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Will This Curriculum Prepare My Student for College Level Writing?

My older daughter is currently a sophomore at our local state college. She's a humanities major (English and History), so she is doing quite a bit of writing. She's completed both required English Composition classes (I and II) as well as credits in World Civilizations I and II, World Literature I, Intro. to Humanities and Intro. to Anthropology. She's had A's in all of them, so I think that overall she was well-prepared for writing. I do have to say that she is a natural writer, having never really struggled with what to say or how to say it. However, she did have to work on editing, punctuation and the finer details of formatting and adhering to MLA or Chicago citation styles. Up to this point, she has only needed to know MLA, but her current history teacher (American History II) prefers Chicago, so she is learning this style now too. According to what she's been told, history professors tend to prefer the Chicago style.

Here is a list of some of her writing assignments so far:

  • essays (5 paragraphs is a nice structure, but this is not really how college essays are handled-a solid thesis and supporting paragraphs is needed; she has written many of these of varying lengths)

  • reader's responses (this was for World Literature and she had to write 8 of these, 1-2 pages in length and properly addition to several larger, more formal essays)

  • science abstracts (she only had to write two of these in her Botany class)

  • PowerPoint presentations (she's only had a few of these)

Her current assignments, some of which are new, include:

Am. History 2:

  • weekly journal assignments (connecting primary source readings to the text...these are 250 words...these are expected to be formatted, Chicago style)

  • historical essay (2500 words, roughly 10 pages with 10 sources...primary sources...not books)

  • movie review (500 words)

Art History:

  • art analysis paper (1000 words)

  • 1200 word paper with 3 visuals and 5 sources

  • PowerPoint Presentation

I wish someone had written this out for me before my student had started really would have helped with writing preparation. But, it has shown me that what I have set up with this curriculum has already been very helpful. With me and with this curriculum, she had already written journal abstracts for science, essays and reading responses (many of the upper level narration prompts are similar to this).

Also, we were just commenting on how all of her picture study narrations came into use when she wrote her recent art analysis paper. The history guides that I've written have students completing a primary source/document studies page and then using this outline page to write a narration from it. This has proven to be helpful in her weekly journal assignments for Am. History II.

The main area where I felt we could have used more preparation was in learning the Chicago style for citation and in PowerPoint presentations. In the end, even this wasn't a major problem. My daughter is not overly computer savvy, but she learned how to put together a PowerPoint presentation in just a day. She also taught herself how to cite her paper in Chicago style in one day, too. For both, she simply found a tutorial online that walked her through the basics and completed the assignment.

In truth, I think that in order to be a successful writer for college, you simply need to be a good writer. After this, a student needs some experience with citing a paper and using Microsoft Word (or another word processing program). In general, professor standards and requirements will vary, so there will always be a bit of a learning curve. As long as your student can cope with adjustments in terms or requirements each semester, then it should be fine. Most colleges have a lot of support resources in place, too, such as writing labs to help students with writing papers.

We've used an assortment of writing resources over the years. I've used parts of the Classical Writing series (Homer and Maxim) and parts of The Lively Art of Writing, but a great deal of her writing practice simply came from our narration work. I did have her begin to cite her sources, learn the MLA style, and write a number of assignments in proper essay formatting style (font size 12, Times New Roman, etc.) while in high school. I also made sure that she was reasonably grounded in grammar. She read The Elements of Style (Strunk and White).

The single most important part of her writing success, I think, is that she had a familiarity with words and how to use them, along with a solid base in all subjects (art, history, literature, mythology, poetry, music, etc.) and this always allowed her to make interesting connections in her writing. Her vocabulary is excellent, her connections are interesting, her perspectives are different and varied and she isn't afraid to really put her words together and make a point. Narration, narration, narration is really just this-thinking, analyzing, and writing.

So far, I think it has helped her become an excellent writer and she has excelled in writing in college.

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