A Detailed Review of WriteShop {Junior, Book D}

Thursday, October 20, 2016



A few weeks ago, I posted about how using games and activities enhances learning in our home school.   



My 9-year-old daughter, Audrey and I have been having fun with WriteShop Junior.

This is an incredibly detailed,  comprehensive writing program.  As I mentioned in my previous post, it most reminds me of my experience with All About Reading.  I say this because everything is here.  The program is completely laid out in the high quality Teacher's Guide and comes with everything you could possibly need to successfully teach/experience the curriculum.  (Don't you love that...?)

So, let's take a look at this program...



First Impressions


Upon opening up a box of WriteShop curriculum, I immediately noticed the very high quality of the books- solid paper, good binding, bright, fun colours, and a highly organized nature to the books and resources.  

I don't know about you, but quality matters to me.  I don't want to teach from resources that are poorly put together or dull. If you are looking for something you can open up, read, and go - this is definitely one of those resources.  

I received three main components when I ordered WriteShop Junior Book D Set:


1. The Teacher's Guide

The guide gives details about the purpose of the program, the motivation behind the methods presented, possible schedules, materials and supplies needed for each lesson, how to create a Writing Center in your home, setting up a reading log, and information about Skill Builders, Journal Writing, and the various components/steps of each Lesson.

The guide then breaks off into a full instructional section for each Lesson.  There are 10 Lessons in total.  In my next post, I plan to talk through a lesson with you, but for the purposes of this review, I'll highlight what you can expect to find in the Lesson plans.

You'll find:  Objectives, Advance Prep (what you will need to prepare in advance to do the lesson), Materials Needed, followed by very detailed Step-by-step Lesson Plans.

The Lesson Plans are broken down into Activity Sets.  I find this really helpful as I can easily look through and decide how I will implement the activities and steps in the process of finishing a complete assignment.  For example, Lesson 1 started with the Grammar Pack and Fold-and-Go Grammar for Punctuation Marks (Activity Set 1:1).  Then we move on to the next part which is discussing the parts of a letter by reading through an example (Activity Set 1:2).  You could choose to do more than one set in a day or you could stretch an Activity Set out for two days if you want or need to - it's really up to you to decide what pacing works for your child.

We moved along at a slower pace because we have lots of other things in our days and our language arts also consists of Copywork, Dictation, Spelling, and Reading.



A look inside the layout of the Teacher's Guide.




2. The Time-Saver Pack

This is a set of super colorful print-outs that go along with the Activity Sets in each of the lessons.  Basically, WriteShop has done all the hard work for us.  Everything you need for the games and activities is already printed out and ready to go.  All you have to do is cut out some of the components and store them so they are ready for use (or re-use!).

These are printed on high-quality, colorful card stock (for those dorky paper nerds like myself...).



3. The Activity Packs with Fold-N-Go Grammar

This includes all 10 of the Fold-N-Go Grammar Packs as well as the Student Worksheets.  The Fold-N-Go Grammar is engaging but requires you to purchase the folders (I used dollar store stuff and it worked just fine), and also assemble them in the proper way.  They do cascade in a lovely fashion though - super appealing to tactile learners and very colorful.

The grammar covered includes: Punctuation Marks, Adjectives, Self-Editing, Prepositions, Nouns, Adverbs, Capitalization, Verbs, Pronouns, and References.  There are examples of uses, some work-sheet style fill in the blanks, as well as an Answer Key.

I will be completely transparent here and state that the Fold-N-Go Grammar Packs are not my favorite.  We don't tend to gravitate towards fill in the blank/worksheet style stuff in our home, so these feel a little foreign to me.  We also don't tend to cover a ton of formal grammar in this way.  However, my school-loving daughter actually enjoyed filling in the blanks and circling answers.  (Go figure!)

The Activity Pack is basically Notebooking, Journaling, and writing prompt pages.  White sheets with black ink.  Great quality as well.  These go along with the lessons and are a required component to properly do the program, in my opinion.  Some are cut-outs, some are just basic lined journaling pages and brainstorming layouts.



Our pack - top left, the Teacher's Guide, bottom left, the Activity Pack folder, to the right - all the Fold-N-Go folders I put together for Grammar.


I decided to store our Student Worksheets and Time-Saver Packs in separate folders, just to keep things tidy.  Once I organized the various Acitivity Sets from the Time Saver Pack, I put them in labelled envelops and tucked them inside, ready to go (top right).


This is the inside of the Fold-N-Go Grammar.  As you can see, the pages cascade (is that even a term?  You know what I mean though...) in a really fun way.  These are full-on Grammar pages.  They cover basic grammar appropriate to the given level.  They are consumable.



More Fold-N-Go Grammar Packs.


An example of some of the kinds of sheets you will find in the Student Activity Pack, Brainstorming notebooking page and a Word Bank sheet for reference.







How We Used WriteShop in our home...


We (as many of you already know) lean towards a Charlotte Mason inspired homeschool philosophy.  Within this philosophy, children are often not introduced to written narratives until age 9 or 10 and sometimes later.  So, we approach writing with a gentle touch.  I don't push my children to write in the same way I don't push them to read.  My primary goal is to preserve the LOVE of reading and writing.

