Essentials in Writing & Essentials in Literature Level 10 Mid-Year Update

Dr. Melissa Felkins gives a mid-year update on how Essentials in Writing and Essentials in Literature Level 10 are working for her homeschool high school.

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The following post and videos were made as a collaboration between Essentials in Writing and It’s a Joyous Journey. We received Essentials in Writing and Essentials in Literature Level 10 in return for providing this honest content related to our personal experiences with the product.

We are halfway through our first year of using Essentials in Writing and Essentials in Literature Level 10 in our homeschool high school, so it’s time for an update!

Both Essentials in Writing and Essentials in Literature are still working well for my senior and my freshman. We have tweaked things a bit to fit our needs, but the framework that is provided in the programs is really solid.

As I mentioned in our First Impressions post and videos, we have chosen to modify our schedule from the one that was suggested in the Essentials in Writing book. My kids do a unit of writing then a unit of literature.  

This is just a personal preference for us. You’ll have to decide what works best for your students.

Essentials in Writing Level 10

Essentials in Writing Level 10 covers

  • Sentence Structure
  • Paragraph Structure
  • Essays
  • Research Papers
Essentials in Writing Level 10

We have worked through the sentence and paragraph structure sections, and we’re currently doing essays. Watch this video to see how the sentence and paragraph sections worked for us!

Essay Writing

Mr. Stephens carries the paragraph structure that he teaches over into the essays very nicely. The essay structure is really just an expansion of the paragraph structure.

He continues to deliver small chunks of information at a time, but he’s very thorough. He gives examples of each part of the essay, showing quality vs. ineffective writing samples.

Then, he walks through the editing process with the students, so they can understand how to present their best work.



The two checklists that are provided for the students to use as they write each essay are really helpful! The first one is a simple paragraph checklist to make sure they’ve included all the elements for each paragraph.

The second one is a longer essay checklist. It prompts the student to look for specific elements, not only in the paragraphs, but also for the overall document to make sure they’ve covered everything well.

Essentials in Writing
Essentials in Writing checklists help homeschool high school students include all necessary elements in their writing.

For us, this is the biggest part of “grading”, if you want to call it that. We tend to go for a mastery approach, which means we keep working on something until we’ve got it.

With the checklists, my homeschool high school students are able to make sure they’ve done everything they can to write a great essay before they bring their final copy to me for feedback.


If you’re not familiar with rubrics, they are a great tool for objectively grading written assignments (and other projects). They provide a framework by which you can award points based on how well the student executed different elements of the written work.

Here’s an example of the rubric for the “Compare and Contrast Essay” in Essentials in Writing Level 10:

Essentials in Writing
Rubrics provide consistent grading for both teachers and students using Essentials in Writing.

In this example, you award 1-4 points in each of four areas based on where the student’s work fits best. You add the points for all sections together and divide by the number of total possible points to get the percentage grade.

Having a rubric makes it much easier for a teacher to grade fairly and consistently. It also makes it clearer to the student why they received the grade they got.

Most of us probably have had the experience of getting a paper back from the teacher with a grade on the top with no explanation as to what we did right or wrong. It just seemed so random, and we sometimes questioned where they came up with the grades, didn’t we?

Having the rubric available to the student from the beginning of the assignment lets them know what is expected of them. It creates self-confidence.

There’s nothing that will suck out a kid’s self-confidence and excitement more than thinking they’ve done a good job on something and then finding out after they’re finished that they were expected to do it completely differently.

A kid that has experienced that is not going to go into the next project with much enthusiasm. Giving them the rubric up front for every writing assignment and then sticking to it when you grade will create consistency for your kids. You’ll be able to see their confidence grow as you give them clear expectations every time.

Scoring Service

Essentials in Writing does offer a scoring service for an additional fee, but they have limited spots available each school year. It might be a good option if you’d rather have your students receive feedback from someone other than you.

Essentials in Literature Level 10

Essentials in Literature Level 10 is also broken down into four sections:

  • Fiction
  • Drama
  • Novel
  • Figurative Language/Poetry
Essentials in Literature
Essentials in Literature Level 10

We spent the first semester doing the fiction unit. I think we might be moving a little more slowly in literature, since we’ve been putting a little more time into writing this year. That’s okay, though.

It’s not necessary to completely finish every curriculum every year. I think it’s more important to choose the things that will provide the most benefit for your students.

With that thought in mind, when we came back from Christmas break, we were ready for a novel. We’ve spent a lot of time reading novels together over the years, and it’s time that we cherish.

Since Essentials in Literature Level 10 only includes one novel, we decided to skip right to it. We’ll go back and cover at least part of the drama unit and finish the year up with some poetry.

To Kill A Mockingbird