Formal Composition in High School

Miss Mason was positively against composition exercises in the younger years. She considered oral and written narration, together with the above mentioned methods sufficient. I know this works, because it has worked for my own children.  All are proficient communicators. My oldest daughter is now an investigative journalist. My seventeen year old is about to have her first novel published and my younger children enjoy writing immensely.

Charlotte was wise in cautioning us to hold off on this. However, once a child reaches high school age, she stated that written narrations were to become more focused. We would call this FORMAL COMPOSITION.  Up until now,  the children's narrations have been mostly narratives, or 'narrative essays,' if you will, but now they should learn to compare and contrast, analyze, and argue their position. Essays must become more tight and rigid in their structure. This is the next step in learning to become an effective communicator. The academic world will also require this knowledge, beginning with the SAT, ACT essay tests and later on, in your student's college courses. Jeannie Fulbright has a great article about this here.

If you feel inadequate in teaching formal composition, I recommend Jensen's Format Writing. It is excellent and affordable. You do not need an expensive, time-consuming course for this. This book teaches how to write good paragraphs, how to write "Five Paragraph Essays", research papers, business letters, resumes and more.  For those on a tight budget, we recommend this wonderful, free website: (This is what we used.)

We also highly recommend Strunk and White's Elements of Style in addition to the above resources, and have your student begin to apply it to their writing.