One of the courses required for graduation from Hillcrest is Writing Skills. This is a semester course taken first when students are in 8th grade, and again in 10th grade (when the class counts as .5 elective credit). It was added years ago as part of the curriculum to ensure that students are prepared for college-level writing. Because a number of skills are taught in the typical English class — literature, grammar, vocabulary and spelling, and writing –there are times when one or more of those skills does not receive the amount of time and attention truly necessary for mastery. And because effective writing is essential not only in the college academic setting, but also in most careers, Hillcrest wants our graduates to feel well-prepared when they are faced with writing numerous essays, papers, and presentations — sometimes all at once and with little-to-no guidance.
At the 8th-grade level the goal of Writing Skills is to master effective paragraph writing and to become familiar with essays. Because the paragraph is the basic building block of an essay, this is a critical skill for communicating ideas. At the 10th-grade level students learn, in detail, the parts of an essay and begin to develop their own style of writing by drafting two different types of compositions, typically a narrative and then an expository essay. They also study resume writing and filling out applications — skills necessary for earning college scholarships or grants and for job hunting. And while seniors do not take a separate Writing Skills class, during the first 9 weeks in English 12, students thoroughly review grammar, mechanics, and writing again, polishing and perfecting their skills. So, parents, if you hear your children complaining about “all that writing” they have to do, now you know why.
Hillcrest’s teachers work hard and proudly to continue the school’s reputation for creating strong writers who excel in composition both in college and beyond. For example, every year around Homecoming, recent graduates — often those who struggled while at HCS — return to visit and are excited to tell the high school English teachers, “My Comp. teacher uses my papers as the example for the rest of the class!” or “I have the highest grade in my English class, and everyone else is asking me for help!” Those first-hand testimonies of student successes are “music to a teacher’s ears” and the ultimate goal of Hillcrest’s comprehensive writing instruction.