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From Structure to Style

Open to: Grades 7 - 12
Prerequisites: Qualifying verbal score
Challenge Level: College undergraduate
Course Format: Web-based
Recommended School Credit: One-quarter academic year
Course Length: Session Based:10 weeks (Fall, Early Spring, Midspring, 12 weeks (Early Summer), or 5 weeks (Intensive Midsummer); Session Dates
Course Code: RUL1

Course Description

A deep understanding of grammatical structure allows students to make informed choices about style. This course examines the rules of standard written English and suggests ways that students can adapt these rules to develop a personal style.

Reading their textbook and working in an on-line collaborative community (asynchronous discussion board), students write analytically by developing theories of grammatical use, for example, deducing when the passive voice is most appropriate. Next, they apply the analysis to their own creative writing. Finally, students write reflectively, explaining the rationale behind their creative choices.

Experimentation with writing is an important part of the course. Students learn to manipulate grammatical forms to add variety, show emphasis, enhance coherence, and strengthen unity. Grammatical structures covered may include sentence boundaries, consistent verb tense, pronoun reference and case, subject/verb agreement, appropriate use of passive voice, and parallelism. Attention will also be given to students' grammatical errors. Students emerge from this short course understanding how their grammatical choices can affect the quality of their prose style.

Materials Needed

Rhetorical Grammar: Grammatical Choices, Rhetorical Effects, 8th edition, by Martha Kolln and Loretta Gray, Pearson (

Compare prices online with ISBN 978-0-13-408037-6, but delivery is slower and unreliable. Make sure that you have the EIGHTH edition. Earlier editions are quite different. Order at least two weeks before the start date.

Sadly, the ebook version is not for sale outside the U.S.

Note: You do not need any of the packages. You need only the book.




Detailed Course Information

Course Details


In this course, analysis is the most important aspect of most assignments. Often, you will be asked to change your prose in ways that may not improve it. The purpose is to give you material to analyze. I want to see you thinking about what happens when you manipulate prose. This thinking (analysis) shows you what you can do, should do, and shouldn't do.

You will emerge from this course with a new set of skills with which to write cleaner, clearer prose. You will be able to consciously apply these skills at the sentence, paragraph, and  essays levels. These applications give you a clear understanding of how grammatical choices affect the quality of your prose.

Note about multi-step assignments

If you are new to multi-step assignments, I recommend following this process.

  1. Read the assignment all the way through. Don't begin the assignment until you understand how all the steps fit together. If you don't understand how all the steps fit together, review the whole assignment with a parent or guardian. If you both do not understand, please message me.
  2. Perform the assignment. Most assignments are to be uploaded as one file. However, you may find it easier to perform some steps in a separate file and to copy and paste the results into the file to be uploaded. Title each step in the file (e.g., "Lesson 5 - FWA - Part 1"). Titles avoid confusion and error.
  3. Before uploading, review each step with a parent or guardian. Point to each step while the parent reads that step in the assignment.

Lesson 1: Understanding Sentence Structure

Where are we going?

In this first lesson, we are going to discuss sentence structure. Some questions we will explore include: What are the required elements of a sentence? How can complicated sentences be broken down into smaller parts? How can we combine sentence elements grammatically?

Why is it important to study sentence structure?

Although native speakers of English instinctively know how to speak grammatically, as writers we can make errors if we don't fully understand how the parts of a sentence work together. For writers, another important issue is knowing how we can manipulate or play with these sentence elements to make our writing more lively. Varying our sentence structure can make our writing more rhythmic or emphasize certain information.

Lesson 2 Brevity and Subordination

Where are we going?

In Lesson 1, we discussed basic sentence structure, breaking sentences down into their essential elements. In this lesson, we will continue our analysis of sentences by examining two types of sentences and practicing ways to use them most effectively.

Why is it Important?

Chapter 6 in Kolln's book focuses on brevity and subordination. When used thoughtfully, very brief sentences can be a powerful way to highlight an important point, especially when used in a paragraph with mostly long sentences. On the other hand, longer sentences are useful too. When writers add adverbials or dependent clauses to a simple noun phrase + verb phrase sentence, they can both highlight important relationships between ideas and manipulate the prose rhythm.

