February 21, 2009

Helping a Home Schooler Write a College Paper--The Editing Process

A few posts ago I mentioned that Meg is auditing a class at our local university. She's not getting college credit, but she's participating and learning the content. Last week she had to turn in her first one-page paper. She's never written a paper for anyone. She wrote an essay for the ACT, and she keeps a sporadic journal and writes on Facebook, but that's about it. But she does love to read and is a good communicator.

So I thought this little writing assignment from a college professor would be a good experience for her. And since she is just auditing, whatever grade she gets will not go on an official record. If I decide to put the class on her high school transcript, I'll be the one who gives her a grade, and in our home school, that's pass or fail.

She liked the topic of the paper--she had to take a position and defend it using two points from the lectures and two points from the textbook. Here's what she did:

1. She wrote a sentence stating her opinion.
2. She gathered the references she needed.
3. She wrote down her ideas and how they should flow together.
4. She showed it to me.
5. I double-checked that her opinion was clearly stated and that she had all four of the required references.
6. I helped her expand on her ideas.

That last part was hard for her until I suggested she pretend to be standing in front of a crowd, explaining her opinion. This was easy for my thespian. She had no problem talking her paper. I said, "You have to give some sort of introductory statement. You can't just blurt out your opinion without any explanation of why you're talking." I gave her a simple example like, "For years people have debated why..." and that was enough to get her going. I became her scribe and we got a lot on paper. My theory is if you can think, you can write. I just needed to help Meg think and communicate her thoughts in an organized way.

Next, we looked at the words that came from her impromptu "speech," looking for paragraph breaks. If a paragraph seemed too short (less than three sentences), I suggested she say, "For example..." and presto, a new and relevant sentence appeared.

Once she had all her points made (one to a paragraph), we worked on the conclusion. I told her to restate her opinion with confidence since all the evidence she cited was on her side, and then make a general statement to back out of the topic, just like in the five paragraph essay.

As it turned out, her concluding paragraph was only one sentence. I would never do that for a college class, but she liked it and I didn't want to write the paper for her.

A few days later she got her paper back with an A+! Here are the comments: "Nice use of course references--you are an excellent writer--easily college-level writing." Hurray for Meg! That was a big confidence builder. I told her every great writer needs an editor, and I work for cheap.


Penny said...

Very cool, thanks for sharing your ideas and successes!

Anonymous said...

Excellent. and making that connection between speaking and writing is so important.

Heather said...

Awesome! My om was always my editor, even when I went off to college. An editor is def necessary for quality writing.

gina said...

Always great to gather ideas and inspirations from others' experiences- so thanks for sharing. I like the statement- if you can think it , you can write it.

Momma said...

What a incredible experience for your daughter! Thank you for sharing :)

Anonymous said...

I'm really learning and enjoying your posts lately-I'm homeschooling with my two hooligans, now 16 and 13...you're helping me so much by sharing your world!!

I've been a bit out of my comfort zone in that the boy is wanting to start preparing for college...so much to think about, specially since we're unschoolers!



Traci said...

I feel so much better! She has never written a paper before this?! Wonderful! Good for her! Good for everyone! It helps to know your child so you can word things in a way that he or she gets it!

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