This 8-week middle school writing class is themed around a nonfiction book about the history of sugar. We’ll read, discuss, and write two multi-draft papers with feedback.
|Class Type||Weekly Live Meetings|
|Start / End Dates||March 14-May 8, 2022|
|Live Meetings||Tuesdays at 1-1:45pm Eastern|
|Class Size||3-10 Learners|
|Enrollment||$135 Per Student|
When you bite into a cupcake or stir some sugar into your tea, you probably aren’t thinking about the historical tales of what brought that sweetener into your life.
Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos — a husband and wife writing team — weren’t, either. Then they discovered that sugar is part of their respective family histories. By the time they finished researching their own connection to the history of sugar, they’d realized it was a part of major world events that stretched back for centuries. It moves through religious ceremonies to slavery to fortunes gained and lost.
Sugar, as the title of this book proclaims, did indeed change the world, and reading this book will provide learners with a chance to question how many of the items we take for granted likely have their own storied past.
Gain Key Academic Writing and Reading Foundations
Students will learn foundational academic writing and reading skills including thesis statements, note taking, topic sentences, paragraph focus, and transitions. They will practice these skills through themed writing assignments based on the book.
Meet Live Weekly
This is a live class, which means we meet weekly to discuss the reading and explore writing tips. Learners can also interact with each other and the instructor between class meetings on our shared Discord channel.
Provided materials include reading guides and activities to help with vocabulary and comprehension as well as writing tips to apply to short, informal writing assignments.
Practice Writing as a Process
Most importantly, students will compose two multi-draft papers with individual video feedback on rough drafts and the opportunity to revise a final draft.
Most learners can expect to spend 3-5 hours per week (including the live meeting) working on class materials.
Assignments Open Each Week
In order to allow for learners and their families to have the flexibility they need, assignments open by Monday of each week and are due by the following Sunday. Learners can complete work at whatever time works best for them throughout the week.
Live Sessions Meet on Tuesdays
Class runs from March 14-May 8, 2022
We’ll meet via Zoom for a live discussion session each Tuesday at 1-1:45pm Eastern/12-12:45pm Central/11-11:45am Mountain/10-10:45am Pacific
If a learner cannot attend a session due to illness or a schedule conflict, they will still have access to all class materials and can check in with the instructor with any questions.
Learners will be most successful in this class if they have the following skills/experiences:
- The ability to read at a 5th/6th grade level and answer questions about what they’ve read. (It’s okay to have struggles with vocabulary or connecting ideas. We’ll be going over strategies!)
- Basic understanding of writing in terms of what makes a complete sentence, how to craft a paragraph of related sentences, and how to move through ideas in a logical order. (It’s okay to struggle with fully developing ideas or having trouble putting all writing knowledge together into a complete draft. That’s what we’re working on!)
The class is set up so that students choose which writing prompts they’d like to complete for both of the two primary assignments. This means that students of varying ability levels and familiarity with academic writing conventions can find an assignment appropriate for their level.
All students will learn about the following:
- Developing reading comprehension and note-taking strategies
- Finding their own writing process
- Working on a complete draft in stages that focus on revision
- Reflecting on what works to build strong writing habits
Depending on which assignments they choose to complete, students will focus specifically on the following:
- Focusing paragraphs
- Summarizing outside sources in their own writing
- Analyzing outside sources
- Finding similarities when making comparisons
- Conducting independent research to find credible sources
- Incorporating sources into writing with appropriate citations
Common Core Standards Alignment
For those who are using Common Core standards, this course meets the following:
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.1, 7.1, and 8.1 (citing textual evidence)
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.2, 7.2, and 8.2 (identifying central ideas)
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.3, 7.3, and 8.3 (analyzing details in informational texts)
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.4, 7.4, and 8.4 (determining word meaning in context)
Depending on Paper Prompt Chosen:
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.1, 7.1, and 8.1 (write arguments with reason and evidence)
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.2, 7.2, and 8.2 (write informative texts to examine a topic)
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.3, 7.3, and 8.3 (write narratives with details)
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.4, 7.4, and 8.4 (write appropriately to audience)
- CCS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.5, 7.5, and 8.5 (plan, revise, edit and rewrite)
- CCS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.7, 7.7, and 8.7 (conduct short research projects)
- CCS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.8, 7.8, and 8.8 (gather information from credible sources)
- CCS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.9, 7.9, and 8.9 (draw textual evidence to support analysis and research)
- CCS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.10, 7.10, and 8.10 (write routinely over extended time frames)
Upon successful completion of class, instructor provides detailed exit letter suitable for inclusion in portfolio. Families may request numerical grade at beginning of class for a detailed course grade summary, but it is optional.