Lesson 3: Cohesion

Where are we going?

In this lesson, we are going to discuss ways to make your writing more cohesive. In doing so, we will first learn about something called the "known-new contract" and then discuss issues of pronoun case and reference.

Why is it important?

Have you ever had a teacher write "Awkward" on an essay? Have you ever needed to read another person's writing two or three times to understand the meaning? Violating the "known-new contract" or using pronouns incorrectly can make our writing vague and confusing to the reader. Even when our sentences are grammatical, they can still be awkward if they don't allow the ideas from one sentence to flow gracefully into the next or if they contain pronouns whose referents are unclear. Understanding grammatical issues empowers writers to make their writing graceful through cohesion.

Lesson 4: Choosing Verbs

Where are we going?

In Lesson 4, we are going to focus on verb usage. First, we will work on using precise verbs and then we will explore verb tenses, working to gain a deeper understanding of each tense and also looking at problem areas for writers.

Why is it important?

A writer's prose becomes more powerful as he or she learns to use vivid, precise verbs more effectively. Studying verbs can also help writers improve clarity. Not only can a thorough understanding of verb tenses help writers avoid errors, it can also help writers avoid the confusion caused by ambiguous verb tense usage.

Lesson 5: Passive Voice

Where are we going?

This lesson focuses on the passive voice. First, we will study the structural transformation from active to passive voice, and then we will analyze ways the passive voice can be used appropriately.

Why is it important?

Although many traditional grammar texts discourage the use of the passive voice, when used appropriately, it can become a tool that produces interesting rhetorical effects. Also, knowing how to use the passive voice effectively can make you a better reader. This knowledge can help you understand the subtleties of a writer's prose and also recognize when the passive makes writing unnecessarily wordy or impersonal.

Time Required

  • 3 hours weekly for 10 week or 12 week sessions (Fall, Early Spring, Midspring, Early Summer)
  • 2 hours Monday - Friday during 5 week session (Intensive  Midsummer )

Summer Session Daily Calendars

Summer Schedules

Learn more about the summer sessions.

Up to two weeks of vacation is allowed in the Early Summer Session. No vacations are allowed in the Intensive Mid Summer Session.

Down to Intensive Midsummer Session (5 weeks)

Sample Early Summer Session, June 5 - August 25, 2017 (12 weeks)




  • Work is due by end of the day, not start of the day. Students may use the due day to complete work due that night.
  • Vacations are allowed and must be negotiated at the start of the course with the instructor.
  • When student takes vacation, the schedule moves to later (#2 is due when #3 was due, #4 is due when #5 was due, etc.). Lessons cannot be moved out of sequence.
  • FWA workshops are required.
  • Purchase textbook before course begins. (See "Materials Needed" tab.)

Monday, June 5

Course begins:

  • Students download materials from the course access page 
  • Post introductions to classroom
  • Begin work on Lesson 1

Monday, June 12

Lesson 1 Exercises 1-5 due

Monday, June 19

Lesson 1 Final Writing Assignment  (FWA 1) due

Tuesday, June 20

FWA 1 Workshop Opens

Monday, June 26

Lesson 2 Exercises 1-4 due

Monday, July 3

Lesson 2 Final Writing Assignment (FWA 2) due

Tuesday, July 4

FWA 2 Workshop Opens

Monday, July 10

Lesson 3  Exercises 1-6 due

Monday, July 17

Lesson 3 Final Writing Assignment (FWA 3) due

Tuesday, July 18

FWA 3 Workshop Opens

Thursday, July 20

Lesson 4 Exercises 1-5 due

Thursday, July 27

Lesson 4 Final Writing Assignment (FWA 4) due

Friday, July 28

FWA 4 Workshop Opens

Tuesday, August 1

Lesson 5 Exercises 1-6 due

Tuesday, August 8

Lesson 5 Final Writing Assignment (FWA 5) due

Wednesday, August 9

FWA 5 Workshop Opens

Tuesday, August 15

Makeup Lesson (exercises) due

Tuesday, August 22

Makeup Lesson (FWA) due, including FWA workshop

Friday, August 25

Course ends
No work accepted after today


4 to 6 weeks after the course ends, students receive

  • Certificate of Participation
  • Detailed, one-page final evaluation of progress
  • Course description

Please update your contact information in MyCTY if your postal address changes.

