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Writing for an Audience

Registration for this version of the course is closed. We recommend that students enroll in Writing for an Audience – Individually Paced or Writing for an Audience – Independent.

Open to: Grades 6 and 7
Eligibility: CTY-level or Advanced CTY-level verbal score required
Prerequisites: see below
Challenge Level: High School Senior
Course Formats: Session Based; email format. See calendar for session dates and application deadlines.
Recommended School Credit: One-half academic year
Course Length: 20 weeks (Early Fall, Late Fall, Winter, Spring); 12 weeks (Early Summer); 6 weeks (intensive Late Summer)
Course Code: EMA2 (email)

Course Description

Writing for an Audience provides an intensive writing experience for students in grades 6 and 7, which continues their introduction to the process of writing. However, in Writing for an Audience, the emphasis is on revising for an audience. These 10 assignments focus on drafting to shape a writer's ideas and on revising to communicate those ideas to an audience. Students write five projects, which may include:

  1. a persuasive letter,
  2. a critical essay about literature,
  3. an analysis of a literary character,
  4. the sense of place in a poem, and
  5. an experiment with writing style.

For each project, students complete an assignment for two stages of the writing process:

  1. drafting and
  2. revising drafts for an audience.

In critiques that are typically one page long, instructors comment on what students did well and on what they could do to improve their writing.  Exchanging letters about the process of writing is an important part of the course.  With each assignment, students send a letter discussing the experience of composing the assignment.  The instructors then respond to those meta-cognitive reflections.

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

Note: This course description applies to session-based courses with a start date prior to June 30, 2019. To view the course description for this session-based course with a start date after July 1, 2019, visit: Writing for an Audience – Independent.

Students interested in flexible pacing should view the course description for this course in the individually paced format: Writing for an Audience – Individually Paced.

Course formats cover the same concepts but differ in approach.


Successful completion of one course below:

CTY Online Programs The Process of Writing

CTY Summer Programs:

  • Writing and Imagination
  • Heroes and Villains
  • Writing Workshop: Images and Text
  • Elements of Drama


Course Details

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.

Writing for an Audience



Finding your Voice: Drafting a personal essay

strategies for choosing a subject
eliminating warm up writing
introduction of concept of audience

Employing all Five Senses in Description: Drafting a poem

five sensory description
feeling expressed in material terms

Persuading an Audience: Drafting a persuasive letter

audience characteristics
persuasion by appealing to both reason and emotion

Revising for a Reader: Revising your personal essay

revision with a reader focus

Refining your Language:  Revising your poem

eliminating general descriptions and clichés
cutting extraneous words and phrases

Making Inferences: Reading and writing critically

making inferences
critical reading and writing
constructing a thesis
introduces concept of supporting a thesis

Building a Stronger Argument: Revising your persuasive letter

consistency of tone
restructuring arguments for greater effectiveness

Comparing and Contrasting: Drafting a critical essay

options for organizing compare/contrast essays

Constructing a Thesis: Drafting an essay about a literary character

character analysis
refining thesis
supporting thesis
five paragraph structure

Supporting your Case: Revision of compare/contrast essay

audience (read aloud)
evaluation letter for course


Time Required

Email Format

  • 2 hours weekly for 20 week sessions (Early Fall, Late Fall, Winter, and Spring)
  • 3.5 hours weekly for 12 week session  (Early Summer)
  • 1.5 hours daily Monday - Friday for the intensive 6-week session (Late Summer) 


Summer Session Daily Calendars

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)





  • 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 17

Makeup Assignment

Friday, August 24

Makeup Assignment

Sunday, August 26Course ends
No work accepted after today

2 to 3 weeks after the course ends, students receive

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

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




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 short absences must be negotiated at the start of the course.

