Byline High School Writing Curriculum Review



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We have partnered with Clear Water Press for several years now to share their high-quality products with our readers. When my daughter was in eighth grade we used Cover Story and she loved it (my daughter’s review is here), so when they released a new high school writing curriculum that had a journalistic theme, I knew it was something I wanted to get my hands on.  They sent me the set for free in exchange for an honest review. 

byline-review

Byline turns students into time-traveling reporters who practice journalism in the forgotten corners of history. Under the video tutelage of Mr. S., editor of the fictional Metropolitan World, your cub reporter will learn more than just how to write a terrific paper. By studying the work of great journalists, students uncover techniques of persuasion and propaganda that are widely used in media today. As students enjoy their reporter’s journey, Byline is equipping them with essay-writing skills! (Description from website.)

Byline is 1 high school English credit. You can also make the course do double duty as 0.5 credits of high school History, if you have your student follow the additional guidelines outlined on the Byline “Optional 0.5 History Credit” page.

In the same style of the other curriculum sets that they offer (Cover Story & One Year Adventure Novel) Byline is a DVD-based curriculum. The thing I love most about all of Clear Water Press curriculum sets is the amazing cinema-quality of the video lessons. After homeschooling for over a decade, I have viewed many curricula that includes video instruction and Clear Water Press’ DVD lessons are far superior to most that we have seen. Quite honestly, most other video lessons are cheesy, outdated, and bore my kids to tears. Not so with these sets!

The video lessons are professionally filmed with high-quality audio, lighting, and props.  The author, Daniel Schwabauer is the main “character” and he really throws himself into the part as he teaches the students in a fun and entertaining way. 

The Byline curriculum set consists of:

  • Video lessons
  • Training manual
  • Teacher’s guide
  • Reporter’s notebook
  • Two newspapers created just for this program
  • It is recommended that you have a 3-ring binder to keep your materials and projects organized (not included) unless you prefer to have your student’s use a computer and store their papers digitally. 

Byline was designed to use only 3 days a week, which I love because it allows flexibility with scheduling. We take vacations at off times and my teen works part-time, so a five day a week, 180 lessons approach is not the best fit for us.  As long as you do the lessons in order you can work at your own pace. 

Here is how a typical lesson works:

  1. Watch a video lesson – averages about 15 minutes each.
  2. Complete the corresponding lesson in the training manual – it trains your students in the basics of journalistic writing (we LOVE this!)
  3. Use the included notebook to take notes, record questions, story ideas, and observations.
  4. Newspaper readings (optional) using the included newspapers.
  5. Work on writing project.

Byline is broken up into six units based on the six elements of journalism: WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY, WHEN, and HOW, with a total of 22 writing projects.  

The first six lessons (2 weeks) do not include a writing project as your student will be getting an overview of the program and familiarizing themselves with the course. Your students will learn how to think and write like a journalist and can dive into an article or two from the included Metro World and Retro Metro newspapers (optional.)

The first writing project occurs in lesson 7,8,9 and is a character study of 300-500 words on Irena Sendler, a Polish nurse, humanitarian, and social worker who served in the Polish Underground during World War II.  The next 3 lessons (week 4) you will study poetry, and in week 5 your child will do some research and learn about the Hindenburg disaster. As you can see, there is a lot of variety in the lessons and this keeps kids from getting bored with the same thing each week. 

I absolutely LOVE how history is woven into this curriculum by studying old newspaper articles and people from the past. 

With Byline, students will not be limited to just writing essays. Character studies, research, and poetry are woven through the curriculum and fun projects will make teens eager to complete their assignments that include hard news stories, features, and columns as a “journalist.”

The Teacher’s Guide
I am not a fan of teacher guides and I am fortunate that my highschooler is an independent learner. With that said, the Teacher’s Guide for Byline is a great tool to have on hand. It includes a lesson chart for an overview of the entire curriculum, course overview, grading rubrics, tests, answer keys, glossary, and a one-page overview for every 3 lessons. 

Training Manual
The training manual is essentially the student “textbook.” Your student will complete 1 lesson in the training manual each day (3 days a week.) These lessons are independent and are to be completed after watching a video lesson.

Reporter’s Notebook
This little notebook will be used very frequently and is an integral part of the curriculum. Each page corresponds with the video lessons and instruction is provided. Using the notebook as intended will aid in research and organization and make the writing projects much easier. 

Final thoughts
I know I say “love” a lot in this review, but I cannot think of another word to use that really gets the point across of how awesome it is. I wish I was in high school and this was my curriculum. Stepping into the role of a 1930s-era newspaper reporter is so exciting and it makes this course engaging and less like a typical writing curriculum. I really, really wish Mr. Schwabauer would make a history curriculum like this – I would buy it in an instant!

You can read more about Byline here and view sample lessons here. The price is higher than I normally like to pay for any 1 curriculum set, but honestly, what you get is so outstanding in quality that it makes the price totally worth it. I can definitely say that I highly recommend Byline if you have a creative thinker who would be interested in exploring what it would be like to be a journalist. 

Here are the 3 curriculum sets offered by Clear Water Press:

 

You can read our Cover Story review here and other language arts reviews here

Written by Carrie

Carrie

Carrie is the owner & operator of Homeschool Giveaways. She is also the Operations Manager for Build Your Bundle – a once a year HUGE homeschooling sale. She has been homeschooling for ten years, has two girls and works side by side at home with her awesome husband. She has been saved by grace, fails daily, but continues to strive toward the prize of the high calling of being a daughter of the Most High God.

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