Sample Intensive Midsummer Session, July 3 - August 7, 2017 (5 weeks)



  • Work is due by end of the day, not start of the day. Students may use the due day to complete work due that night.
  • Vacations are NOT allowed, any short absences must be negotiated at the start of the course.
  • Workshop participation is required and counts as 20 percent of final evaluation.
  • Textbook purchaseis necessary. See your classroom or course access page.

Monday, July 3

Course begins:

  • Students download materials from the course access page
  • Post introductions to classroom
  • Begin work on Lesson 1

Thursday, July 6

Lesson 1: Exercises 1 thru 5 due

Monday, July 10

Lesson 1 Final Writing Assignment (FWA) due

Tuesday, July 11

FWA 1 Workshop begins

Thursday, July 13

Lesson 2: Comprehension Quizzes; Exercise 1-4

Monday, July 17

Lesson 2 FWA due; Lesson 1 Workshop ends

Tuesday, July 18

FWA 2 Workshop begins

Thursday, July 20

Lesson 3: Comprehension Quizzes; Exercises 1 thru 6 due

Monday, July 24

Lesson 3 FWA due; Lesson 2 Workshop ends

Tuesday, July 25

Lesson 3 Workshop begins

Thursday, July 27

Lesson 4: Comprehension Quizzes; Exercises 1 thru 6 due – (Exercise 3-A is “on your own.”)

Monday, July 31

Lesson 4 FWA due; FWA 3 Workshop ends

Tuesday, August 1

Lesson 4 Workshop begins

Thursday, August 3

Lesson 5: Comprehension Quizzes; Exercises 1-6 due- Exercise 3 is “on your own.”

Monday, August 7

Lesson 5 FWA due; Lesson 4 workshop ends

Course ends
No work accepted after midnight (except workshop comments).
Note: FWA 5 Workshop opens on Tuesday and will remain open one week.



4 to 6 weeks after the course ends, students receive

  • Certificate of Participation
  • Detailed, one-page final evaluation of progress
  • Course description

Please update your contact information in MyCTY if your postal address changes.

Sample First Assignment




Technical Requirements

This course requires a properly maintained computer with high-speed internet access and an up-to-date web browser (such as Chrome or Firefox). The student must be able to communicate with the instructor via email. Visit the Technical Requirements and Support page for more details.



"It was hard at first for me, but the more I progressed in the course, the more interested and better I got at it. Before, I had weak ratings but then, I got good ratings. It is very good, and it is a good course to do."

"This was a great program and has made me more interested in the subject. I found it easy to ask my instructor a question, and she explained things very well."

"The course was well worth taking, and the online classroom not only was fun, but effective."

"The course was great and very useful."

"The course taught me a lot and the instructor was nice and gave excellent and timely suggestions/explanations."

"Our teacher was great - she was easy to approach to ask questions, always lively, had great feedback, and I understood her answers to my questions!"

"This was something that was very fun and interesting to me! Nice Job and thank you!!!"

"My child really enjoyed the course and improved his writing."

"The instructor L___ was superb. Very engaging, very available and involved with the students. I was impressed!"

"The is a remarkably good course, and J___ is an excellent instructor.  She put in a tremendous amount of work, and S___, my daughter who took the course, in turn also put in a tremendous amount of work because she did not want to disappoint J___.  This is the best course my daughter has taken in all of her life, including the course she took at CTY, and I cannot begin to thank J___ for all she did.  Although my daughter was in the 6th grade when she took J___'s course, I would recommend this course highly to sixth graders and above."

"A detailed and in depth course, appropriately challenging. Ms. J___ was an amazing instructor."

"The instructor is amazing, and we suggested her to family and friends."

"A wonderful course.  It combined composition practice with teacher feedback, and concrete grammar exercises."

"An excellent course for my son.  He read the textbook each day on the bus to and from camp.  Material covered in this class (as in Crafting the Essay) and lessons learned prepared him well for High School and beyond. He enjoyed and learned from the online workshops. The instructor was outstanding."

"The quality of the instructor, S___, was outstanding!  She communicated openly with both me and my son and was supportive throughout the course,"