This 8-week middle school writing class is themed around a nonfiction book about critical thinking skills. We’ll read, discuss, and write two multi-draft papers with feedback.
|Class Type||Weekly Live Meetings|
|Start / End Dates||October 24-December 18, 2022|
|Live Meetings||Tuesdays at 11-11:45am Eastern|
|Class Size||3-10 Learners|
|Enrollment||$220 Per Student*|
|*Sliding Fee Scale Available|
We live in a time with more information more readily available than any other period in human history. That’s amazing!
But it’s also overwhelming.
It’s never been so easy to get information about a topic, but it’s never been so hard to figure out what we can trust.
Think For Yourself: The Ultimate Guide to Critical Thinking in an Age of Information Overload was written by Andrea Debbink to help middle school learners navigate these tough challenges.
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 and supplemental materials.
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 discussion boards.
Provided materials include reading guides and activities to help with vocabulary and comprehension as well as writing tips to apply to both short, informal writing assignments and longer, multi-draft essays.
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 October 24-December 18, 2022
We’ll meet via Zoom for a live discussion session each Tuesday at 11-11:45am Eastern/10-10:45am Central/9-9:45am Mountain/8-8:45am 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.
This class is an intermediate option for my Middle School level classes (Middle School Level 2). It’s best suited for learners who have already developed the following skills:
- Can write about 250-300 words (about 1 page double spaced) on a single topic
- Confidently reads texts at or above ~900L on the Lexile rating
- Has been introduced to identifying main and supporting ideas in nonfiction texts (even if still needing support to execute these skills)
- Has practiced academic writing basics such as creating an introduction, focusing paragraphs, and providing support for claims (even if work needs support for refinement and depth)
This class is a good fit for middle school readers and writers who meet the basic demands of ELA tasks and would benefit from sustained practice, feedback that helps them refine their work, and specific instruction geared toward gaps or challenging areas.
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:
- Crafting strong thesis statements
- 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.
This book uses some “hot button” topics (cyberbullying, refugee crises, animal rights, etc.) to illustrate critical thinking skills in a context where learners are likely to have both emotional and logical responses. The book doesn’t tell learners *what* to think on these topics and instead gives tools for *how* to think.
For some learners, it can be challenging to see topics they care passionately about discussed in this way. It is also likely that learners will not all agree or come to the same conclusions about these topics. We’ll be discussing how to challenge ideas and debate topics while remaining respectful and considerate of our classmates.
To participate successfully in class, learners will need the following:
- A copy of Think for Yourself: The Ultimate Guide to Critical Thinking in an Age of Information Overload by Andrea Debbink (ISBN 9781950500048) (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)
- 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
We have thoroughly enjoyed ancient history with Sam Matalone Cook and would love to continue following the history courses under her instruction. Michelle’s writing workshop was a welcomed addition to our semester and the ease of adding on a quick workshop to the semester was appreciated. I do wish that I could take classes, too. The great selection makes me jealous; Fairy Tales and Feminism would be so incredible to join in and to learn with Sam! And the LGBTQ+ history and US courses! Blair’s enthusiasm for science comes across strongly and is encouraging for the young learners. So many great classes- so little time.
Sheila and Elisa
So many great classes- so little time.
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.
Michelle does such a wonderful job at speaking with young people and guiding discussionsTeacher: 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.
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!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.
Michelle truly demonstrates compassion and expertise in her classes!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.
I only wish we had found Michelle sooner!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. Darcey
I really appreciate how organized the class wasTeacher: 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! Karen
I’m so glad we found you! This experience is exactly what I hoped for in our homeschooling journey!Teacher: 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 Early
He was so invigorated and excited after today’s meeting.Teacher: 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.
I used creative writing as a way to debate philosophy and contrasting view pointsTeacher: 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 Online Classes 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 Online classes are where the love of learning happens.