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The Process of Writing

Open to: Grades 5 - 6
Prerequisite: Qualifying verbal score
Challenge Level: High school junior
Formats: Email and Flexi-paced
Recommended School Credit: One-half academic year
Course Length:
20 weeks (Fall & Winter — Email); 12 weeks (Early Summer — Email); 6 weeks (intensive Late Summer — Email); up to 9 months (flexi-paced). Session Dates
Course Codes: EMA1 (email), EM1F (flexi-paced)

Course Description

By approaching writing as a process, instructors encourage students to avoid closure on a piece of writing before exploring its full possibilities. The goal is for students to become personally invested in their work. By demystifying the elements of writing, instructors help students develop the confidence to take risks and challenge themselves.

Students use the writing process to accomplish three projects:

  1. a poem,
  2. a nonfiction narrative, and
  3. a fictional narrative.

For each project, students complete one assignment for each of the writing process' three stages:

  1. prewriting to discover an idea,
  2. drafting to see what you have to say about that idea, and
  3. revising to express that idea to readers.

Students also write an autobiographical sketch. As they write each assignment, students apply their instructor's extensive comments about their previous assignments. Exchanging letters with the instructor about the experience of writing and about each others' comments on the assignments is an important part of the course.

Grammar Note

Skilled, careful writers follow the conventions of Standard Written English, but writing is much more than mere adherence to convention. Instructors discuss grammar only when it affects meaning. Writing courses are not remedial. Students must already be proficient in Standard Written English.

Materials Needed

Students are not required to purchase any additional materials or texts for this course.

Course Details

Formats cover the same concepts, but differ in approach.

We set the schedule

In the email format,

students email finished essays to instructors and receive detailed critiques of those essays. They download an assignment packet at the course's start.

You set the schedule

The flexi-paced format

uses a web-based course management system that delivers assignments, receives finished essays, and returns instructor critiques. Students and instructors use the course management system's messaging module to communicate. Because due date schedules vary by student, peer review workshops are not possible. Students and instructor need not be online at the same time.

Students start the course on a set date and develop with their instructors a schedule to complete the course within the next nine months. Students submit one assignment at a time, allowing instructors two weeks to review and provide feedback before moving on to the next unit.

Although the flexi-paced format provides considerable flexibility, students must manage their time carefully to avoid rushing at the end of the course.

Detailed Course Information

The Process of Writing

Assignment

Objectives

Prewriting a Narrative

choosing a topic
brainstorming for ideas
character description
setting the scene

Autobiography

selecting an interesting focus
organization
including details

Drafting a Narrative

story openings
using details

Prewriting for Poetry

avoiding abstractions and generalizations
using metaphor and simile
using concrete images
brainstorming for ideas

Revising a Narrative

revision
replacing static and vague verbs
using an imaginary reader

Prewriting for a Fictional Conflict and Resolution Piece

gathering ideas
physical vs. psychological conflict
free-writing to generate details
character description

Drafting a Poem

understanding line breaks
avoiding clichés
including specific details

Drafting a Fictional Conflict and Resolution Piece

beginning a narrative: 3 different ways
adding details
using dialogue
polishing the draft

Revising a Poem

replacing useless with useful description
showing, not telling
choosing what to eliminate

Revising a Fictional Conflict and Resolution Piece

revision
cutting, rebuilding, and reshaping structure

Time Required

  • 2 hours weekly for the 20 week sessions (Fall & Winter)
  • 3.5 hours weekly for the 12-week session (Early Summer)
  • 1.5 hours daily Monday - Friday during the intensive 6-week session (Late Summer)
  • 4 hours per assignment, completed within 9 months (Flexi-paced)

Summer Session Daily Calendars

Summer Schedules

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

Down to Late Summer Session (6 weeks)

Sample Early Summer Session: June 4 - August 26, 2018 (12 weeks)

DATE

EVENT

 

NOTES:

  • Work is due by end of the day, not start of the day.
  • Vacations are allowed (this session only). Students may miss up to two due dates but must negotiate with the instructor which two, if any, at the start of the course.
  • 10 assignments and 12 due dates allows each student to miss 2 due dates or to finish 2 weeks early.
  • When student takes vacation, the schedule moves to later (#2 is due when #3 was due, #4 is due when #5 was due, etc.). Assignments cannot be moved out of sequence.
    No textbook purchase is necessary.

