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.
Read, Write Now
Series: The Writer’s Path to Critical Thinking
The books we read in childhood often stay with us forever, so it’s important that those books include some high-quality classics. This class offers students a chance a fun opportunity to read along with their peers and focus on improving their own reading and writing skills as they move towards more difficult materials.
During the Fall Quarter, our books will include The Story of Doctor Doolittle, by Hugh Lofting; Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, by Robert C. O’Brien, and The Family Under the Bridge, by Natalie Savage Carlson. As part of our work on The Story of Doctor Dolittle, we will use a variation of the innovative game Dialect to create OUR OWN animal language based on the setting of the story, individual characters, and the special needs of the animal community. Doctor Dolittle is famously known for his ability to TALK TO THE ANIMALS, so as we work on this novel, our main focus will be on language and communication. As part of our discussion about communication, we will explore a variety of ways new words are added to language, how those words uniquely reflect and shape a culture, and how language “lives” or “dies.” The process of creating language will help students analyze characters, themes, and settings in the novel, introduce them to the connections between language and culture, and give them an opportunity to approach this novel through a really fun role-playing game.
During the Winter Quarter, our books will include many exciting adventures: The Railway Children, by Edith Nesbit; The Sign of the Beaver, by Elizabeth George Speare, and The Saturdays, by Elizabeth Enright. The Railway Children is a classic, “riches to rags” adventure story that readers have loved for generations. As the “Railway Children” lose their comfortable home and embark on a new life of poverty, they realize how much they still have. The Sign of the Beaver takes readers back to early America, providing a unique perspective on the effects of colonialism, as a young colonist comes to know and care for a tribe of Penobscot Indians. Our final novel is an adventure story that follows the Melendy children as they create their own perfect Saturday adventures, enjoying their freedom and learning important lessons along the way.
During the Spring Quarter, our books will include From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E. L. Konigsburg; Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo, and Five Children and It, by Edith Nesbit. Even if students have read these novels in the past, discussing them with friends will make them all the more memorable, and organizing their ideas through their writing will help students hone their critical thinking skills. There is so much to learn from reading and re-reading engaging works of literature, filled with adventure, humor and learning.
Even if students have read these novels in the past, discussing them with friends will make them all the more memorable, and organizing their ideas through their writing will help students hone their critical thinking skills. There is so much to learn from reading and re-reading engaging works of literature, filled with adventure, humor and learning. The class will also do craft projects and group activities related to the novels we will be reading this year!
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 class is designed to teach students how to construct and structure solid academic paragraphs and give them lots of practice in planning, developing, focusing and controlling powerful paragraphs with strong topic sentences. Over the year, students will practice a variety of writing strategies, including description, exposition, definition, cause and effect, narration, persuasion, analysis, summary, etc. The workshop structure of this course will provide students with an audience to make their writing more meaningful and encourage class discussion. They’ll receive feedback from each other, as well as from me in class and learn revision techniques to help improve their writing skills. These workshops not only allow students an important opportunity for feedback 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, whatever their current level, by leaps and bounds.
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. 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 learn the process of writing thoughtful paragraphs. The class will also utilize Google Classroom for vocabulary and other assignments. This is also where parents can access weekly descriptions of our activities in each class and all homework assigned.