Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Writing ... An Essential Tool - A New TOS Review!

I have found that I love to write. In fact, that is one of the reasons I started my blog a few years ago and it has become an avenue where I can get my thoughts out on 'paper' so to speak.  However, I didn't realize how much fun writing could really be until I was long out of school.  So when the opportunity arose where I could have a chance to review a product that would instill writing skills at a MUCH earlier age, I jumped at the chance.
The Product:
Write Shop is a program created for all grades (K - 12) to help teach and enhance writing skills.  They use fun and engaging lessons to teach the four types of writing styles - descriptive, informative, narrative, and persuasive (essay) - by fully utilizing the essential building blocks of writing - brainstorming, writing, editing, and revising.

The WriteShop curriculum, WriteShop I (6th - 10th) and WriteShop II (8th -12th) were originally created for the junior and senior high grades, but they now have WriteShop Primary (grades K- 3, Books AB, & C)as well as WriteShop Junior (4-6).  Each teaches writing skills using the building blocks of writing I described above.  They can also be purchased in both print version or e-book versions and the activity sets are sold separately, but are completely reproducible - a great feature for families with multiple children at the same level or that will go through the same level.
Because my two daughters are in the younger grades we were chosen to review WriteShop Primary C ($32.95), but all the Primary and Junior levels are taught in a similar fashion.  Primary C was created for 2nd and 3rd graders and reluctant 4th grade writers.  If you need help in placing your child in the correct book click the link and they will help you.  You can also view samples of the primary lessons which can also help you decide.

The parents guide their student through the writing process through the use of daily exercises created to be quick and fun.  These books are designed to help pre-writers through developing student writers using activities, crafts, and picture books.  The students are gently guided through 8 Activity Sets that include a Key Activity or Project and go through the steps from Guided Writing to Publishing of the Final Product. Here are the Activity Sets for each lesson:
Activity Set 1: Guided Writing Practice only
Activity Set 2: Pre-writing Activities and Picture Book
Activity Set 3: Brainstorming
Activity Set 4: The Writing Project 
Activity Set 5: Editing and Revising
Activity Set 6: Activity Set Worksheet
Activity Set 7: Publishing the Project 
Activity Set 8: Want To Do More?
There are several different schedules that you can implement no matter where your child's skill level is.  The lessons have many different types of examples to help both the student and the teacher really "get" the skill for the specified lesson.  And because the lesson is divided into the 8 activities, you don't have to rush through just to get done.  They even have a Scope & Sequence to see how to fit WriteShop into your homeschooling week.

Our Experience:
It took me a little while to get the gist of the program, but it wasn't too difficult.  We were given the E-Book Version as well as the Teacher Manual and Activity Set Worksheet Pack (see an Activity Worksheet sample).  I took the time to thoroughly read through the Teacher Manual since I hadn't ever used this program and went ahead preparing the first few days activities sets.  I wanted to take our time using the program so we only did a few sets (2 to 3) each week.  The plan was that after we all got the hang of the program to increase the amount of times per week we were working on the program so that each lesson wouldn't take longer then 2 weeks.

When we began I made sure to read the 'script' and examples to help the girls understand the concepts we were working on within that lesson.  The first lesson was fun and easy, even for Audrie who is only in the first grade.  Because the lessons allow for pre-writers or beginning writers to dictate their ideas and stories, she was able to create her story too.  Arianna's toughest area is deciding what to write about.  She does not do well when she has too many choices, but once she picked her topic she was good to go.  I also was excited to see that each activity set was only for a short time period.  That helped with not overwhelming either of the girls.

One of the first lessons was on writing a mystery.  We read some picture book mysteries and even Seanan sat in for the reading sessions.  We have one book called Where's Dave? which is a book about a dinosaur sister named Dina who has lost her brother - a very LARGE dinosaur named Dave.  Dave shows up somewhere on each page, but Dina goes around asking questions and collecting clues ... a true mystery ... until at the end Dave shows up behind Dina towering over her, but ready to play.  We used this book as our introduction reading on mysteries.

Then the girls had several guided writing sessions practicing writing their own mysteries.  I would help guide them by using our Details Wheel of questions (you learn more about the Details Wheel in the books, but it's like a clock with all the questions you ask to help fill in the pieces of your story.)

At the end of the lesson I had them each write their own mystery that had happened to them or to someone else they knew.  I wrote them on our white board yesterday so I could take pictures of them and share them with you.  On the right side of the board in red were our tools form the Details Wheel to help us remember how to shape our story.  I think they both did a splendid job and they would love to hear what you think about them too. (I made them larger then usual so you could read them better.)





My Thoughts:
I love this program!  I wish I had known about it earlier, but now that I do know about it I plan on making it a regular part of our homeschooling weeks.  We might take it slowly through the summer or hold off on continuing until next year, but I know this is a skill I am loving that I can help cultivate in all of my children.

I think all of the components of the program have been expertly designed to help both the teacher and the student easily learn the art of writing (and writing well ... a hard skill to come by nowadays) at an early age without much pressure.  That has been the wonderful part ... no pressure, no right or wrong type of story as long as you follow the Details Wheel and answer all the questions. 


Write Shop  is a great tool to help ALL children learn how to write and how to write well, both are much needed skills. I would encourage you to take a hard look at this program, the samples and also to read about some of the other books that my Crew Members reviewed.  You can find WriteShop via email, or phone (909-989-5576), and on Facebook.




*** I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2011-2012 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for a thorough and honest review. Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of money for any of my reviews. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences with the products and services that I receive.***


1 comment:

fosteringmyfamily said...

Ari and Audrie did a fantastic job! They got all the important details. This post definitely makes me want to try out these books.

Audrie's story reminds me of the book - Where's my shoe? Which is a favorite in our house.

And Ari's reminds me of Olivia and the Missing Toy - which is another favorite in our house.

So I would say the stories rocked. Great job girls! Keep it up.

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