Jump to content


Help! Need best writing program for behind 9th graders

Recommended Posts

My 9th grade boys can put together decent paragraphs and they've had years of grammar, but they don't seem able/willing to write a five-paragraph essay or even a book report.

It seems like they go all "Vinnie Barbarino" on me when I request writing beyond a paragraph.

I'm getting very nervous because we're getting closer to SAT tests (hoping to do Dual Enrollment).

The only thing I can think of that looked impressive is IEW. Both boys are open to doing something online: can you recommend a good online writing class?



  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was in the boat with our 9th grader this year!  Definite panic mode.  DD15 took Lights Camera Action with Ms Eva at OpenTentAcademy.com and it was the perfect fit.  

She walked students through the structure and requirements for five paragraph essays, and our daughter really embraced the process. I'd recommend any of Ms Eva's classes.  


  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am going to use WWS I for mine next year. She can get out ideas and has a general grasp of the 5 para essay and outline. Her problem is that she is slightly behind just because of spelling and reading problems that took longer for her to get from an early age. So she actually moves along quite nicely. She doesn't resist or go all blank stares for writing. She just was a late blossomer. BUT i had one that did do the resisting. I had one perfectionist that won a statewide contest on an essay in 8th grade because she is actually a fantastic, organized writer. She inhaled novels from a very young age and filled books with stories from the age of 5 on. But at some point she felt there was some magical sentence she was supposed to be writing ( I feel this is because she is good enough to know good writing and was afraid hers wasn't up to par,) and did the blank stare for hours kind of thing for awhile. We worked through WWSI with her over 8th and 9th grades to help with this, along with a healthy dose of writing across the curriculum. I think adding in creative writing in the form of journaling prompts was the best way I broke through this for her. She at first resisted those, but as we started doing them more and more often, it got her going which has progressed into her school writings as well, thankfully. Good luck! I know how frustrating it can be. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is very pricey, but Mrs Baker's Foundations of Academic Writing at Wilson Hill was what really helped my reluctant writer. There wasn't a ton of homework, but they write in class a LOT. The provider & class are Christian, so there is a prayer at the beginning & sometimes Christian themes discussed/written about. (I credit this class for helping DD#1 over her extreme writing phobia and helping her to score well on the English sections of the SAT/ACT.)

Another pricey option is Bravewriter. It depends on the teacher, but I have heard it is helpful if your kid looks like a deer in headlights when you ask them to write.

Edited by RootAnn
Added a little more about Wilson Hill class
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Outsourcing can really help -- somehow, having to produce for someone other than mom can get reluctant or low-output students over the hurdle. (I've had numerous moms tell me that their students will write for me for our Lit. & Comp. co-op classes without complaint, when they won't do it for mom.) I've heard good things about Bravewriter, Blue Tent, Time 4 Writing, and Write At Home.

Two things helped my 2 DSs who hated to write (DS#1 was an average writer, just disliked it, and DS#2 was a struggling writer with mild LDs in that area so he *loathed* writing), and it was not a program, but rather how we approached writing.

The first thing: for multi-paragraph or multi-page writing, we broke it in to small bites per day -- about 30 minutes of focused time on writing per day, often with me there giving prodding -- er, guidance (lol). So we did a number of 5-paragraph essays all during 9th grade, and would take a full 1-2 weeks to do each: day 1 = brainstorming ideas (done together); day 2 = sort through ideas and organize into some sort of outline or structure (done with a lot of guidance from me); days 3-5 = rough draft write 2 paragraphs a day from the outline (done largely solo by them); day 6-7 = revise -- rewrite as needed to add what is missing, remove what doesn't fit, and reorganize as needed for smoother flow (me go over it, and provide feedback/discuss it and they make changes); day 8-9 = proof-edit & formatting/final version (me go over it and mark lines where something needs fixing; they make fixes).

After about 5-6 essays, spread out over 1.5 to 2 weeks each, you'll be about 10-12 weeks into 9th grade, and you can spend 30-40 min. per day, and only need 5-6 days to complete the 5-paragraph essay: day 1 = brainstorming AND organizing; day 2-3 = rough draft writing; day 4-5 = revising; day 6 = proof-editing & formatting/final version.

For the second semester of 9th grade do a few even more compressed 5-paragraph essays: day 1 = brainstorming/organizing & start rough draft; day 2 = finish rough draft; day 3 = revising & proof-editing/final version. Then spend about 6-8 weeks to expand that 5-paragraph essay schedule into a 5-page research paper with citations. Week 1 = come up with topic and come up with information sources; weeks 2-3 = researching and note-taking; week 4 = organize notes into an outline or structure + fill-in with any additional research you see will be needed; weeks 5-6 = rough draft writing; week 6 = revising; week 7 = learn & do citations; week 8 = proof-editing & formatting/final version.

The second thing that was very helpful: once a week, we set aside our regular writing and we all together did a timed essay from a past SAT essay prompt. Again, we worked our way up. We started with just 10 minutes, and 1 solid 5-6 sentence paragraph with an intro sentence, 3 sentences of support, and a concluding sentence. We read them aloud to each other and orally critiqued (gently), and then moved on. After a few weeks of that, we would add an element to focus on -- like coming up with a "hook" sentence or specific supporting examples to support the point or the commentary sentence that explains how/why the example supports the point -- and then started adding time (boosted to 15 minutes and requiring two 5-6 sentence paragraphs).

It took about 1.5 years, but we gently and without a lot of stress managed to get to 4-5 paragraph timed essays, writing for 25 minutes, that were pretty solid. And that was probably the very best thing we did all through high school for writing -- consistently every week, once a week, churning out timed writing of gently increased amounts -- so that thinking of what to write, and having to write longer amounts in one sitting slowly became not a big deal. I think why this worked so well is that we did not grade or correct these -- although occasionally we might take one and use it as a springboard for a more polished essay assignment -- and we all 3 (me too!) were doing it and workshopping the writing to help improve all of our writing.

Now, in my co-op classes, I'd also say that a third possibly helpful thing is giving students a very specific rubric of what I expect to be in the writing assignment, and a deadline for getting it in, is also very helpful for keeping them writing. They have a full week for getting the 1-5 paragraph assignments in, and the rubric breaks it into "chunks" (like the above paragraphs), and I suggest they tackle a "chunk" a day so they aren't saving it ALL until the night before and get overwhelmed. I think they do find that to be helpful.

In case outsourcing to a class is not workable, or you'd prefer a program to keep you on track, here are two programs that might be a good fit:

BEST of luck in finding what works best for you guys! :) Warmest regards, Lori D.


  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another option for low pressure writing classes is Outschool. Class vary in length. Some may just be a couple of weeks long. Others may be a month or an entire semester long. Some are set up to address a specific topic (like creative writing or the 5 paragraph essay) or to follow a specific theme (like one based on a book or something like world travel). Most of the classes are live, but there are some that are flexible on a flexible schedule.

If you go to www.outschool.com you can search for classes and filter by age and topic.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...