My ten-year old-daughter loves writing and has been composing stories since preschool. Expressing yourself well in writing is an incredibly valuable skill, so I wanted to help her strengthen her natural ability. I had no idea how to approach improving her writing, what specific skills to address, and certainly didn’t want to simply go after her stories with a red pen. Thus the search for a formal writing curriculum began. I wanted structure that also allowed room for her creativity and natural voice. My search ended with the purchase of WriteShop’s Junior D curriculum.
What is WriteShop?
WriteShop offers structured writing curriculum. Their product line began with WriteShop I and II for middle and high school students and they’ve been introducing curriculum for younger students. WriteShop Primary books are available for early elementary students and WriteShop Junior is designed for grades 3-6.
In WriteShop Junior there are ten lessons, each intended to take 2-3 weeks. In addition to writing projects that expose children to the different genres, each lesson also has a skill focus such as choosing strong words, adding details, or narrowing a topic.
How Much Parental Involvement is Required?
With WriteShop Junior you work closely with your child at each level of the writing process. I took the time when I received the program to familiarize myself with the steps of each lesson. After we completed the first lesson it was easier for me to prepare for and implement. Now it takes me about a half hour every three weeks to prepare for the next lesson by skimming the text, printing items, and gathering necessary supplies. On lesson days it is simply open-and-go.
What does a WriteShop Junior Lesson Involve?
Each lesson proceeds through the same steps:
- Fold-N-Go Grammar: workbook pages to teach and reinforce grammar skills; each lesson is assembled in a file folder.
- Pre-writing Activity: activities and games that build familiarity with the genres or demonstrate concepts. It includes things like placing writing ideas into the “Incredible Shrinking Machine” to narrow the topic and taking a nature walk to come up with descriptive adjectives.
- Model and Teach: a full model dialogue guides you as you verbally go over a writing example with your child and work together on a writing project.
- Skill Builders: activities and games to practice writing skills. This could include anything from playing hopscotch while adding details to finishing sentence starter prompts.
- Journal Writing: your child completes a journal prompt related to the lesson.
- Brainstorming: you work with your child to not only generate ideas but organize the information before writing using graphic organizers.
- Writing Project: the child writes the first draft of the writing project.
- Editing and Revising: the child self-edits, then you edit together.
- Publishing the Project: each lesson gives multiple options for publishing to give the child a finished item to be proud of.
What I Love About WriteShop
- My daughter enjoys and benefits from the games and hands-on learning activities. I know they’ll be perfect for motivating my son. The skills learned in activities like “The Incredible Shrinking Machine” and “Colorful Character Interview” (writing a pretend interview with a character) have helped her be a better writer, with more focused and well-developed writing.
- The “Smaller Steps” and “Flying Higher” options given for each writing project give the program great flexibility. I’ve easily been able to add difficulty to assignments to challenge my daughter.
- The brainstorming activities using graphic organizers have taught my daughter the valuable skill of taking time to organize her writing before she begins. I can also see how a reluctant writer would benefit from the help with brainstorming versus staring at a blank page for a writing assignment.
- I’ve seen growth in my daughter’s self-editing skills. It may not be her favorite chore but she’s picking up on more errors using the checklists provided with WriteShop, and that leaves less for me to correct.
- The lessons follow the same steps so it is easy to teach once you are familiar, but the way each lesson is a different style of writing keeps it interesting and gives us a fresh feeling each three weeks. It’s also encouraged my daughter to try out writing styles that she wouldn’t have on her own (like science fiction).
- Though she has always done a lot of writing we didn’t have many finished products to show for it. On her own she would often lose interest as soon as the words were on paper and never make it to editing and polishing. A author’s presentation we attended reinforced the need for editing and revising in a writer’s life so I am happy we’re working on this skill early for my budding author.
We’re nearing the end of our year and I give WriteShop Junior D two thumbs up. I’m delighted with what my daughter has accomplished during the year and I’m also delighted that I can hold onto this program to use with her little brother later. Even though he has different learning styles, strengths and interests I am confident this program can meet him at his level and help him be a better writer, too!
You can read more details about their products, view sample lessons, and purchase the curriculum on WriteShop’s website.
Heidi homeschools her two children in Maine using an eclectic mix including Charlotte Mason’s ideas, quality literature and hands-on learning. She strives to show her children that learning is an exciting, life-long adventure. She shares their experiences on her blog, Home Schoolroom.