Sunday, June 3

Students download materials from the course access page

Monday, June 4

Course begins

Instructors have called students by end of the day

Friday, June 8

Assignment 1 e-mailed to instructor

Friday, June 15

Assignment 2 e-mailed to instructor

Friday, June 22

Assignment 3 e-mailed to instructor

Friday, June 29

Assignment 4 e-mailed to instructor

Friday, July 6

Assignment 5 e-mailed to instructor

Friday, July 13

Assignment 6 e-mailed to instructor

Friday, July 20

Assignment 7 e-mailed to instructor

Friday, July 27

Assignment 8 e-mailed to instructor

Friday, August 3

Assignment 9 e-mailed to instructor

Friday, August 10

Assignment 10 e-mailed to instructor

Most students complete their course here, but those who took vacations may use the missed assignment due dates below to complete by August 26.

Friday, August 17Makeup Assignment

Friday, August 24

Makeup Assignment

Sunday, August 26

Course ends
No work accepted after today
 

2 to 3 weeks after the course ends, students receive

  • Certificate of Participation
  • Detailed, one-page course completion description


Sample Intensive Late Summer Session: July 2 - August 12, 2018 (6 weeks)

DATE

EVENT

 

NOTES: Work is due by end of the day, not start of the day. Students use the due day to complete work due that night.
No textbook purchase is necessary.

Vacations are NOT allowed and absences must be negotiated at the start of the course.

Sunday, July 1

Students have downloaded materials by now

Monday, July 2

Course begins

Instructors have called students by end of the day

Thursday, July 5

#1 assignment due

Monday, July 9

#2 assignment due

Thursday, July 12

#3 assignment due

Monday, July 16

#4 assignment due

Thursday, July 19

#5 assignment due

Monday, July 23

#6 assignment due

Thursday, July 26

#7 assignment due

Monday, July 30

#8 assignment due

Thursday, August 2

#9 assignment due

Monday, August 6

#10 assignment due

Monday, August 12

Last day of course
No work accepted after today!

 

2 to 3 weeks after the course ends, students receive

  • Certificate of Participation
  • Detailed, one-page course completion description

Sample First Assignment

Demo

 

ASSIGNMENT #1 - PRE-WRITING A NARRATIVE

NOTES: Be sure to read this assignment all the way through before you start writing. Families should review:

  • How to format the files you will attach to e-mails in this course, below.
  • Technology Skills Students Need (& Parents Need to Ensure Students Have)

It is Sunday afternoon, June 12th, 1909, and my father is walking down the quiet streets of Brooklyn on his way to visit my mother. His clothes are newly pressed, and his tie is too tight in his high collar. He jingles the coins in his pocket, thinking of the witty things he will say ... My father walks from street to street of trees, lawns and houses, once in awhile coming to an avenue on which a street-car skates and gnaws, progressing slowly. The motorman, who has a handle-bar mustache, helps a young lady wearing a hat like a feathered bowl onto the car. He leisurely makes change and rings his bell as the passengers mount the car. It is obviously Sunday, for everyone is wearing Sunday clothes and the street-car's noises emphasize the quiet of the holiday ... My father has taken this long walk because he likes to walk and think. He thinks about himself in the future and so arrives at a place he is to visit in a mild state of exaltation. He pays no attention to the houses he is passing, in which the Sunday dinner is being eaten, nor to the many trees which line each street, now coming to their full green and the time when they will enclose the whole street in leafy shadow ...

From "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities" by Delmore Schwartz


My mother started the San Francisco version of the Joy Luck Club in 1949, two years before I was born. This was the year my mother and father left China with one stiff leather trunk filled only with fancy silk dresses. There was no time to pack anything else, my mother had explained to my father weeks after they boarded the boat. Still his hands swam frantically between the slippery silks, looking for his cotton shirts and wool pants . . . When they arrived in San Francisco, my father made her hide those shiny clothes. She wore the same brown-checked Chinese dress until the Refugee Welcome Society gave her two hand-me-down dresses, all too large in sizes for American women ...

From Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan


Every family has a history, and this three-part assignment will give you the chance to bring a piece of that history to life. Eventually you'll write a three page essay in which you narrate a scene from an event in a family member's life. For the first part, Assignment #1, you'll do pre-writing exercises that are designed to help you find a subject and to generate material about that subject.

