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Shengmeng Education Center
Middle School to High School Level Reading, Writing and Speaking
Class Size: 12
Age Requirement: 11 - 14
Teacher: Emerson School
Class Time: 11-11:50am
Class Room: 2181816018
Tuition Fee: 750.00
Textbook Fee: 0.00
Material Fee: 0.00
  

Class Description

This course will help willing students read, write, and speak better and more confidently.  Even students who have felt hesitant to read their writings aloud or to speak publicly will begin to enjoy presenting their work as they become more self assured of their improving skills.  


The course improves reading skills by encouraging students to ask themselves questions about what they are reading.  That not only improves comprehension, it builds a foundation for writing because the answers to the questions become the content of the writing itself.  Once someone understands a reading and is able to summarize and interpret the reading in written form, it is only a short step to being able to express those thoughts and ideas orally.  


All of the above is done through an appeal to the heart as well as the head.  One of the primary goals of the course is to encourage students to take pleasure in reading, writing, and presenting.  By enjoying what they are reading and taking pride in their ideas, students will read and write better, in more quantity, and more often, which in turn will give them the practice that will lead to more and more self confidence.  Of course, the course has other goals: to build basic skills, to increase vocabulary, to become familiar with a variety of written forms, to read and write quickly when that is appropriate, and to take more time to re-read, edit, and rewrite when that is called for, and to understand which approach is called for in a variety of test-taking situations.  However, to help ensure that writing students remain motivated to improve, the course’s preference is to point out what a student is doing right, rather than focusing on the errors, as occurs in many school-based programs that concentrate primarily on multiple-choice tests and grammar.  


The 30-week course includes reading and writing expository essays and creative forms such as stories, plays, and poems.  Student writings will be presented publicly and performed when appropriate.  The readings will include literary and historical readings one would encounter in middle school and high school.  Student writings will focus initially on writing descriptions—of people and things, of places, and of actions—that is used in all writing, whether fiction or non-fiction.  The writing focus then moves to a review of sentence structure to verify that the students’ most basic skills are in place.  From writing good sentences, it moves to the building blocks of all good writing: paragraphs.  Using Write Now!®’s copyrighted templates, students practice writing several different kinds of paragraphs: the classic three-sentence paragraph with a topic sentence, a supporting sentence, and a concluding sentence; the classic five-sentence paragraph with a topic sentence, three supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence; variations on the classic structures that include both supporting and countering points; and bullet-point paragraphs.  Finally, it focuses on writing not only strong paragraphs, but on the combining of those paragraphs into outstanding essays and other literary forms.  It addresses three of California’s five curriculum skills: responses to literature, persuasive writing, and research reports.  Students will write reports, letters, news accounts, and stories, and will take practice tests similar to those administered in the seventh grade in California.  


As students move to more complex compositions, organizational skills become more important.  To build these skills, students practice using the practical tools of note taking, graphic organizers, and outlining.  These are necessary for both good writing and good organization of presentations.  To prepare themselves for a variety of test forms (e.g., multiple choice, students will write essays based on familiar structures: “similarities and differences,” “compare and contrast,” “before and after,” “why or why not?,” “analyze,” and so forth, that they might find on SAT and Advanced Placement exams.  


Students read their works aloud to themselves and to their classmates.  They work on presenting their essays as speeches or argue their persuasive writings in the form of debates.  Finally, they make use of group “workshopping” techniques to provide constructive criticism to their peers.


This course is meant to be a follow up to the Fundamentals course for grades 4-5, but it can also be the first course that older students take.  The course can be repeated because the readings and the assignments are different each year.  Unlike the study of mathematics, where students continuously move to higher and higher skills, the critical skills of reading, writing, and presenting do not change over time.  In that sense, it is similar to learning to play soccer, where players at any level are always working on dribbling, passing, and shooting.

 

Style and grammar are ignored.  Students examine a grammar point and a style point in every class session.  The classic writing handbook, The Elements of Style (Strunk & White), serves as the practical guide to better writing.  


There is a homework assignment each week requiring between 15 and 30 minutes of preparation at home.  Each student receives a class binder to be used to collect weekly handouts and the portfolio of assignments.  Because the class is being offered through distance learning, students will make use of dedicated Google Drive folders to submit their work to the teacher and to receive comments back from the teacher.


For more information, contact:

 

Charles D. Bernstein, Ph.D.

Early Learning Institute

2800 West Bayshore Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303

(650) 424-1155, x1; Fax: (650) 856-2778

cbernstein@headsup.org