All students will receive individualized video feedback on all rough drafts that specifically addresses their rough draft submissions.
My teaching philosophy very much focuses on starting with students’ strengths to build confidence and using them to work on improvements over time.
Feedback is tailored to each student’s individual needs and goals. I also encourage a lot of self-reflection and provide opportunities for students to directly communicate their challenges so that facing them with strategies becomes a normal part of the writing process.
The history of sugar is, in part, the history of slavery, and the book is honest about that connection.
There are also mentions of religion throughout the book in historical contexts. These religious elements will only be discussed historically (that is, in the context of the people who believed these ideas) and never presented as fact.
To participate successfully in class, learners will need the following:
- A copy of Sugar Changed the World by Anna Crowley Redding (ISBN 978-0-618-57492-6) (used copies are fine; borrowed/library copies are acceptable but it’s preferable for learners to have their own copy so they can take notes in it)
- Microphone and camera for in-class participation
- PDF Reader
- Zoom (free account)
- We will use a Discord server for message boards (learners who prefer to not use Discord can still participate in our classroom but with less interaction; Discord can be installed on a phone, tablet, or computer for free)
- Learners will submit work through Google Drive (a Google (Gmail) account can be acquired for free)
Dr. Michelle Parrinello-Cason
Dr. Michelle Parrinello-Cason has a Ph.D. in English with an emphasis on rhetoric and composition. She has more than a decade of teaching experience including six years of full-time college experience
My Zoom-averse daughter looked forward to the weekly online meetings. Michelle does such a wonderful job at speaking with young people and guiding discussions. My daughter was motivated to work hard on her assignments and has asked to take another class from Michelle.
E.F.P.Teacher: Michelle Parrinello-Cason
I really appreciated your enthusiasm, support, and kind words in your video feedback messages to him. That goes a long way! [Learner] is going to a brick and mortar school next year for the first time since fourth grade. We submitted the two papers he wrote in your class to the high school he applied to go to next year, and they recommended he start in Advanced English! Woohoo!
Jill G.Teacher: Michelle Parrinello-Cason
The video lectures were clear and packed full of helpful and important writing lessons. The video and written feedback was clearly personalized, very detailed, and extremely beneficial for my learner. Michelle truly demonstrates compassion and expertise in her classes!
Kristi R.Teacher: Michelle Parrinello-Cason
I only wish we had found Michelle sooner! I’ve been homeschooling my son off and on for years. Writing is very challenging for him and it is so difficult to take feedback from a parent. I have begged so many of his teachers to please offer direct, concise, written feedback and give him the opportunity to revise. I knew this would be the only way he could improve. This class was everything I’ve been asking for for years…..except I didn’t have to ask! It is designed this way and it worked brilliantly! My son gets to attend an adventure school in the fall, but if we homeschool the following year, the first thing I will do is sign him up for whatever Michelle is teaching.
E.F.P.Teacher: Michelle Parrinello-Cason
I really appreciate how organized the class was, how clear the expectations and guidelines were and how professional and encouraging the feedback delivery was.
DarceyTeacher: Michelle Parrinello-Cason
I just want to take a few minutes to send a huge thank you for the way you deliver (have delivered) feedback to [Learner]. He tends to put a lot of pressure on himself and doesn’t often take feedback or constructive criticism well. You have managed to give him a boost of confidence and an opportunity to look inward to appreciate feedback from others. I’m so glad we found you! This experience is exactly what I hoped for in our homeschooling journey!
KarenTeacher: Michelle Parrinello-Cason
He was so invigorated and excited after today’s meeting. It awakens something in him he craves and can only get from discussions like the one today.
Bevin EarlyTeacher: Michelle Parrinello-Cason
I especially enjoyed the final project for this class, which was something I had never tried before, using creative writing as a way to debate philosophy and contrasting view points. It was quite a bit challenging, ultimately leaving me satisfied with the ending result.
AnonymousTeacher: Michelle Parrinello-Cason
For us, this is “authentic learning.” We discussed how community college classes and other virtual online high school classes might be accredited and “weigh” a lot in terms of grades and credits, but SEA is where her mind and creativity are challenged and inspired. I’d like to emphasize the part about creativity. She felt invited to engage creatively. SEA classes are where the love of learning happens.
AnonymousTeacher: Michelle Parrinello-Cason
It’s great to see thought-provoking books chosen and to have my son experience such an inclusive environment.