Jensen's Format Writing

Jensen's Format Writing

by Frode Jensen
Publisher: Wordsmiths
3rd Edition, ©2002, ISBN: 9781886061293
Consumable Workbook, 160 pages
Current Retail Price: $25.00
Used Price: $12.00 (2 in stock) Condition Policy

Unlike many homeschool writing courses, Frode Jensen's isn't concerned with helping kids toward creativity. His goal is to get them writing efficiently and effectively, and he wastes no time. From the beginning students learn how to put paragraphs together, organize their thoughts, and construct a works cited page. This is a straightforward composition course, and while it isn't "fun," it is easy to understand and teach.

How Does This Work?

This course is intended for high schoolers, though it can also be used with slightly younger students. There is a single text for both student and teacher. No lesson plans or schedules have been laid out, so the teacher can modify the pace to best suit the student. And while this is intended to be taught, it can also be a student-directed program with the teacher simply grading the student's work.

There are seven sections to the book. The first is designed to teach kids how to organize and write a single paragraph. This section should be taught before moving on to any of the others; other than that, they can be taught in any order with some exceptions. The two sections on 5-paragraph essay writing should be taught together, with "Elements of the 5 Paragraph Essay" coming first and followed by "5 Paragraph Essay Formats." "Practical Applications" and "Business Writing" are both stand alone sections covering primarily book reports and business letters, respectively. The final sections teach students how to self-edit and how to write longer research papers, and go hand-in-hand.

Jensen's theory is that students learn best through practice rather than large concentrated assignments. As a result he assigns a lot of writing, from several paragraphs each day of class for the paragraph section, to four or five research papers in the final one. He says that while the course could be completed in one year, he suggests taking two (or more, depending on the child) so teacher and student aren't overworking just to keep up.

While there are some tests to be taken at the end of each section and a few extra exercises in the book, mostly students just write. Each writing format is clearly explained and examples given before kids are given an assignment. There is an emphasis on writing correctly, or technically well, with little attention given to style. Jensen says in the introduction that each writer naturally develops his or her own style and that it isn't something that can be taught other than how to say things clearly and with a minimum of words.

Besides learning how to properly format essays, business letters, resumes, etc., students will learn what an appendix is and how to use one, how to take notes, what a thesis and a precis are and what they have to do with writing, as well as a host of other formats and terms. Again, this is a formal composition course, not a creative writing course. It does, however, provide most of the things your child needs to know to succeed at any writing he will encounter in his high school or college education.

Our Honest Opinion:

This is a good program for teaching kids how to write the kinds of papers they need to write as part of their education. It is fairly bland and Jensen's own style is often fairly verbose and uninteresting, so if you're trying to excite a reluctant writer this probably isn't the best place to start. But for getting the rules and the basics of academic writing down (at a basic, non-expert level), there aren't many courses as straightforward or complete. The fact that you only have to buy a single relatively inexpensive book rather than a whole curriculum makes it at least worth investigating.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.


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  Format Writing
TammyA, 10/16/2008
I highly recommend this book to prepare a student for college essay writing (typically the required WR 121 class). IMHO, it is the best on the market to clearly, efficiently, and concisely teach a student the process of expository writing which is the backbone of college papers. The book takes you from the paragraph (you will need to have already covered the sentence and grammar) with different paragraph types, then goes through the 5 paragraph essay types, book reports, essay questions, business correspondence, and the major paper. This is a "must do" book for our children. My oldest (who graduated homeschool last year), said Format Writing helped her immensely as she aced her required Writing course in college. I quibble a little with some examples that Jensen gives, but remember he is not trying to give great writing examples but simplistic representations to show the child the writing process...which he does superbly.