Sunday, July 1

Students have downloaded materials by now

Monday, July 2

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 document

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

Sample First Assignment


FINDING YOUR VOICE: Drafting a Personal Essay

NOTES: PLEASE READ THIS ASSIGNMENT FROM START TO FINISH BEFORE YOU BEGIN WRITING. In general, you should read each assignment all the way through before you begin working. Feel free to share it with a parent or guardian. Families should review, below:


The word "essay" comes from the French word essai, which literally means "to try" or "to attempt." In essays, we try out ideas to discover what we think about them. In a personal essay, you share something about yourself with your readers; this sharing is both entertaining and informative. A personal essay is written less formally than many other types of essays; you might like to think of it as a kind of conversation between reader and writer. A personal essay is about your relationship with a particular subject. The range of subjects that can be addressed in a personal essay is almost unlimited—so long as you remember to keep the focus on yourself and your thoughts, feelings, and actions related to the subject.

It is very important to understand the distinction between a personal essay and the kind of essay or report you write for school. The typical school essay is generally a five-paragraph analysis. The first paragraph sets out your thesis, the next three paragraphs explain your sub-theses, and the final paragraph states your conclusion. It is useful to learn how to write that kind of essay (more about that later in the course) but that's not what I'm asking you to do here. Professionals rarely write five-paragraph essays.

Step 1 - Use Questions to Find a Subject

The first step in writing a personal essay is, of course, deciding on a subject. Here are a few questions to get you started, together with the answers provided by an imaginary writer. Any one of these topics could form the basis for an entertaining and informative personal essay.

What makes you mad? [Rude people]
What makes you happy? [Roller Coasters!]
What makes you afraid? [Spiders]
What past events were turning points in your life? [Moving overseas]
What is your favorite thing to do? [Cartooning]
Who is your favorite person? [My grandmother]

As you can see, the range of subjects that can be addressed in a personal essay is very broad indeed. Generally, it helps to feel strongly about something (either positively or negatively) to write about it. And remember, you are focusing on your own particular take on the subject. For this course, you wouldn't write a "report" on spiders. Instead, you'd probably begin a personal essay with your most scary spider story, and then write about how your fear of spiders developed, what you find so disturbing about spiders, and how you deal with your fear. You would weave together your thoughts and feelings about spiders with anecdotes (stories) about your experiences with spiders. Inside this essay, you might include facts about spiders, but only as they serve the personal essay, not just to import a bunch of facts. In this way you would both inform and entertain your readers.

Step 2 - Use Clustering to Find a Subject

If my questions above haven't helped you decide on a subject for your personal essay, try a cluster or web exercise. Draw an oval with your name in the center and then draw lines out from that oval to other ovals in which you've scribbled the people, places, and things that surround you. Each oval should lead to at least a couple of other ovals. In this way, you construct a visual representation of your life and the people, places, and things that are important to you. One of those things may strike you as a suitable subject for your personal essay. Check out the sample web below and then draw your own.
picture of clustering activity

Step 3 - Drafting

Once you've got a subject in mind, write a few paragraphs about it. Don't worry too much about spelling or punctuation at this point; just get some thoughts down on the page. Remember, the point is to write to find out what you think about the subject. You'll probably need a couple of writing sessions, spaced a day or two apart, to produce a couple of pages on the subject.

Step 4 - Cutting Your Warmup Paragraphs

When you've written all that you can think of on the subject, read your draft out loud to someone. Read slowly and enunciate clearly. When you finish reading the whole draft, ask your listener what part he/she remembers best. Then ask your listener what part he/she likes best. Probably, both parts will be in the same place; it is very unlikely that they will be in the first paragraph, and here's why.

Writing an essay requires you to find your way to what you really want to say. This process of discovery usually takes at least a few paragraphs. The first couple of paragraphs (those that will probably come before your listener's "best") are what we call warm-up writing. You wrote them so that you could get to the place where the essay really starts. I want you to "throw away" those paragraphs -- not literally, but cut and paste them into a blank document (save that document in a folder where you can find it later and maybe use those paragraphs in another essay). I know how hard it is to cut out anything you've written, but remember that all writers warm up and that all writers throw away their warm ups. Like an athlete, you warm up to stretch your (writing) muscles and prepare for the actual performance.

(If, however, you have a paragraph or two that you feel is just too good to throw away, keep it. And, either change the font color to something not black or write "TOO GOOD" at the start and end of the paragraph, so I'll know you think it is special. I'll take a careful look at it.)

