Writing can be fun. Teaching kids to write...not so much. So we jumped at the chance to review Writing Fiction (In High School) by publisher Writing With Sharon Watson! Designed for grades 9th -12th, this program is intended to teach your high schoolers to write fictional short stories and novels in the span of a year. Sharon includes two tracks for the curriculum. One is for all writers at any level. The second track is for those who have already written a manuscript. These additional activities are scattered throughout the lessons. While it is recommended that the best way to complete this course is within a group setting, we found it was not completely necessary.
How we used this program- We were given the student workbook, over 300 pages, as well as the teacher's guide to use for our review. The student's workbook is written in an conversational tone, and easily read by just the student, so that's what we did! My daughter, a 9th grader, would read a lesson per day. Then, before doing any of the assigned work, we would use the discussion questions in the teacher's guide to guide our conversation together. Depending on the assignment, we would either do things orally or sometimes in a notebook, depending on her interest. My daughter has spent this past year writing her first novel, so the assignments that centered around her returning to that manuscript for additional work interested her greatly. There were days that one lesson took a considerable amount of time to complete and others that we were able to work through several lessons at one time.
My Thoughts- I really do like this program! A lot! It is very thorough, but not difficult to follow. The lessons are broken into manageable sizes and are filled with all kinds of practical assignments. One of our favorites so far has been a very early assignment that had the student write a story using a letter of the alphabet, in order, to begin each sentence. We put a little spin on it by setting a time limit and both my daughter and myself writing at the same time. Not only did we have fun reading our finished works to each other, but then later to our family during our nightly family time.
Here is a quick look at what she started with in a two minute limit-
A lion stared at me through the bars.
Baring his teeth he growled fiercely.
Catherine laughed, "I don't think he likes you!"
"Darn, I d hoped he'd like me," I replied.
Either way, working with him was my new job.
One of the other things that stands out for me in this program is the teacher's guide. It is well organized and gives lots of helps, especially in ideas to help prompt your student(s) in their thought process. It does not just leave you hanging, which I have found that many writing programs tend to do. I do think that this would be an amazing program to use with a group, so that they could discuss, critique, and encourage each other, but we did do just fine with our two way discussions as well!
The Teen Writer's Thoughts-
I've done a lot of writing programs. A lot. Writing Fiction has definitely been one of my top favorites. One of the things I liked was Mrs. Watson's approach to the subject of writing fiction. She's straightforward, but informational. Her writing style is not terribly formal, so I didn't feel like reading the sections was a chore. I enjoyed it. I love how Mrs. Watson uses a lot of examples from YA Fiction. Some of the books I had read, and some of them I hadn't.
The Last Book in the Universe is read along with the program (I think you have to have it finished by Chapter 4) I liked it so much that I read it in one day. It's about a kid named Spaz and it's an interesting take on the dystopian novel. I liked the characters and honestly wanted them to succeed.
I've learned a lot from this program. I will continue to use it :)
Chapter lessons include-
Facts About Fiction
Point of View
Characters and Characterization
Words, Words, Words
Beginnings and Endings
There is a list of movies that are referenced in the curriculum to watch, as well as a few books. We were able to get a used copy of The Last Book in the Universe from Amazon, though I am sure many libraries carry it as well.
Student workbook- $25.05
Teacher's guide- $9.95
The Final Word- In my opinion, this is an amazing program at an unbelievable price! After using this program, I will be eager to start another one that Mrs. Watson has to offer!