personal descriptive essay. But moving into the second and third quarter, they're going to have their formal essays. So these two essays, the biographical essay in the second quarter, requires research. They are also required to do MLA formatting, so they learn how to do in text citations.
They also learn how to format a work sited page. Now, this is for some of them; it's a brand new topic some of them have never heard of in text citations. Some of them have never heard of a works cited page. Sometimes they're used to a different format, like a bibliography, which is not what we use in our Grammar and Writing Transition course.
So they are required to do research. They are also required third quarter to do a persuasive essay. These are still five-paragraph essays, so you're looking at an introduction, three paragraphs, and a conclusion. So while there is research, it's not intended to overload them at all. In fact, they're persuasive essays, and they're biographical essays. They only have to have three outside sources, and one direct quote for each body paragraph.
So we don't want to overwhelm them with research. We're really just teaching them what the general structure of those essays looks like. And then the last quarter, it is a personal narrative. So we go back to more of an informal structure. They're able to tell the story. A lot of the students come in that fourth quarter, like, “I don't have anything that's important to tell. I don't have anything interesting in my life.” And before long, we're able to identify some really fun things that they've been through. The Four essays, five paragraph structure.
Now there are some recommended prerequisites for Grammar Writing Transition. Again, we're looking at an age range of 11 to 14 and 14. It may seem like that's a very wide range, but they really do blend very well in the class, and the teachers are aware of those age differences. And really we work on just understanding that God has placed in that course together, and we're all working on the same things it says up here. Also, a formal background like Shurley Grammar is helpful. It's not mandatory. Just note if your students have never had any grammar curriculum at all, you know, understanding what a clause is versus a phrase or understanding, you know, anything about identifying prepositional phrases, that might be something that's a little bit foreign to them. But I'm sure they'll they'll be able to pick up. And the book has some really, really great examples of those.
Now, there may be some of you that are thinking, “Oh no, my child has never had a formal grammar course,” or, “My child was really shaky in grammar!” During the summer, we do offer a Grammar Refresher course, and it's kind of subtitled Back to the Basics. This is more or less the Grammar of Writing Transition course without the writing part. So Grammar Refresher is intended for students who are going to be entering a foreign language course, but they still struggle with the English language or English grammar. If we have new students who don't really have a background in grammar at all, this might be something to consider.
And then there's also a third bullet point if students need help learning how to edit. So this is not a matter of actually writing essays; it's just learning to look for mistakes and how to edit those things. And then we see here it says for those who wish to keep their grammar skills fresh and then those who find grammar to be a puzzle and just need help wrapping all those things together. So that is another option for families as well.
My name is Gail Verheyen. I have been working for Veritas– this is my ninth year. I have taught Grammar and Writing 4, 5, and 6, and I'm currently teaching Composition I. I developed a lot of the original materials for Comp I when we were starting with our new textbook, and it's truly my very favorite class to teach for Veritas. My very favorite class.
All right, so I'd like to talk a little bit about our approach. We have our very own textbook developed with World Magazine. It is– the students really like it. The readings are short and to the point, and the assignments are very, very thoughtful. And so they do have some textbook readings. But the way we approach this is we do class breakouts, and in class writing assignments, the goal is to have them to practice the skills before they go off on their own and do things.
We also have students share their work in class and on discussion boards, and usually, I find in Composition I that at first, the students start out and they say, “Oh, that's a good piece of writing,” or, “I really like your topic.” And the goal is to get them to the point that they can actually critique each other's work, and sometimes that takes a bit more time than others.
But part of editing your own work involves evaluating what is good writing and what is better writing, and what is best writing. And so we really work on that. We do step-by-step graded pre-work and drafts, and this is something that is very, very important. So, for example, they are currently writing a personal narrative, and Thursday they will be putting in their introduction, and I make comments on that introduction, and then the next week, they do the introduction and the middle of the story and then make comments on that.
And then, the next week, they do the introduction, the middle, and the end, and I make comments. And so there's a lot of graded pre-work and drafts with comments so they can keep going. We do use rubrics for grading. Now how is Composition I different than Grammar and Writing Transition? We assume that they are pretty much done with grammar and other than a missing comma or two, they pretty much know how to write sentences with complex structures and things like that.
So we have minimal teaching on grammar, minimal teaching on Grammar, and it's primarily about writing. We are taking them beyond the process and into expression. And so we are looking at how they express themselves, how complete their ideas are, how they form arguments, how they tell a story versus the very strict structure of the grammar. The younger the 4-6 grammar programs.
So there's very little training on grammar and teaching on grammar and spelling. We assume that they are indeed mostly there. And so for this reason, sometimes a lot of parents, they think that Composition I is automatic for 7th grade. I do want to note here that it should not be considered an automatic course for seventh grade if your student is still struggling with grammar -and there's absolutely no shame in that. You may want to consider Grammar Writing 6, either of our two courses, Grammar Writing Transition, and then go to Composition I because Composition I is the next level.