As I said, you'll be writing about an event from a family member's life. This might sound confusing, so let me give you some ideas and suggestions. First, though, you should read the two examples above a few times. In the passage from Delmore Schwartz, the narrator is describing his young father going to his mother's house on the day he asked her to marry him. In the passage from Amy Tan, a woman is describing her mother's club but also some details about her journey to America. Similarly, you could describe the moment when your parents got engaged or when your grandmother (or your mother or your great great grandmother) set foot on American soil. Or you could describe your father receiving his high school diploma or your uncle getting ready for his first date and your aunt going off to college.

These are "big moments" that everyone experiences. You could pick a "big moment," or you could pick something from a particular family story. For instance, my grandmother always like to tell me the story of how my mother, when she was seven, found a litter of kittens in the cemetery, brought them home, dressed them up in doll clothes, and hid them in her closet for a few days. Here's something important, though: You should chose an event at which you were not present. (Notice how in the two examples, the narrator was not present. Nor was I present--obviously!--when my mom brought home the kittens.)

Whether you decide to write about a "big moment" (a milestone such as a baptism, bar mitzvah, graduation, engagement, or marriage) or a particular family story, focus your writing on just one scene. This means that you should describe one particular moment, as in the Schwartz example with the narrator's father. Think of a scene as a "snap shot" in the story. Or as one event in the story. Thus, if I were to write about the story with the kittens, I might write about my mother and her best friend holed up her closet, putting the baby clothes on the kittens. Or I might write about the moment they found the kittens or the scene in which they sneak them into the house past my grandmother.

At this point, you might be wondering an obvious question: If I wasn't present at the event, then how am I supposed to write about it? This is a very good question, and the answer is this: Find out as much information as you can by asking questions. Then make up the rest. In fact, I expect you to make up a lot of the details. Details are those small pieces of information that bring a piece of writing to life. Look again at our examples from Schwartz and Tan; details are things like the jingling coins, the slippery silks, and the motorman with the handle bar mustache.

So here are the pre-writing exercises for assignment #1. You should do these in order and you should stretch them out over a few sittings. Be sure to look at the formatting instructions for the file you will attach to your e-mail. They're at the end of this assignment.

  1. Write down at least ten ideas for possible family stories. You may want to ask your parents or relatives about their lives or about good stories. However, it's probably not necessary to talk to them. You already know a lot about your family, and I'm sure you already have a story that you could tell, whether it's a "big moment" or a particular story. Remember that the story you tell should be one at which you were not present.
  2. Underline the two ideas that sound the most interesting to you. Now, free write on each of those ideas for fifteen minutes apiece. What do I mean by free write? You should set the timer and write non-stop about your subject. Write down whatever comes into your mind and don't stop to judge, correct or edit your words. Keep writing even when you think you don't have any ideas left; just keep writing. If you get stuck, think of one scene and write down as many sensory details that pop into your head. For instance, right now I am thinking of the scene in the closet with the kittens, and a sensory detail that pops into my head is the smell of the closet. I am not thinking of my own closet, but my grandmother's closet, which smells of mothballs and wool. I am now thinking of the way the clothes feel as they brush up against my mother's face as she is sitting in that closet, holding the kittens. Remember, that you should free write on each topic for fifteen minutes (total free write time=30 minutes). At the top of your page, write down your start time and at the bottom write down your finish time.
  3. Now chose from those two ideas the one that seems clearest and most interesting to you. Write down at least three possible scenes. Remember that a scene is like a photograph; it's one moment in the story. If I did the kitten story, I might write: Finding the kittens in the cemetery with her friend Barbara, sitting in the closet with the kittens, and sneaking the kittens into the house and up the stairs past her parents.
  4. Now chose one of the possible scenes and do two more fifteen minute free-writes. If you have less than 150 words on each topic, keep writing until you meet this minimum. Here are the two topics:
    1. The person you're writing about. Remember that we don't know this person, so you're going to have to describe her or him to us. How old is she or he in this scene? What does he or she look like? What is her or his personality like? What are some things that interest her or him most at this moment? What are some aspects of his or her personality? Write down as much as you can, and don't worry if you make some of it up
    2. The setting of your story. Where is this scene taking place? List as many details as you can about this place. If it's indoors, then what kind of room is it? What's the furniture like? The lighting? What's on the walls? If it's outdoors, where is it? What's the weather like? Are there other people around? What's happening
  5. Finally, write me a letter about this assignment. Was it hard to write down family story ideas? How did you choose the topic you chose? What are your plans for writing the essay?

