Writing with Sharon WatsonThis fall, I’ll be teaching a literature class at our co-op.  While I’ve already chosen the novels and poems I want the students to read, I didn’t have any luck finding a book that explained a literary analysis essay the way that I’d like.  When a chance came up to review The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School, 2nd Edition from Writing with Sharon Watson, I asked to review it even though I, myself, don’t have any high school students at home–yet.

About The Power in Your Hands

This set contains a student text that has 407 pages of content as well as a Teacher’s Guide that has 221 pages of content.  There are 23 chapters, and the Teacher’s Manual tells you how many lessons are in each chapter.  Chapters include:

Chapter 1: Thinking and Planning (2 daily lessons)

Chapter 2: Opinion (5 daily lessons)

Chapter 3: Persuasion–The Foundation (7 daily lessons)

Chapter 4: Persuasion–The Next Level (5 daily lessons)

Chapter 5: Persuasion–Logical Appeal (5 daily lessons)

Chapter 6: Persuasion–Compare and Contrast Appeal (5 daily lessons)

Chapter 7: Persuasion–Moral/Ethical Appeal (4 daily lessons)

Chapter 8: Persuasion–Emotional Appeal (8 daily lessons)

Chapter 9: Proofreading (5 daily lessons)

Chapter 10: Proofreading–Common Grammar Mistakes (7 daily lessons)

Chapter 11: Exposition–Letters of Condolence, Thanks, and E-mail Etiquette (6 daily lessons)

Chapter 12: Exposition–Process Writing (8 daily lessons)

Chapter 13: Exposition–Position Paper and Documenting Sources (7 daily lessons)

Chapter 14: Exposition–A Devotional (2 daily lessons)

Chapter 15: Exposition–Newspaper Writing ( 8 daily lessons)

Chapter 16: Exposition–Biographies (5 daily lessons)

Chapter 17: Exposition–Compare and Contrast (4 daily lessons)

Chapter 18: Exposition–Literary Analysis (10 daily lessons)

Chapter 19: Exposition–The Definition Essay (3 daily lessons)

Chapter 20: Description (5 daily lessons)

Chapter 21: Narration–Personal Testimony or Spiritual Journey (2 daily lessons)

Chapter 22: Narration–Interview into a Narrative (2 daily lessons)

Chapter 23: Narration–Personal Narrative (2 daily lessons)

As you can see, this is a comprehensive text that covers a myriad of writing genres.

Writing with Sharon Watson Review

The Teacher’s Manual provides guidance, especially as it pertains to grading essays.  Watson includes several sample essays to show what content in an A, B, C, D, and F essay looks like.  She also shows what the grammar/mechanics looks like for the five different grades.  This can be very helpful, especially for teachers who aren’t comfortable teaching writing.  In addition, she gives rubrics for each essay genre to help teachers assign grades.

Writing with Sharon Watson Review

The student text is written in a casual, conversational tone and has humor interspersed throughout.  Watson even pokes fun at herself sometimes.  Before she launches into a paragraph that argues learning to write is like learning to cook, Watson writes, ” Warning: Cheesy analogy ahead.  Proceed at your own risk.  And bring tortilla chips and maybe some salsa.”  I know that my students will appreciate that Watson doesn’t take herself too seriously.

The text is meant for the student to use largely independently.  Watson explains herself clearly and provides plenty of examples and sample essays to demonstrate what she is teaching.  This text is very user-friendly.

My Experience Using The Power in Your Hands

While I spent time looking over the whole book, I spent the majority of my time with the literary analysis chapter.  This chapter has the most lessons because Watson also explains and defines literary terms first.  She doesn’t just assume that the student will know them, which I appreciate.  In fact, the first 7 lessons of the 10 in the literary analysis are helping the student learn the terms and parts of a novel and short story.  She goes over terms like point of view, conflict, types of conflict, motifs, etc.

Watson also warns students that story spoilers are ahead when she provides sample literary analysis essays.

What I Liked about The Power in Your Hands

There are so many things I like about this program!

The lessons are tailored to both beginner and intermediate/advanced writers.  That means if you’re teaching multiple students at home using this book or you’re teaching in a co-op setting like me, you can tailor the assignments based on your students’ skills and experience.

Watson explains what students need to know in a casual tone, but it never feels like she’s talking down to students.  Because of her tone, this text is not boring as some writing books are.  (Having taught English Composition before at a community college, let me tell you, there are a lot of dry, boring writing textbooks out there!)

Final Thoughts

I’m so happy that I was able to review this text because I think it will work perfectly for my co-op class.  I also plan to use it at home when my son is a little older.

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I was one of 44 reviewers to review either The Power in Your Hands or 21 Grading Grids for Popular High School Essays and a Position Paper.  To read more reviews, click on the link below.

Writing with Sharon Watson Review
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