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Holly Van Houten

Students will receive instruction from Holly Van Houten, who has decades of experience preparing young writers with the skills they need to succeed. In addition to teaching Literature and Writing at The HuckleBerry Center for Creative Learning, in Valencia, California since 2009, Holly taught in the USC Freshman Writing Department for 10 years, while completing her Ph.D. coursework in English and American Literature.  Holly has also taught in the English departments at Pepperdine University, California State University, Northridge, and California State University, Long Beach. She has helped young scholars become confident writers for over 30 years and has successfully prepared students of all abilities for college-level writing.

Researched Writing

Live/Online Class

Series:  The Writer’s Path to Critical Thinking


Ages 10-12

Writing well is an essential skill that will help students succeed in all their classes.  Whether a student is an enthusiastic writer or a bit reluctant, this class will strengthen skills and lay the foundation for future success. Learning to write well involves mastering the parts of an essay before building towards the whole. This year-long class is designed to introduce students to the organizational techniques and analytical strategies they’ll need to construct full length essays. 


In the FALL QUARTER, our focus will be on creating POWERFUL PARAGRAPHS. Students will learn to structure, develop, and support their ideas by creating categories and sub-topics. We will move from individual paragraphs to multi-paragraph essays, learning how different paragraphs function in an essay. 


In the WINTER QUARTER, our focus will be on learning strategies for EFFECTIVE ESSAYS. Students will practice a variety of development strategies to help them organize and develop their ideas, including classification, extended definition, comparison/contrast, cause and effect, and other development strategies. We will end with a fun narrative assignment to illustrate how stories can be used for persuasive purposes. Gaining fluency in these different approaches will give students a ready set of tools to draw upon, so they’ll be familiar with all the options available to them when beginning a writing project.  


In the SPRING QUARTER, our focus will be on RESEARCHED WRITING. Students will learn to evaluate and choose reliable sources for academic essays, incorporate quotations into their own writing, and clarify to readers how to interpret any quotes they include. Students will use internet resources to track sources and document them in MLA citation style. 


This class will take students step by step through the process of creating a strong essay.  If they’ve written essays before, this class will provide valuable practice and experience.  If this is their first time expanding their ideas to essay length, they’ll learn the fundamentals.  Regardless of ability level, students will polish and improve their writing as they work on structure and expand their ideas from their introductions to their conclusions.  We’ll hone and sharpen thesis statements, write focused and controlling topic sentences, strengthen transitions, develop detail and improve style.  Students will gain valuable experience planning, drafting and revising their essays.  Revision is, in many ways, the most important part of the writing process.  It’s only when you have your ideas down on paper that you can begin the essential work of clarifying and organizing them well. 


Because revision is such an essential part of the writing process, we will devote class time to our roundtable writing and revision workshops.  The workshop structure of this course will provide students with an audience to make their writing more meaningful.  They’ll receive feedback from each other, as well as from me in class and learn revision techniques to help improve their writing skills. Students share their writing in class so that they can learn about the reactions their writing elicits from others and receive helpful feedback to aid with the revision process.  These workshops not only allow students an important opportunity to receive revision suggestions but allow them to be immersed in the writing of their peers as well.  This requires each student to sharpen his or her own analytical skills as they consider how others may improve their essays.  Over the course of the semester each student will complete several writing assignments and critique many more in class – a process that will improve their writing by leaps and bounds. 


Students will definitely do a lot of writing in this course but writing only improves with regular practice! There will be weekly homework assignments, in addition to our in- class work, to provide students with lots of opportunities to hone their skills.


Our classes will take place each week through live, interactive, and engaging online sessions, and we will utilize a variety of tools to enhance our classroom discussions and encourage collaboration (breakout rooms, polls/quizzes, discussion forum questions, video access, and screen sharing for our intensive essay revision sessions). The Zoom video platform will allow us to meet like a regular classroom for lecture and discussion purposes as we immerse ourselves in wonderful literature and the process of writing literary analysis essays. The class will also utilize Google Classroom for assignments, discussion forums, and work-sharing both during class sessions and outside of class. Taking advantage of the incredible, collaborative power of Google Docs will allow us to share ideas and revision techniques far more efficiently. This class will be a great opportunity to enjoy some wonderful literature and practice essential literary analysis and writing skills.


Holly Van Houten

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