Jump In is a two-year writing program for middle school students. While most appropriate for grades six through eight, it can also be used with high schoolers who need more work on basic writing skills or need a user-friendly approach to motivate them to improve their skills. Written particularly for Christian homeschoolers, it is designed for students to work independently most of the time, and it assumes a Christian audience with references to favorite Bible verses, church activities, judgments about Greek gods and goddesses, spiritual motivations of characters in stories, and other Christian experiences and attitudes.
The course consists of a student book plus a teacher manual titled The Lifeguard’s Locker: A Parent/Teacher Manual for Jump In. Both are essential. The 248-page student worktext includes instruction, activities, and assignments plus helpful reference tools at the back. Assignments are presented in seven sections of varying length: pre-writing skills, opinion, persuasion, exposition, description, narration, and poetry. Within each section, lessons are presented as a series of skills so that students approach each type of writing in bite-size chunks. For most of the activities student will write directly in their workbook, spending from five to twenty minutes per lesson on writing activities. I particularly like the way Watson has interspersed activities throughout the instruction to ensure that students are processing and applying as they learn. At the end of each section of skill lessons students are given a number of writing assignments from which to choose. These lengthier assignments might take anywhere from two to ten days to complete and will likely be done either in a notebook or on the computer.
Jump In is a fairly comprehensive course. It provides instruction from brainstorming, topic selection, and construction of a composition (with an introduction, body, and conclusion) all the way through the use of citations and creation of a bibliography. The exposition section of the workbook expands to include lessons on writing biographies, book reports, book responses, newspaper articles, how-to articles, and compare-and-contrast essays.
The student workbook itself can be completed in one school year. What transforms Jump In into a two-year program are the “10-Minute Writing Plunges” found in the teacher manual. These are a number of writing prompts—four per week for September through May—that are the basis for ten-minute writing assignments to be completed Monday through Thursday. You are free to substitute your own writing prompts if you wish. On Friday, students select their favorite of the four papers they have written that week and polish it to be turned in on the following Monday. The “Writing Plunges” are not intended to be used at the same time as students are working through their other lessons. They should be used on their own as the second year of the program or they can be used to break up the workbook lessons by spending a month or more on “Writing Plunges” between sections of the book.
The student workbook is very attractive. Printed in full-color, it includes illustrations and graphics that break up the print and keep students from getting overwhelmed. Students will also need a grammar reference book or additional instruction if they are weak in grammar; suggestions are included in the teacher manual.
The Lifeguard's Locker has answers for the activities when they are predictable answers, and it also has an extensive section on evaluating lengthier student work with reproducible forms and samples of completed forms—very helpful for the inexperienced parent or teacher.