Because this, of course, is the transition from here until later on when we get into the rhetoric stage. So if a student is really struggling with Grammar, really struggling with formulating thoughts, it may not be the best choice for them to go into Composition I, they may need a little bit more time. And I think we all know that we develop at different stages and in different ways. I always tell my students that writing is a life skill, so take your time in learning it because no matter what you do in life, you will be writing. So it's more important to get your basics step by step than it is to really press on to the next level.
So parents often ask me what the major writing assignments are, and they are crafted basically, as I said, to teach students not just process, but to teach them expression and how the depth of thought that goes into writing.
Okay. I'd like to talk just a little bit about the major assignments. We start out with a three paragraph essay with one source. The reason we do that is we get students from a variety of backgrounds, and that allows us to assess where they are. Many of them have not written papers with sources before. Many of them are used to the very rigid IEW method. And I'm a big IEW fan, but we kind of go beyond that in Composition I, and so we do that as a beginning assignment. Then we get into a very structured six-paragraph structure, persuasive essay with multiple sources, and we do both argument paragraphs that are supporting the thesis and we do a refutation paragraph. And so we teach them to look at both sides of an argument, and it must be a completely debatable one.
Autobiographical essay. Okay. This is also called The Personal Narrative. This is kind of similar to Grammar Writing Transition. We're currently doing this for the tell a story from their lives start from their lives, and it sounds so easy, but when you are creating a truly well-crafted piece of writing, there is a tremendous amount of work in doing that and learning how to – and as an example, today we were talking about setting some stories need a lot of coverage of setting, and some do not. If you have a story that's primarily involved interactions with people, the setting may be secondary. If you have something like you go to the zoo and the tiger escapes, well, the setting is everything right? And so how you discern how much setting to put in there and how not.
Then we do a short story, and we do flash fiction at the end of the year, and students usually really enjoy the flash fiction. It's kind of the culmination of– the flash fiction is when you have a very tight word limit and have to tell a story. And there are a lot of situations in life where you have to be very, very concise with what you say. And so it's wonderful practice for that. I like to tell my students I was a government program manager that they used to give me 50 words to write congressional budget narrative on a $10 million program. And so that was nonfiction. This is fiction. It's the same thing. You have to really consider what is absolutely essential in your storytelling. So it is a good, good thing as far as learning that fluency and that understanding of language and expression.
All right, so the prerequisites, minimum age is 12 and I would have to say that not all 12-year-olds should be in this class. Veritas does have a very advanced program, and we all know that people develop at different speeds and different rates. I have two adult children, and they were vastly different in how they approached both language and math. And so the minimum is 12. That would be especially good for students that are very, very strong on writing already that have come through Veritas.
And you need the successful completion of a VSA grade six year, so transition or a comparable course. So as I said, the key is that you pretty much have your grammar done, maybe a missing comma, maybe a misspelled word here or there, but you basically have it, and you are ready to really take off and to deeper levels of writing.
I'm going to bow out here, and you guys get to hear about Composition II.
Well, thank you, everyone, for being here. I am Melissa Stewart, and I have taught a single course at Veritas for seven years, and that's Composition II. And I'm just stuck with this course because I love it. And a few years ago, we got a new book. You can see it there on the slide. I want to assure you, like Mrs. King did, you can hold it in your hands.
We have an e-book version as well, but we changed curriculum, and I really like the new book! It was a work in progress, but I really have enjoyed the switch to this new material, and I think it works really well. This is the last stop for a lot of students in our Grammar and Writing continuum. So I feel the pressure of being able to prepare our students for higher level writing, whether that's here at Veritas or as they go off to other learning environments, off to college.
My students are from eighth grade all the way up to 12th grade. I have the number of seniors each year, and it's a joy to work with them and to know that we are equipping them for independence on the one hand and being a solid member of a writing community on the other hand. So it's this weird combination, and I keep telling my students, “I'm working myself out of a job. I'm not going to college with you. I'm not going to hold your hand through this. You've got to learn independently how to tackle a big project or, you know, a big writing assignment when the teacher, when the professor, doesn't lay it all out for you step by step.”
So I want them to be independent. And yet we also stress peer review time and working in a group and saying more than, “Good job,” when you're working in a peer review session and really allowing them to take some ownership and accountability within a group.
So those are two goals that I have for my students in Comp 2. Let me go through some of our routine here. Actually, you know, I'm going to jump to the next slide and then work back. I want you to see some of the things we actually doing in the class, the concrete part here, and then we'll go back and just look step by step at a typical class period.
