Mason-Inspired Methods for Teaching Writing

At the high school level, I create assignments with specific requirements yet flexible subject matter. If we’re reading a classic novel, I ask each student to create a thesis statement about some aspect of the plot, characters, or places—and back up the argument with quotes and examples from the text. For example, when one class was reading Pride and Prejudice, a student argued that two contrasting characters, Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine de Bourgh, share a similar personality type. The student chose three main arguments to prove his thesis and used those to construct three body paragraphs. He sandwiched these between an introductory paragraph and a conclusion and turned in a fine five-paragraph essay.

Through regular practice of copywork and dictation, the discipline of listening and narrating, and the mental gymnastics of literary analysis, students gain invaluable writing skills that will serve them well—in college English classes and in real life.

Jessica Boling spent the first twenty-three years of her life in Tennessee, and the next two serving as a resident assistant at a missionary boarding school in Germany. Now back in Tennessee, she teaches English literature and composition at several area home school co-ops and is a freelance writer for and Good Catch Publishing. She blogs at

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free  or read it on the go and download the free apps to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

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