My two with dyslexia haven’t had much formal writing experience because I’ve been working just to get them to be proficient writers. Now that PB & J Girl is going into 5th grade, I felt that the time has come to teach her writing skills, but which program to choose? I was already familiar with Writing with Sharon Watson, so when the opportunity came up to review Jump In, 2nd Edition, Watson’s middle school writing curriculum, I thought it would be an excellent fit for my reluctant writer who much prefers writing freestyle. I was right; she loved the program!
About Writing with Sharon Watson
Sharon Watson was a homeschool mom for 18 years, until, as she jokingly writes on her website, she “ran out of children.” She has created several composition and literature programs for middle school and high school students. (We’ve had the privilege of reviewing The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School, which I plan to use with PB & J Girl when she’s older, Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide, and Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis, both high school literature courses.)
About Jump In, 2nd Edition
This course, which is one of Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschol Curriculum, is designed for students in 5th through 8th grade and for reluctant or eager writers.
It’s an extremely flexible program. Parents can have their children complete the course in one, two or three years. In addition, Watson outlines what assignments to complete for each plan.
For the three year program, which I chose for my daughter, students should spend a week or two taking 10 minute plunges. These are found in the Teacher’s Manual and are fun prompts to get students to write for 10 minutes every day. These plunges are organized by month, from September through May. Then, after a week or two of plunges, students move to the first essay, Opinion. This first essay is only 150 to 200 words, depending on the students age and writing experience. Then, students take a break and go back to plunges for a week or two before moving on to the next essay.
This program covers the following writing types:
- Opinions–You’ve Got Them
- Persuasion: The Basics
- Cause and Effect
- A Newspaper Article
- A How-to
- A Report
- A Biography
- Compare and Contrast
- A Book Report
- A Book Response
Most essays require 200 to 500 words, depending on the students’ writing experience.
Watson is a Christian, and there are glimpses of that in this program. For instance, one of the 10 minute plunge topics is, “Write a prayer of thanks to God.” This program is not religious, but there are sprinklings of references to God or the Bible.
The program comes with a Teacher’s Manual which contains many useful tools including:
- all of the 10 minute plunges
- tips for teachers (especially helpful for parents who don’t enjoy writing or teaching writing),
- suggestions on how to grade an essay
- sample essays for each letter grade,
- answer key, and
- grading grids
How We Used Jump In, 2nd Edition
We started the program with 10 minute plunges. Since we got the book in May, I chose some of May’s plunges. For two of them, my daughter wrote for about 15 minutes each time. And then she got this plunge:
You are visiting the zoo when you hear an announcement cautioning everyone that an animal has escaped. What animal has escaped? What do you do next? Write your story.
My daughter wrote for over an hour and ended up with a full page of handwritten work. She loved her story and was so proud of it, she couldn’t wait to tell her dad about it when he got home. I was delighted to see her enjoying writing so much.
After a week of plunges, we went into the lessons, called “skills” in the book. She completed the three skills in the first chapter, “Get Your Feet Wet,” which taught her what type of writing she liked best, how to brainstorm and organize her ideas, and how to proofread.
We then moved to the next chapter, “Opinions–You’ve Got Them,” and she completed nine skills. She is now at the point where she will write the opinion essay, and that should take five to six days.
Our Thoughts on the Program
I’m a former English composition and literature teacher, and I love this program. It has everything I am looking for in a program. Even better, my daughter loves it!
She loved the plunges and gives the program 10 out of 10 if there were only plunges. For the essay writing, she said she gave the program 7 out of 10, which sounds low but is actually high for my reluctant writer. She is eagerly awaiting the time we finish the first essay and go back to the plunges.
I think going forward on future essays, I will do a week of plunges, and then break up the more formal essay lessons with more plunges to keep her interest and enthusiasm.
I was initially disappointed that there are only plunges for nine months, but then I discovered that Watson’s blog is filled with additional plunge topics, so we’re good to go!
If you’re looking for a middle school writing program, I highly recommend Jump In, 2nd Edition!
I was one of 40 people to review this program. To read more reviews, click on the link below: