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How to Host an Essay Workshop

Want to see your student write two essays in one day — without complaining?

Does that sound impossible?

Believe it or not, it happens at every Beat-the-Clock Essay Workshop I host. I love to see to see students succeed in doing something challenging, and the BTC essay workshop is designed to make it possible.

It is simple to host a workshop, so if you have a support group, or can assemble 10 or more students for a local workshop or 20 or more students for a workshop that requires travel, you may want to consider hosting a Beat-the-Clock Essay Workshop in your area. 

Hosting a workshop is fun and easy, and in return for hosting, you and your student may attend the workshop free. It's not hard — all you need to do is locate a place that will accomodate a group, tell people about the event, collect registrations, and show up!


How to Host a Beat-the-Clock Essay Workshop

If you might be interested in hosting a workshop, here is what you can do.

Before the event:

  • E-mail us to set up a date
  • Locate a suitable place* with
    • Enough table or desk space for all the students and parents who will be writing
    • A whiteboard or chalkboard that is visible to everyone
    • PowerPoint projector and screen or blank wall
  • Decide on lunch arrangements (brown bag, delivered pizza, or fast food — whatever suits your group)
  • Publicize the event via newsletter, web, invitations, or flyers
  • Collect registrations and funds
  • Email location address to me so I can map the driving directions

On the day of the workshop:

  • Arrive at the workshop site 15-30 minutes early to open the room, ensure that whiteboard and projector are in place.
  • Welcome attendees.

As a thank-you for hosting, you and your student enjoy the workshop free. I hope you enjoy it!

*Many libraries and churches have suitable rooms available — just call around or network to find a space.
For Conference Hosts

How to Host a Beat-the-Clock Workshop as an optional special event for before, during, or after a conference

  • The Beat-the-Clock Essay Workshop prepares students for writing timed essays, such as those found on the SAT, ACT, some CLEPs, etc. This 3.5-hour writing workshop can be scheduled on its own, or in conjunction with a homeschool conference. I’ve been offering this popular workshop since 2002, and students consistently indicate that they feel more confident about tackling essays.
  • During the workshop, I provide
    • An overview of the 5-step writing process
    • Tips on what evaluators look for
    • A simple formula for time management
    • Step-by-step instruction in how to approach the essay question
    • A 30+-page booklet to take home
  • Students write two complete timed essays while there, and receive feedback if requested.
  • I work with convention coordinators to make this special event a drawing card for their conference, providing a program description; sample flyers or brochures; publicity on my website, e-newsletter, and blog; tuition at the local rate, plus a 10% per family discount off the regular tuition if there are 30 or more students.
  • To encourage conference attendance, this discount can be offered when parents register for the conference and the BTC workshop together. As an alternative, the organization may choose to use the event as a fundraiser, and offer the workshop at regular tuition, and keep the amount of the discount. Other options include offering a member/non-member tuition rate, or using the discount to include an auditing parent in the student registration. I am open to discussing other ideas, so please feel free to contact me if the Beat-the-Clock Essay Workshop is something you might like to offer your conference attendees.
Sample Beat-the-Clock brochure for BTC held at a conference: Conference organizers may use this this sample as inspiration for their own event.

Beat the Clock Essay Workshop Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the minimum number of students needed for a Beat-the-Clock workshop?

A: In order to have enough students for good participation and dialog, we need at least 10 students at local workshops. For non-local workshops, there should be 20 or more. The best workshops we've ever done have been with fairly large groups of teens, with at least a few who enjoyed asking questions, sharing their essays, and participating wholeheartedly. Their enthusiasm seems to be contagious, and we end up with a lively, interactive class, which makes the entire topic more memorable.

Q: How old must students be to attend?

A: I do not like to put a specific age requirement on the workshop, because children develop so differently. I've had middle-school students who participated fully, and loved the workshop; and I've had a few high-school students who felt a bit overwhelmed.

For the Beat-the-Clock workshop, if your student reads well, and can write at least three paragraphs in a half hour, he or she is probably physically ready to try the workshop. In addition, though, he or she must be able to consider and analyze abstract ideas such as the causes of happiness or the value of honesty. The problems and essay questions we use are formulated by the creators of the SAT, so they are very similar to what students will encounter on the exams.

Q: I heard that the essay will soon become optional on the SAT. Why do I need to learn to write a timed essay? 
  • Being able to organize thoughts and write quickly and concisely is a skill that will benefit you in every class you take, both in high school and college (just think of those challenging essay questions you will encounter!).
  • Optional means that many colleges — probably the more selective schools — will still require it. It is always best to be prepared.
Q: I would like to look at samples of the essay questions you will be using. Can you post a few?

A: You may see current SAT questions at CollegeBoard.com and current ACT questions at ACTStudent.org. I highly recommend The Official SAT Study Guide (or the ACT guide if you plan to take the ACT) for sample exams and lots of test-taking help.

This is the guide produced by the authors of the SAT, and it offers an accurate preview of what to expect in the real test, plus a look at how the exams are evaluated. It is a huge book — nearly 900 pages — and is reasonably priced at Amazon (I don't suggest getting a used book — they almost always have writing or filled-in tests, and they aren't enough cheaper to be worth it). After taking the essay workshop, if your student follows the instructions and works through each of the eight sample tests, he or she should be well prepared for each of the three sections (math, reading, and writing) on the SAT.

Q: My student has never written an essay before, but she likes to do creative writing. Can she still take the workshop?

A: Yes. If a student enjoys other types of writing but has not yet attempted an essay, this workshop can be a good beginning. We cover all the basics of how to answer essay questions, organize ideas, and use relevant examples to illustrate the thesis. If your student needs a solid semester-long course in essay writing, I recommend The Elegant Essay Writing Lessons by Lesha Myers.

Q: What is in the Beat-the-Clock booklet?

A: The 30-page handbook contains a complete outline of what we cover in the workshop, plus suggestions for additional resources. It will serve as a reminder of what they learned in the workshop, and as a helpful reference for future writing.

Q: What is the difference between auditing the workshop and taking the full workshop?

A: Parents who choose to take the full workshop will receive a handbook, write essays, and ask questions, just as the students do. Auditing parents simply observe

**If you are from another area and are interested a workshop, you can get news of upcoming workshops in my email newsletter, so be sure to sign up.

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