Writing Courses Online
Cursus Scriptorum: Writing With Honors • Academic Year 2020-2021 • Grade 5
Molding Your Prose • Summer 2020 • Grade 7
Molding Your Argument • Summer 2020 • Grade 8
Writing for the College-bound • Academic Year 2020-2021 • Grade 8
To enroll in any of the courses listed above, log into your Scholars Online Account Management Center using the login link at the bottom of any page and select the member you wish to enroll. If you do not have an account, you may create one using the Becoming a Member link under Enrollment in the Navigation bar at the top of this page.
If you would like to see a course not yet listed, please use the EMAIL US link below to contact Scholars Online Administration with your course request.
Students who were enrolled in courses from previous years will find the teacher, text, and course description information available from the student's unofficial transcript, which can be reached from the parent's Account Management Center, or from an alumni's own Account Management Center.
The primary online writing course for Scholars Online grew out of our experience with earlier courses. We've found that the existing program has not always been able to take into account varying levels of student expertise, so we've undertaken a considerable overhaul to make it more adaptive. Our goal is for each student to work as efficiently as possible toward personal mastery in all areas of writing, without one student having to slow others.
We are accordingly supplementing our "Writing for the College-Bound" class with a single asynchronous program comprising a number of discrete topical units, each of which can be invoked once or several times as the student needs it. Rather than having regular real-time class meetings, students will progress through the writing units. The result will be a course that engages an ongoing diagnostic process and thereby generates an individually tailored program to address that student's needs, and proceeding at that student's own pace. Teachers will be available online from time to time for instant feedback, in an “office hours” model.
The units are clustered roughly according to the principles of the classical trivium — grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. The first will address two areas, chiefly — grammar proper (the organization of sentences, clauses, and their proper relation to one another), and conventional mechanics (punctuation, capitalization, italics, etc.). If a student is fully in command of these, he or she can move on; if only one or two areas require special attention, those can become the student's focus until they are mastered, rather than everyone having to march through a fixed sequence of units, irrespective of mastery. From there the student will proceed to the dialectic stage — the construction of arguments and orderly disclosure of information. It will address answering the right question, writing clear definitions and explanations, providing supporting material, and avoiding defective modes of argumentation. Finally, the rhetoric stage will introduce the student to the nuances of elegant and precise expression, tailoring an argument to a given audience, and so on. Throughout the process, however, the stages lower on the ladder, so to speak, will remain available for remediation on a case-by-case basis as needed, and will be periodically checked by diagnostic means.
Our intent is to construct the most rigorous writing curriculum possible. Hence our devotion to detail in mundane areas which might otherwise pass overlooked, and hence our significant expectations for the higher levels. At one end of this program, students must demonstrate knowledge and mastery of clause structure, a subject long ago abandoned by most schools; at the other, students aspiring to the highest achievement of the course must complete at least one research paper of 10,000 words—and submit it for publication somewhere.
In what may seem an edgy and radical departure for our normally rather staid approach to education, we're framing all this in the format of a game. The game story is social and political advancement in ancient Rome. The student controls a character who begins as a student and climbs, through various exercises, the hierarchy of Roman offices. The game is non-competitive and non-combative; it pits students against the rigorous demands of the game itself, not against each other.
"Gamification" has become a buzz-word in current educational dialogue, and sometimes it's not clear that it's useful. Theorists now assert that if the game rewards what you're actually trying to teach, it will be successful; if not, it's a distraction. Here's why we think our game will succeed:
First and foremost, the game approach encourages ongoing and continuous self-evaluation and remediation of trouble areas as they come to light. This has been the most constant deficiency we have ourselves perceived in the class-based program we've had in place to date. Removing the lock-step class schedule helps, but requires that the classes be replaced with some other structure to ensure that all students keep working toward a goal—hence the achievements and objectives of the game. We believe that this presentation will uphold and enhance the current level of skill-building of the program.
Second, we admit that not all students find grammar and syntax as rapturously engaging as we do, but we've come to accept it. We hope they'll come around, but through the game we are trying to provide a little extra excitement.
Third, the game will provide a bit of a view into Roman history along the way. The original designers, Mr. Christiansen and Dr. McMenomy, both teach history, and it's dear to both our hearts. Furthermore, familiarity with the titles and offices of ancient Rome should assist any students also taking Latin or World History courses.
We're sure many of you will have questions about both approach and content. We welcome further questions and inquiries directly: contact Dr. McMenomy.
We recognize that some students require a more structured writing program, with set deadlines and a clear focus on a particular goal. For these students, we will offer Writing for the College-bound, which focuses on composing the expository essay — the kind of formal prose required in most academic settings. This course meets in live chat sessions once a week to discuss the steps a student must go through to produce a more-than-merely-acceptable answer to an essay question. Students turn in a composition, receive feedback and critique each others' work, then rewrite their own compositions. With practice, they learn to recognize and correct their own mistakes, and formulate more organized and persuasive arguments to support their essay answers.
This course does assume that students have a certain level of proficiency already in writing correct prose. It does not focus on the mechanics of writing; students who still have issues with comma usage, noun-verb agreement, pronoun references, and other mechanical issues should start with the Cursus Scriptorum course to gain fundamental control of proper sentence composition before tackling Writing for the College-bound.
As with the Cursus course, Writing for the College-bound can be used in conjunction with writing assignments for other courses, providing both teachers agree to allow cross-class submissions.