One of the secrets to the success of Susquehanna Prep/Apple Tree’s writing program is that it begins even before a student can actually write a word. It starts with picture stories in the preschool and progresses to pictures and basic sentences in kindergarten. Each year students grow in their abilities and are taught skills to further develop and enhance their writing. The steps of the writing process from prewriting to presentation are learned and utilized faithfully; different techniques to organize and compose are modeled and used, and proofreading practice helps students find errors in their own work. When the students start 5th grade, they have all the tools they need to write well; now the work begins in earnest.
Starting in 5th grade, students have a daily writing class in the computer lab where they write every day and get instruction and immediate feedback from the writing teacher. Required essay length increases to at least 5 paragraphs in length, and often longer. The students learn about and write many different types of writing, both creative and expository. In creative writing, the student produce poetry, personal narratives, and short stories; for expository writing, they write essays that compare and contrast, that analyze elements of literature, that explain how to do or make something, and that present a problem and propose a solution. They learn to write thesis statements, organize their writing effectively, and improve style elements such as word choices, sentence fluency, and voice. Most of all, they learn that their rough draft can always be improved! In addition to the writing experience the students receive, they often share their writing with classmates, which gives them additional public speaking experience, and another compelling reason to write their best.
In addition to the everyday work just described, there are several special projects each year. These include special writing projects for open house which are polished so much that they often go through 3 or 4 drafts, and the biggest project of the year for 6th through 8th grades: the research paper. The research paper usually takes about 8 weeks from start to finish and gives students invaluable experience in many different areas: researching, writing notes and conveying findings clearly and without plagiarizing, writing a clear and specific thesis statement, meeting deadlines, and using MLA format throughout the paper which includes learning how to do in-text citations and a works cited list. Extensive experience with this type of writing will put Susquehanna Prep students a huge step ahead when they get to high school.
The ability to write well is a necessity across all academic disciplines and in most fields of work. Susquehanna Prep/Apple Tree gives its students what they need to be great writers.