Wednesday, May 23, 2012

WriteShop - An Innovative Writing Curriculum that Starts with Young Kids!

I love to write, but I am not good at teaching writing. There are certain things that I could whip up a lesson plan for easily, but writing is not one of them. That's why I am so glad that there are a lot of great writing programs out there for high schoolers and that John Allen is a fairly good writer.

However, what do I do with Joshua. I have seen writing activities for kids in there language books but even those don't really start until third or fourth grade, maybe second grade. I haven't really seen a good concentrated writing curriculum that is aimed toward younger kids...until now!

We were very blessed to receive WriteShop Primary - Book B to review with the TOS Homeschool Crew. WriteShop is a complete writing program that actually begins with younger students - as young as kindergarten! Okay, this is just little old me talking, but you would think it silly if parents or schools didn't start some sort of basic math even in pre-school. It may not be formal math, but at least counting. So, what school skill do we use almost every day other than math? Writing! We may not write complicated research papers every day, but we write notes, emails, letters, and a lot of other things. But, when do we usually start teaching writing? As I said, not until at least second grade and sometimes later. Oh, we teach that we start a sentence with a capital and end it with some sort of punctuation. We teach kids to copy sentences in order to improve their handwriting skills. But, do we teach them how to put their thoughts down on paper in a way that makes sense to others? Do we teach them them how to write a proper paragraph? What about teaching them how to write letters, a nursery rhyme or a news article? Wouldn't it be nice if we taught them those things at a younger age instead of waiting until later elementary and even perhaps middle school?

WriteShop believes that you can at least begin to teach these things to a second grade, first grade and, yes, even a kindergarten student. And these aren't just the cursory "copy what you see and this is how you do it" type thing. The students are actually involved with the thoughts and content of what they are writing. Now, don't get me wrong. Your child isn't going to be Hans Christian Anderson or one of the Brothers Grimm when they are done, but he's not going to be Isaac Newton after you teach him the first year of basic math either. But, you didn't wait until third grade to teach him basic math did you? Why wait until third grade to teach him such as important skill as writing.

Wait! Before you throw up your hands and say there is no way you can add another thing to your curriculum let alone a complicated writing program, WriteShop is not complicated and doesn't take a long time to do each day.

Here's what I really like about WriteShop.

  • It's flexible - This isn't a set in stone curriculum where you have to do so much each day. You can adjust it to your student. They have a Two-Week Lesson plan where you do a little bit of writing four out of five days a week. They have a One-Week Lesson plan for students that are highly motivated and want to do more where you spend a little more time on writing four days a week and maybe even on a fifth day. They have a Three-Week Lesson plan for younger or challenged students where you work two days a week and can spread activities over to "off  days" if you need to.
  • It's flexible - The books aren't "set in stone this is what you have to use at this time" kind of books. We are using the Primary Book B which is for a third grade with no writing experience like Joshua. Or you could use the Primary Book B for a second grader who is on grade level or even a first grader who is above grade level. The books are designed to be used with multiple aged students and the writing activities are designed so that the topics can be used with multiple aged children and not make them feel childish.
  • It's flexible - These books can be used with different aged kids at once or there are lesson plans included that show you how to use a couple of different WriteShop levels together at the same time.
Have I mentioned that the WriteShop books are flexible? I have? Well, then let me go on and tell you some other reasons that I like this writing program.
  • It's easy to use - Everything is written out for you (see above for a sample). Yes, you will have to familiarize yourself with their innovative approach, but really the book lays everything out for you. As I said before, writing is not something I would know how to teach on my own. I may be able to throw a history unit study together with some (probably little - but some) degree of success. Not writing. I need something that spells everything out and WriteShop pretty much does.
  • Everything is included - I've seen curriculum where you have to buy the teacher book. And then you have to purchase the student book. Then there's the extra supply packet and the teaching videos and the...and the...and the. By the time you buy everything you have to quit homeschooling to go get a second job to pay for all of the stuff! With WriteShop all you need is the Teacher's Guide and the reproducible (and very inexpensive - we're talking less than $5) Student Activity Set Worksheet Pack.
  • The advanced preparation is easy to understand and easy to find - Okay, let's be honest, we would all like a curriculum where you just pull out the book and go with it. WriteShop does have some things that you have to prepare in advance, but it isn't a whole lot of stuff and it's easy to find in the book. It's not one of those things where you pull out the book, get into the middle of the lesson, and then realize you need this, this and this. WriteShop has it all laid out ahead of time for you.
  • The innovative approach - now, when I say innovative, I really mean it's one of those "Duh! Why didn't I think of that!" type things. So what is this approach? Read further.
This wonderful innovative approach is called "Guided Writing Practice". It's really the core of the whole curriculum. You'll be doing this a lot. It's something I kind of did as an educational therapist. As an educational therapist I guided my students to think. That's exactly what you are doing with "Guided Writing Practice" - you guide them to think. It's not a "do as I say" or "write what I write" type thing. You are simply asking questions to get them to think. Recently one of the activities was for Joshua to write a letter to a friend. The conversation went something like this.

Me: Who would you like to write a letter to?
Joshua: Hmmm. How about Bailey.
Me: That would be a good choice. What would you like to say to him?
Joshua: I don't know.
Me: Did you do anything fun recently?
Joshua: I played outside.
Me: What did you do outside?
Joshua: I played with my brothers and friends.
Me: So how would you say that?
Joshua: My brothers and our friends have been playing outside?
Me: Good job! Write that down.
(Joshua writes it down.)
Me: Is there anything you would like to tell him about when you played outside?
Joshua: It was really hot.
Me: Good! Now write that down.

That's what "Guided Writing Practice" is all about. Guiding your child to think on his own and begin the writing process. It's that easy and Joshua and I love it!

Now, I said that "Guided Writing Practice" was the core of the curriculum. What are the other things that you do? Well, if I told you that I would have to kill you! No, not really, but if I told you all of the great things that this curriculum does then this post would go on and on and on! You'll have to stop by the website to find out more.

To find out more about WriteShop just click here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above. The book that I got, WriteShop Primary - Book B teacher's guide is only $29.95 for the plastic coil bound physical book or $26.95 for the ebook download version. The Activity Set Worksheet Pack is only $4.95 for the physical pack or $4.50 for the ebook download pack. WriteShop has more curriculum than just early elementary curriculum. They also have middle and high school programs, so if you have students in that age range then click through to find a great program for them as well.

As always, many others on the TOS Homeschool Crew reviewed other levels of WriteShop and you can find what they had to say by clicking here. Happy Homeschooling!

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was sent a free physical copy of WriteShop Primary - Book B teacher's guide and the accompanying Activity Set Worksheet Pack in order to try out and give my honest review on this blog. 

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