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Unlock the Secrets of Compare-and-Contrast Writing (e-book) Review by April Elstrom

Sharon Watson
Writing with Sharon Watson
P. O. Box 6441
Kokomo, IN 46904-6441

I have a confession to make. Over the years, I’ve struggled to stick with a writing program in our homeschool. Some of them were teacher-focused writing manuals that left me not knowing where to begin in actually teaching the subject. Other programs were confusing, overwhelming, or required too much teacher preparation. In more recent years, I have discovered the benefits of short courses written directly to the student on a specific style of writing. We’ve found success using this format.

Sharon Watson’s Unlocking the Secrets of Compare-and-Contrast Writing is one of those short, specific courses, written directly to the student in an engaging style. This e-book is a PDF download that must be saved to your computer and viewed with Adobe Acrobat Reader. It is written as a workbook, with charts to fill in, so you will want to print the 78 page book and place it in a notebook. The answer key is in the back, which can be left with the student or kept by the parents. Since this is a PDF document, you can reprint this book as many times as you need within your own family, thereby saving money.

Unlocking the Secrets of Compare-and-Contrast Writing is a ten-week course, divided into ten chapters. This makes planning simple – just tackle one chapter per week. Each chapter begins with a lesson written to the junior high or senior high student. It includes excerpts from books, paragraphs and sample essays for the student to learn from. The lesson then includes 2-4 assignments for the student to apply what they’ve learned through the rest of the week.

Sharon does presume that students using this are already familiar with forming paragraphs, creating thesis statements, and writing essays. She does give permission to not worry about a thesis statement if you haven’t learned that yet, but I think this course would work better for high school students, or junior high students who are already familiar with writing essays. Sharon does an excellent job of walking students through different types of compare-and-contrast essays, as well as the steps to planning out the essay.

The one thing that is lacking in this e-book is guidance for the parent on grading the essays and paragraphs that are written. The answer key includes answers to charts they should be filling in, but it states “answers may vary” for any essays or paragraphs the student has to write. If a parent is not accustomed to grading essays, and doesn’t have a grading rubric to follow, then they may struggle with assigning grades to the essays. Sharon does have another e-book on this topic, but parents should also be able to locate a rubric on the internet to use.

Our family enjoys Sharon’s teaching style and we’ll get many years of use from Unlocking the Secrets of Compare-and-Contrast Writing. Although some of the material is similar to that contained in Writing Fiction in High School and The Power In Your Hands, this e-book contains much more specific help than either of those larger books does on compare-and-contrast writing. It is very helpful to have it all grouped together in one set of lessons. We highly recommend all of Sharon’s books, including this one!

-Product review by April Elstrom, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September, 2016