Having said this, my daughter really enjoys writing and readily accepts challenges to write creatively. WriteShop is a good fit because we are able to use it in a gentle, fun way.  The program itself is quite rigorous and very detailed, however, you can modify it as you choose.

For example, rather than using some of the journal prompts (which require even more hand writing), we played more of the games and used oral narration to communicate ideas instead.  I will be walking through all of Lesson 1 in my next post to help you get a very clear idea of what this program looks like close up.  For now, let's take a peak at the Lesson flow...


How the Lessons flow:


The lessons generally start with an objective/overview followed by the Fold-N-Go set for that lesson.  Each lesson offers different grammar component through the use of the Fold-N-Go books.

The lessons follow a model each time which includes the following -

Model and Teach

Pre-Writing

Brainstorming

Writing Project

Editing and Revising

Parent Editing

Publishing the Project


We fully embraced all the Pre-Writing activities and games, and I think they are probably my favorite part of this program.  We would spend as long as we liked just enjoying these hands-on activities.  Then, we would move on to the Brainstorming activities and have fun coming up with ideas.  I would usually act as scribe during this stage.

The Writing Project is when pencil gets put officially to paper and the writing actually starts to take place.  Depending on the day, I would sometimes scribe and other times Audrey would insist on doing her own transcription.  Once we'd worked through this stage, we were ready to bring the project to completion through a 'final copy' (Publishing the Project).  

There are various print-outs to help with the Brainstorming aspect of the process as well as suggestions for publishing the final writing project in a way that will make the writing a keepsake and something the child is proud of.  

Each Lesson is one project.  The entire Lesson, if done right, might take the child up to 2 weeks to fully complete (maybe longer?).  It is quite the process and there is plenty to keep you and your child engaged and learning for many weeks/months.


The writing projects in Junior, Book D include:

Letter of Invitation
Humor
Adventure
Science Fiction
Mystery
Haiku
Folktales
Historical Fiction
Personal Narrative
Expository Writing

Personally, I like this combination of writing projects as it offers a wide variety. The only one we probably wouldn't do is Science Fiction.  But we could easily sub in something different or tweak it to make it work for us.  We did accomplish the Letter of Invitation and the Personal Narrative Lessons in the past few months.  Both of which, we enjoyed.


Some more stuff we really liked...



  • Something I think is pretty awesome is that each Lesson has extension options that they call, "Want to Do More?"  This gives kids looking for something more related to the lesson another option or an extra challenge.  They also have a "Smaller Steps" option for a younger or more reluctant writer.

  • I love that this program encourages kids to read and to keep a book log.  We do this already, but I love how a writing program is including and acknowledging the importance of reading great books in the process of writing well.  Amen!

  • We also really enjoy all the interesting games and activities in this program (which I also wrote about right here).  There are so many great ideas for engaging kids in the thinking and writing process.  

Let me tell you about two of the activities we did:

The Incredible Shrinking Machine- this is a great one for practicing narrowing down a topic.  This is often called the topic funnel!  We started with a broad topic - Pets. Then, we would put that piece of paper in the "Incredible Shrinking Machine" and pull out a sheet of paper slightly smaller to narrow down our focus.  So, next, we would put "bunnies".  We kept doing this until we had a much more narrowed writing focus of a story about two pet bunnies we had adopted names Peter and Cottontail.


Punctuation Pointer Cards- This is so incredibly simple, but yet fun and effective.  There is a pile of tiny cards with words/statements on them.  Each statement is followed by a certain punctuation mark - period, exclamation point, or question mark.  We draw a card and read it the appropriate way, depending on punctuation.


My (very basic) Incredible Shrinking Machine.  This was a simple but effective way to help children learn how to narrow their topic and/or writing focus.



Storage was fairly easy once I cut out the activities from the Time-Saver Packs.  I love the variety of activities available.


More examples of some of the activities and games used in the Lessons:  Where in the World? Problem Cards,  Funny Sentence/Character Cards, and fun with Punctuation as well.


An example of some more of the Activities and Games that go along with the Lessons.



More games and activities.


Working on her Personal Narrative for Lesson 9.


Writer's Ruler - this was an activity we did in conjunction with the Personal Narrative project.  Children are encourage to take note of sentence length in a given narrative.  The idea is to encourage varying sentence length to create a more interesting piece of writing.


Playing a game to encourage personal oral narratives with prompts. 






And in conclusion... I'll share a little message I received from my daughter recently...  *smile*





I hope this post was helpful to you as you navigate homeschool curriculum options!  Blessings!



WriteShop • Inspiring successful writers.






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3 comments:

  1. I think my daughter might really enjoy this writing course. I know you also use Brave Writer. Do you use the two at the same time, or only for some children? I have to admit we are a bit weak when it comes to language arts... and I am trying to figure out the best approach :)

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    Replies
    1. We actually use both! My daughter is the only one using WriteShop. She uses WriteShop for writing skills, Brave Writer for language arts (The Arrow) as well as elements of The Writer's Jungle together as family. My sons use strictly Brave Writer. The reason for this is simply compatibility with different curriculums. WriteShop works well with my daughter but I chose to just stick with Brave Writer for my very reluctant sons (one is only 8). They are both wonderful programs, however, very different in approach. My Brave Writer review is coming in the next few weeks! :)

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    2. That makes sense, thank you :) I look forward to your Brave Writer review.

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