I look forward to reading this assignment!

Due according to the schedule in my first email:

  1. Ten story ideas
  2. Two fifteen-minute free writes
  3. Three possible scenes for the best story idea
  4. Two more fifteen-minute free writes (150 words each minimum)
  5. Letter

See below for file formatting information.

Note: You do not have to understand everything below in the next 15 minutes. You have two weeks during the academic year and 4 days during the intensive summer program, to figure this stuff out. A lot of it, you learned in elementary school computer class.

HOW TO FORMAT THE FILES YOU WILL ATTACH TO E-MAILS IN THIS COURSE:

Whether you compose on paper or keyboard, you need to send all of your exercises as one file. At the beginning of the file, please key in your name, the assignment number, and the date. Example:

Ben Reynolds
Assignment #1
February 4, 2015

For each part of the assignment (except the first), please insert a page break.

  • In Word, click Insert, then break, then Page break.
  • In WordPerfect, click Insert, then Page Break.

Now key in a title from the Due list. Example from Assignment 1 Due list (pretend you've inserted a page break here):

2. Two fifteen-minute free writes

Save the file as yourfirstnameyourlastnameassignmentnumber.doc Example:

benreynoldsassignment1.doc

Your file must have a three-letter extension (.doc) in order for your instructor to read it. Most files will be automatically saved as .doc. Right-click renaming the file extension if Windows does not save it in the appropriate format. Use Save As... to change the file type.

If you cannot save your file as a .doc, save it as Rich Text Format (the document extension is .rtf). You will see a drop down box that allows you to choose the appropriate format.

how to save as . . . a .doc or .rtf

Apple Pages Users Help Exporting Pages to Word

Please go to http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3705 for instructions on how to make your pages file into a Word document.

Warning: Revision assignments require you to copy the document several times within the same file. Do not let multiple copies confuse you. Be very careful to stay in the correct section and on the correct page, or you'll find yourself revising an earlier copy. See Assignment #5's "Due" list for an example.

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.

 

Reviews

"Mrs. [instructor's last name] helped me through the entire course encouraging, challenging, and supporting me the whole time. I now love writing, whereas I used to strongly DISlike it."

"I really liked the course and my instructor helped me a lot. The course was fun and helpful for my writing."

"This course was absolutely wonderful. I can't tell you how much it has helped me. Before taking this course, I treated writing like a time-pass or hobby. I also thought it was rather boring, since the writing curriculum we follow at school has never met my expectations. All the assignments in the course helped me progress down the road of becoming a better writer. When the course ended, I knew that with the help of my marvelous instructor [first name], I had become that writer I had always wanted to be. Thank you so much."

"My instructor was very frequent with advice and hints. Although I sort of lacked in communication, she would voluntarily email or call me. Her critiques were very through, and when I showed it to my mom, she said that the critiques were better than the ones that I got in school. She helped keep writing fresh in my mind, so I am not struggling at the beginning of school. The course was full of ways to challenge my mind, but then again, I could not have enjoyed learning and writing in any other way! "

"All the teachers we've had so far with CTY Online Programs have been great but [instructor] was above and beyond the best of the best. The detail in her responses to our daughter revealed so much thought and attention on her part, we felt like [student's first name] was her only student. This type of attentiveness is ideal for a child [her] age - she really paid attention to all Ms. [instructor]'s critiques and incorporated all her suggestions - our daughter is definitely well-prepared for the writing challenges of 7th grade!"

This was a well run course with specific instruction & guidance to improve his writing. It was wonderful."

"This is the best course that I ever got for my son as far as English Language is concerned.

"The instructor is very responsive, and my child loves to work on those assignments."

"The instructor was wonderful. She always had kind, yet constructive comments for our daughter. Our daughter started the class doubting her writing ability and over a 3 month time period, really started to enjoy the process and gain confidence."

"The easy access to her teacher with phone check-ins added a personal touch to the on-line course. My daughter enjoyed this course and working with a great instructor."

"[Instructor's first name] was an encouraging and supportive instructor. His coaching style was ideally suited for this type of correspondence course. Our daughter responded very well to his critiques and commentary, as evidenced by her improved abilities and confidence."

"The instructor [full name] for the course "The Process of Writing" was outstanding. Her comments were extremely insightful and encouraging and her sense of humor made our son enjoy the course even more."