Getting Your Point Across in Writing: How to Write Essays That Have Impact is a free writing course for students in grades eight through twelve that is downloaded as a set of five PDF files. The primary files are the textbook and the learning guide. The other three files are a one-page introduction, an exam, and an answer key for the exam.
The 71-page textbook and 11-page learning guide are designed so that students can work independently for the most part by following the detailed instructions.
This course seems fairly traditional at first, but it veers off a predictable path to teach students how to write like professional writers. It encourages students to focus on engaging their audience rather than following traditional formulas. For example, students are often taught to begin their essays by telling their audience the purpose or point, then support their main point with three to five pieces of evidence, and conclude by restating their point or purpose. In contrast, this course tells students to write a “lead” that grabs the reader's attention and makes them want to learn more. It teaches other strategies such as using personal examples from their own lives or presenting the reader with a thought-provoking question. The main theme throughout the course is getting the writer’s point across to the reader effectively.
The learning guide tells students when to read chapters in the textbook and provides assignments that support the lesson material. Students are occasionally prompted to discuss things with a teacher, usually to make sure they are on the right track with an assignment.
Rather than using sample student essays, the course invites students to read published writing in various formats from books and articles, and then analyze how the writers have handled particular elements of writing. For instance, page 5 has students read the first page or two from three history, biography, or non-fiction books and determine whether their authors wrote introductions (leads) that were intriguing enough to make them want to continue reading. In another assignment, students read short articles and judge how well the authors got their main point across. This analytical approach exposes students to various styles of professional writing and helps them discern which elements and techniques are most effective.
Students apply what they learn by writing two practice essays, plus narrative, descriptive, expository, and persuasive essays. They learn to proofread, edit, get feedback, and re-write their essays in a manner similar to the process used by professional writers.
A parent or teacher needs to be available for discussion and to provide feedback and evaluations. If a homeschooling parent isn’t confident in his or her ability to provide accurate and useful feedback, it would make sense to enlist the help of someone who can meet periodically with the student for that purpose. A group class that meets once a week would be another way to help students get feedback from peers and a teacher while also providing opportunities to share with and inspire other students.
Getting Your Point Across in Writing: How to Write Essays That Have Impact should work well for self-motivated students who are interested in learning how to write well on their own as well as for students working with a group that meets periodically.