Thursday, October 9, 2014

{Crew Review} Outsourcing High School Essay Writing with Fortuigence

Have you ever wanted a second set of eyes or a back-up teacher to help teach writing?

Maybe if you are a confident writer or a confident teacher -- or better yet, both -- you haven't felt the need to search out some assistance in helping your child gain skill in writing.  But I seem to know quite a few people (including myself) who could use a little back up in the writing, and I think Fortuigence could fit a need for many homeschoolers.

Created by a seasoned educator, Lily Iatridis, Fortuigence is a self-directed set of writing courses that teach the writing process to 12- 18 year olds.  The entire process is broken down into manageable steps that encourage mastery. Each course progresses at your student's pace;  there are no classes times to worry about missing nor should you need to re-adjust your routines;  Fortuigence will fit into your routine just fine!  And best of all, your student will receive positive feedback and constructive advice from a real life educator who is there to help your student master the content before moving on.

And it is reasonably priced for a homeschool budget!

For our review, I enrolled Ben in the Essay Rock Star: Textual Analysis course.  This is one of four writing courses that Ms. Iatridis offers (click each link to understand what type of writing is being addressed in each course):

I so appreciate that the courses are offered individually for $57 each or you can purchase the entire Essay Rock Star set of four writing courses in which your student will master non-fiction writing for $197.

Technology Needs: First off, everything for Fortuigence is online;  you will need an internet connection to watch the lessons, see samples and submit work via the website.  Your student can work off-line to complete their work, but he/she will then need to upload it to the website for assessment. Mrs. Iatridis will email her comments and directions, so either student or parent will need to provide an email address.

What we received: This course is not a typical online subscription service.  When you sign up for a course, you'll have access to a classroom in which Ms. Iatridis offers video lessons, assignments and samples, and a written transcript of her video lesson (great for those who have different learning styles).  There is no time limit on this course. The course does not end until the student has walked through the entire course.  You could theoretically finish the course in a few weeks time, or you could pace out the seven-step process over a longer period of time.  This is what we had to do because of Ben's academic course load in the fall and cross country season in full swing (not to mention his Scout program, and the necessary eating and sleeping a 15-year-old teen needs).  Ben has worked on the course approximately twice per week:  once to watch the lesson and go over the homework and another session to work completing the assignment and submitting it.  

Our course was divided into six steps:
  1. Course Introduction, Rubrics and Pre-Assessment- To begin the course, Ms. Iatridis asks for a recent writing sample.  I have to admit I breathed a huge sigh of relief that Ben wasn't being asked to create a new writing project off the bat.  Instead, he turned in an essay he wrote last year from one of his literature assignments. A day or two later, he received very positive feedback; so much so that Ms. Iatridis
    suggested that he could stay with the course or move on to another writing course.  We decided to go ahead and stay with this particular course because you can always learn more (and he is!), but it was such an encouragement to Ben to receive some positive feedback from someone other than mom.  This really gave him confidence to stay the course and work on the rest of the assignment without much complaining.
  2. Purpose, Description, Brainstorming- Ben selected an article he would use for hist textual analysis.  By the way, do you know what a textual analysis is?  According to the website: "Textual analysis is a type of essay that middle, high school and college students are often asked to write. Whenever a student is told to write a review on someone else’s work, that is a textual analysis essay. For example, book reviews, movie reviews, and product reviews are examples of textual analysis essays." Ben chose one of several articles choices for his analysis.  In the brainstorming phase, he read the article and began working through worksheets from the website:  a notes worksheet, writing a summary, and a bibliography (to collect the information necessary from background research).  After uploading his assignment, we waiting for Mrs. Iatridis' email:  

    You’ve completed your worksheet questions appropriately and well! Please move on to the next lesson in your online classroom whenever you’re ready.

  3. Organizing Ideas-The next part was writing an outline.  Again, upload outline, wait for email:

    You’ve got a very well planned out outline for your textual analysis on the iPad article! Please move on to the next lesson in your online classroom whenever you’re ready, and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

  4. Free Writing-I appreciate what Mrs. Iatridis does in this part of the assignment.  The goal here is to just write.  No grammar.  No spell check.  Just write to your outline.  I guarantee you that Ben didn't do this.  He grammar-ed.  He spell-checked.  But he also wrote.  And, he needed help staying focused on this new style of writing.  He had to re-work it a little so that it stayed true to an analysis of another's writing, rather than slipping into a persuasive essay.  This was good feedback for Ben.
  5. Revision- In the next part, the essay begins to take more of a traditional shape.  Several steps are involved:

    reorganize information
    grammar/ sentence structure
    thesis statement
    introduction/ conclusion
    bibliography (I'm not exactly sure if she's advocating MLA or APA style here; however, the term 'bibliography' is more consistent with APA style than MLA.)
    Re-check work
  6. Editing - Grammar, punctuation, spelling and mechanics are cleaned up here.  Additionally, any suggestions from the instructor regarding the thesis, introduction and conclusion are considered and worked on.
You can only progress through the course as you complete assignments; that is, each successive step is locked until your assignments have been OK'ed by Mrs. I.

By the end of the course, your student will have .125 of composition credit for the completion of each of the four Rock Star courses -- a complete .5 credit in all.  

How This Worked For Us:  Although Ben hasn't finished the course (he's close!), I really love this high school writing program and that I am getting some support and help (which is actually a little bit of a break!).  If you are looking for that -- and a .5 credit in composition -- I think this is definitely a worthwhile investment in your middle or high school student.  I have a relatively reluctant writer who lacks confidence in his ability.  Mrs. Iatridis has definitely given Ben a confidence boost in his writing, and I'm very grateful for the way in which we are able to flex this program with our busy life right now.  Mrs. Iatridis has been good about getting back to us in a day or so of Ben turning in his assignments, so any slow response has been on our end.

If you would like to read what other reviewers thought of Essay Rock Star's courses (including the Essay Rock Star Personal Statement -- which is one Ben will definitely be completing in his junior year), please click over to Schoolhouse Reviews to read more!

Read More Reviews at Schoolhouse Reviews


Lily Iatridis said...

Thanks for your review! I'm so glad the course is giving Ben's confidence a boost.



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