This book is set up that we start with informal writing, we move to formal, and then we finish the year with a final informal piece, the showcase piece that the year starts with a blog post, which I was kind of suspicious of when I first saw the draft of this textbook. And I thought, “Why are we teaching students blog posts?” But the truth is, blog posts are not just about what you have for breakfast or, you know, really informal voice, but it's something that the corporate world has jumped into. So teaching students this type of writing is actually a really useful life skill. It also helps me to get to know my students because they get to write on something that they're interested in, and then we create a class blog, and they put their blog posts on that blog, and they're getting to know one another as well.
We move from there to more formal essays, and I'll just stop on the research portfolio and essay because that's where we are now in the third quarter. And that is that's a big project for these students. If they don't have a solid background in being able to create a thesis statement or learn to find reputable sources for research, they're going to struggle some at this stage. We teach into that for sure, but at this point in the third quarter, I'm giving them a month to build a research portfolio that includes the thesis and outline and ten reputable sources that could be used for their final essay summaries of all of those sources, evaluations, and analysis of the argument in each of the sources.
So there's a lot of work to this research portfolio even before they draft their essay. I go through those drafts, and by the end of the third quarter, we're all pretty drained. And again, I questioned the lineup here to move from something as big as a research essay to a creative writing piece at the end of the year.
But it works so well! Because by the time we get to the fourth quarter, we really need a break. And the students can write a short story or a one-act play or a personal essay. And I must say, for my juniors and seniors, I kind of steer them toward the personal essay. They get to choose, but it's something that will be really valuable for them as they're applying for colleges and scholarships to be able to write a solid personal essay.
Now that's those are the major projects. Let's go back a step and just look at the routine. We start out with a sentence study, and like Mrs. VanRyan said, we're not teaching grammar overtly at this level, but the sentence study is a sentence or a short passage from usually one of the Omnibus books, and it's just beautiful writing from skilled writers.
So I might have a student read the sentence and then give them some guided questions on “Why is that colon there or why a semicolon? Or what do you think the writer use the passive voice here?” And, of course, content as well, just the beautiful content that comes out of those sentence studies. But we do nitpick a little bit, but it's kind of a writer-to-writer like, okay, we're writers at a higher level now, and we're going to study the great writers throughout history and learn from the masters.
We love semicolons! I actually have a whole book on the semicolon, which I'd be glad to loan anyone who's that interested in a single punctuation mark. We always have some kind of a review time at the beginning of class, and then both in the first and second semesters, students get to present. They get to put together a slideshow that presents some rhetorical device.
And these are literary or rhetorical devices like metaphors or alliteration, or repetition, the use of questions and get to teach the class, and create original examples. They also find literary examples to share with us. And then the direct application of that material is that they have to use a certain number of rhetorical devices in each of those major projects.
So we don't just sit back and listen passively. We know that we're going to be held accountable for that information. And the students do a wonderful job putting together those presentations. We're at a higher level. These are high school students, for the most part, and they should be able to teach a lesson like that. Those are all preliminary activities.
Our actual lesson time looks different depending on where we are in our project work. An example of a typical lesson would be something doing this week where they're creating their thesis– an outline for this research portfolio, and I'm putting them into breakout rooms tomorrow and Thursday, and they're sharing parts of that research portfolio. So they have to look at the requirements again and look at the rubric that we're using and examine one another's work.
So they'll examine the thesis statement first. For example, and make sure that has all of us part parts and that the elements are clear that they're using two parallel format. All of that. We use rubrics for all of the major writing projects, and I encourage the students; I walk through the rubrics with them, and I encourage them to look at their own work and even score their own work before turning it in.
Because at this level, like I said, I want independent writers. I want them to be able to look at their own work and see the strengths and weaknesses and edit for themselves and revise as needed. So we walk through those rubrics, and I'll even give them sample essays and say, “Okay, guys, you are the teachers. Now get out your red pens and get ready to grade this sample essay.”
And they love that. But again, it gives them ownership of the material, gives them familiarity with what the teacher sees, and creates that independence that I'm trying to foster here. But we do it in community. They're working in a group to come up with a shared grade that they all have to kind of work together to achieve.
Writing workshop, peer review, teacher conferencing. A lot of our writing happens during class. We're all the students, here’s 20 minutes, we're going to work together. And that allows me to touch base with the students as well. If we're not in the throes of a research portfolio or, you know, at a critical point in those projects, we have a lot of discussions around just word choice and denotation versus connotation and how to structure a sentence that the most important word is going to stand out, how to change the wording a little bit with those rhetorical devices so that the effect is different on your audience.
We talk a lot about voice and knowing who your audience is, and being able to meet them where they're at. So you're going to know what your audience knows. So many things. It's a really intriguing class, and the students bring so much to it. And I can tell the ones who have been through these other courses because they come in just ready to go, and that's exciting.