Step 5 - Expanding What's Left

After you've cut and pasted the "throw away" paragraphs into another document, take a look at what's left. Look at the shape of the piece. Find spots that need more detail, description, or explanation. Write more detail, description, or explanation. I'd like your essay to be at least two pages long (double-spaced lines, 12 inch font, 1 inch margins all around).

Step 6 - Outlining

After you've written all that you can about the subject, make a rough (informal) outline or list of what you've covered in each paragraph. Each item in the list should identify the main idea of the paragraph. If you find that you have more than one main idea per paragraph, that's a sign that you need to break it up into two paragraphs.

  • Check for logical flow: is each idea in the outline/list in the best sequence?
  • Check for coherence: is each idea relevant to the essay's subject?
  • Check for proportion: do too many of your sentences focus on a minor aspect of your subject rather than on what's important?
  • Remember that you are writing an essay, not a book, so you need to decide what's important enough to include, and what's so irrelevant that it needs to be cut out. Use the cut and paste function to rearrange, delete, or add paragraphs as needed.

Step 7 - Reflecting on What You've Done

When you are satisfied with your draft essay, write me a short letter describing your experience with this assignment.

Was it hard for you to come up with a topic for the essay?
Did you find it easy to write about the subject once you had chosen it?
Where did you run into difficulties?
How much text did you have to delete before you came to your "listener's best" paragraphs?
Who was your listener? (this tells me your immediate audience)

Turn It In

Get in this habit:

ALWAYS make two backups of your primary file. One backup will be electronic. One will be paper.

  1. Electronic -- on a different hard drive, a CD, or a USB stick

  2. Paper -- printed and saved in a folder labeled especially for this class


Computers sometimes die. Hard drives sometimes die. Floppy disks and CDs and USB sticks break or get lost. Paper sometimes gets thrown out or burned or spilled upon.

In 99% of situations, one backup or the other will survive. In 100% of situations, when there's no backup, nothing survives.


____Draft of essay
____Throw-away paragraphs

Check your schedule for the due date.


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, 2014

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):

Throw-away paragraphs

Save the file as yourfirstnameyourlastnameassignmentnumber.doc Example:


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.

Apple Pages Users Help Exporting Pages to Word

Please go to 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.




"I really liked using the email format. It was simple and easy to use."

"Ms. M helped my develop my ideas through this writing course and it is helping me a lot in school."

"This was my favorite CTY Writing course I have ever taken. The assignments kept my interest, and I feel I know more about the subject than I did before."

"I am so glad that I took this course.  It really developed my writing skills."

"M's critiques were very detailed, thoughtful and encouraging.  His weekly phone calls were always friendly.  He spent a lot of time reading and critiquing and it shows!  My daughter feels like she learned a lot from this course.  Thank you, M!"

"Mrs. R gave our son very good advice and helped him greatly to understand the writing he has to do for school. Well worth the money and we are looking forward to him having an excellent year in school again."

"We appreciate Ms. G's wonderful efforts in helping D with his writing. My husband and I consider her an outstanding teacher."

"Excellent wriitng course.  This class, along with other CTY writing classes, has really been effective in teaching my son the skill of writing both fiction and expository prose.  Thank you!"

"The course content was excellent, and the instructor was outstanding. She provided constructive positive feedback regularly for my daughter, answered all her queries, and motivated her to work harder and better her assignment each fortnight."

"Our daughter was challenged. She learned a lot! The instructor is extremely good! My daughter talks to the teacher over the phone every lesson, sometimes multiple times during a lesson. The phone calls helped her get through the course and grow as a writer. The teacher's evaluation for each assignment was thorough and showed the enthusiasm of the teacher, which inspired my daughter to work hard. At times the assginments were difficult and challenging. The teacher was encouraging and helped her a great deal."

"My daughter took this course just after finishing 6th grade.  She found some of it hard but liked that the course gave her something that she didn't get at school in her regular language arts class."

"As usual I was very impressed with the feedback given to our daughter by the instructor.  I felt it was very in depth and provided her with the information, encouragement and constructive criticism to write to the best of her ability."