Diagramming sentences, dissecting frogs, memorizing the periodic table of elements, learning how to play the recorder… These have got to be some of the most useless things we learn in school.
In real life, I do none of that stuff! And thank goodness, too. Writing, however, is one valuable skill that has stuck with me into adulthood.
I have noticed that my son loves to write in his spare time, making newspapers and writing up mysteries. However, as soon as he’s required to write a few sentences or a paragraph for school, the groaning begins and he absolutely hates it.
That’s when WriteShop came in and saved the day!
WriteShop has developed an award-winning writing program that teaches students how to write in a guided hands-on manner with lots of fun thrown in. This program was also developed with the teacher in mind, giving any teacher the confidence needed to teach successfully.
WriteShop offers several different levels to choose from:
WriteShop Primary was developed to give students, K-3, a gentle introduction to writing.
WriteShop Junior, for students in grades 3-6, guides young writers through different genres and teaches them the tools they need to be successful writers.
WriteShop 1 and 2 helps junior high and high school students become proficient in brainstorming, drafting, editing, and revising.
WriteShop Primary Book C
WriteShop Primary Book C teaches children how to plan, write, revise, and finally publish their own short stories or articles through various activities and exercises. Most of all, the writing process is made enjoyable through fun hands-on activities, crafts, and inspiring picture books.
There is a total of 10 lessons in book C and the teacher’s guide contains three different schedules. You can choose to complete each lesson in one, two, or three weeks. We chose the three week lesson plan, working on activities three days a week. At this pace we should complete the course in 30 weeks.
Lessons are as follows:
Lesson 1: Planning the Story
Lesson 2: Writing a Mystery
Lesson 3: Self-Editing
Lesson 4: Journal Writing
Lesson 5: Descriptive Writing – Describing a Thing
Lesson 6: Descriptive Writing – Describing a Person
Lesson 7: Descriptive Writing – Describing a Place
Lesson 8: Writing a Book Report
Lesson 9: Writing a Report
Lesson 10: Writing a Research Report
There are a few supplies you’ll need to use WriteShop. Most of the items are very simple and are things you probably already own or can easily find at an office supply store. Some things you’ll need include file folders, crayons, a children’s dictionary, glue, lined paper, small file box, index cards, student clock, poster board, stickers, highlighter, construction paper and three ring notebook.
The program is extremely flexible. The teacher is encouraged to adapt activities to suit the student, keeping in mind that writing should be a fun experience for the child. The teacher’s guide also contains suggestions for using Book C with a child older than the intended 2nd or 3rd grader, which I loved since I’m using this book with my 3rd grader who is soon going into the 4th grade.
There is a lot of teacher preparation needed for this curriculum but it’s well organized so that it’s fairly easy to see what’s needed ahead of time. The appendix contains a list of lesson specific supplies for easy reference. Once you have everything gathered up for the lesson, it’s open and go from there.
Besides the basic guidelines on how to get started using WriteShop, the first section of the teacher’s guide is full of wonderful suggestions and helps to make each lesson more fun, engaging, and meaningful. One idea I really liked was to create what they call “The Super Speller”. We used a simple file folder and inside it, listed vocabulary words and that my son used frequently. We especially targeted words that he misspelled. This simple idea has been a huge help to us!
How We Used Book C
I have been using WriteShop Primary Book C with my 3rd grade son. So far, it’s been a perfect fit for him. It’s been a bit of a challenge for him but not so much that he gets overwhelmed.
The teacher’s guide stressed the point that writing exercises should not take more than 15 minutes a day. This really worked for us. It kept the writing process from dragging on and becoming unenjoyable for my son.
Each lesson is divided into eight activity sets. In activity set one, we would complete a worksheet together. The worksheet had fun pictures on it and was kid friendly. It would introduce the lesson’s theme and writing focus.
Activity set two directed myself and my son to practice writing together with a guided writing practice activity. During guided writing practice, I wrote much of the text while my son dictated to me, as suggested, to make the activity as fun and enjoyable as possible. My son loved this! During this activity, I also read a picture book aloud to him. Reading greatly enhances writing skills. In fact, great writers are usually great readers!
Brainstorming is the main focus of activity set three. We used the details wheel and the paper magnifying glasses (as seen in the above photo) to come up with the ideas for our story. The details wheel contains main story ingredients that we need to include in the story such as characters, setting (place), setting (time), problem, solution, beginning, middle, and end.
Activity set four contains the writing project. I started out by doing all of the writing while my son dictated to me. Later, though, we took turns writing sentences so that my son could slowly progress to writing more and more on his own. There are options in this activity to adapt the writing activity to a reluctant or accelerated writer.
A very important step in writing, the editing process, happens in activity set five. Who knew this activity could be fun! We gathered a few stuffed animals together and these made up some of my son’s editing buddies. They helped detect spelling errors and suggested adding interesting details. These suggestions were better received from the stuffed animals than from the teacher. <wink>
Finally, in activity seven, we get to publish the writing project! This activity gave my son a great feeling of accomplishment. There’s something very satisfying about seeing your hard work completed and polished. If one of the publishing ideas doesn’t suit your student, you can do like we did, and choose to publish your project a different way. The appendix contains several different additional publishing ideas like creating a top secret file folder (as seen in the photo below), a lapbook, a book, a shape book, a story scroll, a mat mount and much more.
Activity set eight is focused on evaluating your student’s work. You can also do guided writing practice and other activities if the child desires but those are completely optional. These activities are geared towards students who are very motivated and want to do more. I used this time to fill in the Primary Writing Skills Evaluation Chart that’s included in the Primary Activity Pack. It’s easy and simple to fill out. Just fill in the little blank next to each prompt with M (most of the time), S (some of the time), or N (never).
My son loves the WriteShop. He often asks to do WriteShop before anything else.
He told me, “It makes writing fun. I like writing reports and mysteries. I like doing the activities the best.”
This is coming from a child who, before the WriteShop, genuinely hated writing. I’m pretty thrilled with the drastic turn around!
I, too, really like WriteShop. Although there is a lot of preparation on the part of the teacher, that is a small and minor downside compared to the benefits I’m seeing with this program. I have enjoyed watching my son grow in his writing and, most of all, find joy in the process. I found that my involvement, the slow guided approach to writing, and all the fun creative activities really made this curriculum a success for us.
I plan to continue using WriteShop with my son for many years to come. I’d definitely recommend this product to anyone who is looking for a good writing curriculum, especially for those with a child who currently hates writing.