I have other students who have never been in a formal writing class– that’s okay! They're along for the ride, and they're going to work hard. But I think they'll find it really valuable and rewarding. And someone earlier, may have been Mrs. Southern talked about process and product. They're both important, right? You know, I want to see a beautifully polished final essay, but I want them to understand the process of getting there really well and to bring alongside those other students to be a community of encouragers that can help one another get to that destination as well.
So that, in a nutshell, is the composition to class. It's a really good course. I'm blessed to teach it!
Here are the details. So this minimum age of 13, that's a little young. It depends on the students, and like I said, I've had students all the way up to age 18 take this class. Typically, they're in high school by the time they get into the composition to class. So thank you for listening. And I think we're moving to Mrs. Mote. Thank you.
Thank you all. So I'm going to briefly review options past Composition II. So we do have about seven English electives that are offered after Composition II and some of these courses are only offered opposing summers. For instance, this summer, we will be offering novels of Jane Austen, but that won't be offered again for two years.
So if you're interested in some of these courses and you are a diploma student, get with your Academic Advisor because they can direct you when these courses will be hosted the next time. But just as a summary, we have a fiction Writing workshop that is a Dual Enrollment class offered during the school year, and it's offered every year.
We also offer Creative Writing this summer. I don't know if it will be next summer, but we for sure will have it this summer. Novels of Jane Austen is a summer class, and that is a Dual Enrollment class, and it will not be offered in the summer of 2024 unless the teachers change their mind. But at this point, it's going to be offered again in 2025– the summer of 2025.
We are not offering science fiction this summer, but it will be on the course catalog for the summer of 2024. And then poetry is a school year class. It's Dual Enrollment. Shakespeare will be offered in the summer of 2024. It's not offered this summer. And then, finally, Fairy Tales is offered during the school year. It is not yet Dual Enrollment, but I think it's in the process of potentially becoming approved for Dual Enrollment.
So these English electives are typically classes that are taken by our 11th and 12th graders. The prerequisites for these classes as you can see, most all of them have prerequisites of Composition II or comparable course and the age of 14. There is one exception. Creative Writing is one exception. The prerequisite is Comp I, and the age of 13.
But you'll notice for almost all the others, it's recommended that the students are on the older end of high school and that they have had Composition II. All of these courses require reading along with writing. So they're reading literature alongside their writing and their critique of that literature. So those are just a few of the electives, or actually, those are the elective that we offer for English.
We have just a few minutes, maybe just 3 to 5 minutes remaining for questions, and I would welcome you to type your questions into the chat box, and I will try to answer them. And then we have a couple of our teachers that have been able to stay with us. I don't know if you know, but many of our teachers teach night classes for our students that are in different time zones. So they've moved on to teach their evening classes. So I'll do my best to answer your questions.
I see one already. Katie, Do any of the dual enrollment classes transfer as college freshman English courses or are they more like 300 level? So they all coming in around 300 level. The the typical freshman composition English course is actually Senior Thesis and that kind of falls under our logic and rhetoric and subject header. But senior thesis is that the typical freshmen composition course but these do come across as a literature like a 300 level literature.
I just want to thank you all for coming tonight. I hope you found this valuable. I hope you found this productive help that helped you to get a good overview of the sequence of Veritas.
I just want to remind everyone that courses are now open for everyone. So if you have not yet register for courses for the academic year 23-24, you are free to do that. Now every single person is able to register, every single student that is is able to register the courses at this point.
So your son has two years of lost tools of Writing and will be entering 10th grade.
What level of composition do I recommend? I'm going to defer to either Mrs. VanRyan or Mrs. Stewart. I honestly, I'm not familiar with Lost Tools of Writing, so I'm going to defer to one of them. And either of you, would you like to jump on and kind of give your feedback?
I taught from the lost tools of learning for one year at a classical school that has since closed. So I don't have a lot of familiarity there. Although some of the content did mesh well with Composition II. It's possible that that would be a really good fit. The one easy way of figuring that out is having him write a sample essay, and one of us could look at it and just get a sense of, “Oh yeah, this is a great fit for this course.” It sounds like some of like I said, there'd be a carryover of some of the material in a positive way that would set him up. Well, potentially for Comp II.
And I will say that it is somewhat easy to, if you find yourself inadequately placed or inappropriately placed in a class. It is somewhat easy in the first couple weeks of school that we can do a little bit of shifting and adjusting and move you to the appropriate level. It's ideally, that would be done like in the first month of the school year.
But if you find that you maybe have bit off more than you can chew, t's quite feasible. There is the ability to move to a different level even after school has started.
Thank you for joining us to learn a little bit more about the written word. And we'll see you with our next seminar.
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