Grade(s): 6th – 8th
Prep Time: Minimal
Teacher Manual: Available
Teacher Involvement: Essential
Cost: $$ || ?
Publication Date: 2010
Updated Review: 01/02/2014
Reviewer: Sarah Butler MacLeod
Advanced Academic Writing, Volume 1 (AAW 1) is the first of the Michael Clay Thompson writing Middle/Secondary writing series. It’s a serious tome designed to teach a learner how to write an MLA-style academic essay or research paper. It’s designed to be used with MCT’s Magic Lens 1 (grammar) and Word Within a Word 1 (vocabulary), which are also far more serious and demanding books than their predecessors.
Like Essay Voyage, the third writing text in the elementary trio, AAW 1 focuses on formal diction and prose and third-person writing. Advanced Academic Writing continues where Essay Voyage leaves off. While the other portions of the MCT language arts curriculum have a spiral element built-in, allowing a learner to enter at about any level, the writing portion is far more linear. While a high school student could begin the rest of the middle/secondary series and be able to work through the series successfully, AAW 1 relies heavily on the material from Essay Voyage, where the principles of a well-crafted essay are explicitly taught. This isn’t a problem if a student is well-schooled in writing an academic essay.
Advanced Academic Writing 1 begins with a fifty-odd page writing guide that briefly covers the mechanics of writing an academic essay or short research paper. After covering standard proofreading marks, MLA rules regarding form and style, and quotations, Thompson gives an example of a paper fitting his criteria with a few proofreading marks thrown in as examples. The paper is heavy on long quotes for it’s three page length, but it’s point is to illustrate form, formality, and adherence to the thesis. The writing samples in the book, on the other hand, are all short, as are the assignments. Thompson is looking for perfecting each part of smaller works — learning correct form.
The guide continues with word usage and punctuation guides along with a few examples of papers with errors. These lists are concise and easy to use, limited to a few pages each and accessible for the grammar-savvy user.
What follows is less concise: nearly twenty pages of what he calls “core-element grading.” MCT’s grading method starts with correct use of the English language, then moves to MLA format, correct essay structure, and, finally, the meaningfulness of the idea itself. In short, if the first item isn’t present (proper English) the paper can receive a grade no higher than a D with mastery (in order) of the following elements to achieve a C, B, or A. In short, a paper with an excellent thesis that is well-supported with excellent command of the English language can receive no more than a C if MLA formatting is incorrect.
While homeschool families can certainly dismiss the whole grading system, the focus on errors in the first three categories continues throughout the book.
Four assignments make up the second half of the book. They include word lists from Word Within the Word 1 and hints about word choice. You also get a sample paper for each assignment that includes a few pages of comments (positive and negative) addressing writing elements. Two of the assignments also include a writing lesson on organization and outlining and proper citation. Thompson is painstakingly clear regarding expectations for each paper. Although he leaves plenty of room for choice on the subject of each essay, each assignment has a specific purpose.
Students are asked to write each of the following:
1- Interpretation of fiction using a single source
2- Essay citing multiple sources
3- Essay on a revolutionary character
4- Essay on an abstract concept
Advanced Academic Writing would make a fine addition to any honors-level high school class, but it’s not necessarily a good fit for reluctant writers.
About the Author: Michael Clay Thompson received his bachelor’s degree from Washington and Lee University, studied for gifted education accreditation at Mars Hill College and obtained his MA from Western Carolina University. During his 30-year teaching career he taught in schools in Indiana, Tennessee, and North Carolina. He has served on the Board of Directors of the National Association for Gifted Children and as an online instructor in Language Arts for the Northwestern University Gifted Learning Links program . He was formerly a consultant to the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William and Mary, consultant and Lead Scholar for the National Javits Project for Language Arts, and President of the Indiana Gifted Association. Michael Clay Thompson has written more than 70 books.
NOTE: This review originally appeared on Sandra Macleod’s blog, Quarks and Quirks and is reprinted with permission.
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