Homeschoolers Scoring High on Literature and Essay Testing (Part 2)

Sep 28, 2017

As noted in Part 1, your homeschooled student probably falls well above their peers on the scale of thinking skills and being well-read. The key to scoring highly on essay testing is a matter of harnessing their knowledge quickly and effectively on the page. Synthesis and Rhetorical Analysis essays are best prepared for by reading opinion essays and articles and then picking them apart.  For a synthesis essay, common on AP exams, students must form an argument using the ideas and facts of other pieces for support.  In a rhetorical analysis prompt, students must determine another piece’s argument and analyze how and why it is made the way it is made.

Both of these essay types are aided by the student’s own preformed opinions.  So again, given that your household probably discusses or has adopted a stance on political, environmental, and technological influences, your student has been preparing for such prompts all along.

Synthesis Prompt Practice

Practice for synthesis responses by reading essays or articles on hot button issues. is a helpful source. After reading, identify the author’s main point and key pieces of support.  A student could underline or copy a few sentences per article that could be quoted in their own opinion piece.  After reading and underlining several, students could draft a thesis and outline or body paragraphs using the found quotes.  Remind students to carefully keep quotation marks around words taken from articles with the author’s name in parenthesis at the end.

This activity helps students identify other people’s arguments and what data, examples, etc. he or she uses to strengthen their point.

Rhetorical Analysis Prompt Practice

After synthesis practice has become old hat, your student may be ready for rhetorical analysis. Here, rather than just cherry picking opinions and support from other articles, the analysis deepens.  Students need to see many levels of persuasion and argumentation in another article. First, learn or review a few key terms:

Appeals: Ethos (spirit or aura surrounding something), Logos (facts), Pathos (emotions)Homeschoolers

Style: diction (type or words used), tone (emotions expressed), syntax (sentence structure

or arrangement), imagery, details.

Second, students need to start identifying the above features at work. Pick persuasive essays to read, look for rhetorical strategies and then argue whether or not they are effective.  A great warm up is to analyze commercials first.

For example, pick a an American made truck commercial and it probably uses the following: An ethos of hyper masculine patriotism; imagery of hardworking blue collar men demonstrated by their clothing, physique, and facial hair; Logos of truck performance details and awards overlaid with the pathos of striving for strength, dependability, and a deep voice; diction strongly influenced by a second person point of view and conversational buddy-to-buddy word choices like…; syntax is short and to-the-point fitting the hard work ethic no time wasting tone.  Students can then argue whether such strategies are effective in their opinion.

Rhetorical analysis is an activity your student already participates in when reading a book, essay, or watching a commercial, movie, etc. but he or she may need to learn the language of the above terms.  The terms help pinpoint what a student may already feel or sense about media they come in contact with.

Practice will help students use the thinking power they already have without fearing the ticking clock on a timed test.

Did you miss part one?

Homeschoolers Scoring High on Literature and Essay Testing (Part 1)



Mrs. Bethany Hathaway, MA

Bethany has been a cyber teacher for six years, now with Excelsior Classes, after several years in public education.  She earned her MA in English from the Bread Loaf School of English, Middlebury College, VT and BA in English from Wheaton College, IL.  A lifelong believer in living books, Bethany was homeschooled for most of her years and now teaches her four young boys (the oldest is in third grade). In a spare moment, you might find Bethany attempting to train for another half marathon with strollers, scooters, and biking children in tow.


The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the author and should not be taken to represent the views of Excelsior Classes, LLC or the consortium of teachers.