Join us for a Lesson! {WriteShop Junior, Book D}

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Over the past couple months, my daughter and I have really enjoyed using WriteShop.  Have you seen my two other posts?  Check them out here:

Full Review of Write Shop Junior (Book D)

Using Games and Manipulative to Make Writing Fun

WriteShop a nutshell:

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...?)

In the past, my 'Join us for a Lesson' posts have been really enjoyed and I'm glad many of you have found them really helpful in understanding a curriculum.  (See my Join Us for a Lesson posts for All About Reading Level 1 and All About Reading Level 2.)

I think they help with really seeing the program or curriculum in action, and isn't that we all want from a review?  

So, I decided to invite you to join us for a lesson of WriteShop Junior Book D. Hope this helps you truly visualize and experience WriteShop so you can better make decisions about what kind of writing program would work best for your child (and for you!)

Here is our pile of resources for WriteShop Junior Book D - the Teacher's Guide, Activity Pack, and all our Fold-N-Go Grammar Packs (folders).

Alright, the first thing I want to mention is this - these 'lessons' are not meant to be completed in one day!!!  

The lessons in WriteShop are stretched out over many sections called Activity Sets.  Lesson 1, for example goes from Activity Set 1:1 to Activity Set 1:8 (takes up from page 39 to 67 in the Teacher's Guide).  There is a TON of information and lots to do.  

The lessons take us about 2 weeks to accomplish.

Let's walk through Lesson 1 together.

Lesson  1 focuses on writing a letter of invitation with correct punctuation.  The objective is for the child to learn to write a letter of invitation, practice punctuation marks, and also be introduced to journal writing.

A look at a page from the Teacher's Guide.

We start with the Punctuation Marks Fold-N-Go- we read through each page together. 

 These Fold-N-Go folders are the formal grammar component of the program.  They are colorful, fun to use, and engaging. Some kids may require that you split the Fold-N-Go activity over two days (or two lesson time slots, if you know what I mean).  There is a lot of information presented and some fill in the blank style activities at the bottom of each page.

For Lesson 1, the Fold-N-Go was focused on Punctuation and included: Quotation Marks, Apostrophes, Commas, Periods, Exclamation Points, Question Marks.  For each of these pages, there are examples of how each are used and then a couple questions asking the child to properly use the punctuation marks. (For example, for Quotation Marks, they fill in the appropriate marks in a sentence with dialog.)

Inside the Fold-N-Go Grammar Packs

Next is the Model and Teach section where we 'model and teach' a Letter of Invitation.  

First, we discuss the parts of a letter, using a sample letter found in the Activity Pack.  The parts include: Date, Salutation, Body, Closing, and Signature.  In the Teacher's Guide, there is a huge section that includes possible dialog between you and your child.  Some Moms love this layout, others don't need or use it.  I'm of the group that doesn't even use it - but can can be useful for seeing how you can effectively present a topic or an idea.

After you've discussed the parts of a letter, you move into the Pre-Writing Activity: Invitation Mix-Match.

This is a hands-on activity to decipher the parts of a letter.  The letters are included in the Activity Pack.  I cut them up so that each part of a letter was a separate piece of paper.  There were three different letters represented.  One from a King inviting his subjects to a joust, another a Commander of Secret Operations, and another a from an owner of a ski resort inviting people to a competition.

Audrey then practiced matching up the correct dates, salutations, bodies, closings, signatures, etc.  It was fun because there were certain hints that pointed to the right answer and reinforced the idea of these separate components of a letter.  The letters presented were engaging as well.  

Pre-Writing Activity: Invitation Mix-Match 

More shots of the Pre-Writing Activity: Invitation Mix-Match

The next step was review with a Skill Builder.  

Audrey cut out parts of a robot that were labelled with the parts of a letter.  Then she placed them together in proper order.  This is tactile, interesting, and reinforces what we learned in the previous step (the parts of a letter).

After this we move on to Journal Writing Practice -Writing a Letter of Invitation

There is a journal writing page found in the Student Worksheets.  This is a writing prompt "As owner of the new dinosaur amusement park, Jurassic Trails, I invite you to...".  Kids are invited to then spend some time writing a corresponding entry.

We actually didn't use this prompt because it didn't interest my daughter.  (I'm sure it would interest lots of kids, but she had other ideas.)  Instead, she practiced writing letters to me and a friend of hers in her writing book.  I was thrilled with this because she initiated it and wanted to write these letters.

WriteShop offers tons of "do"s for journal writing, including giving children freedom, letting them pick alternative topics, limiting journaling time, praising their efforts, not worrying about spelling, etc.

Here are examples of Audrey's journal entries for letter writing:

Next, we move on to Brainstorming.  

This is where we start really thinking about our final project. For Lesson 1, this will be a beautifully written and designed letter of invitation.  Here, we used a print-out from the Student Activity Pages (shown in the photo below on the left).  This page was laid out like a cake and gave space for each part of the letter.  I had Audrey sketch in (with help) what she would include in each section.  This took two days of 'writing' lessons to complete together.

After Brainstorming is The Writing Project step where we are taking our Brainstorming and turning into actual sentences.  

This is alike the 'rough draft' of the project.  This step was done on basic paper and took a couple days to complete together.

Editing and Revising is next.  

Here students are working on the "Said It, Read It, Edit Bag".  This is a bad that has all the editing tools a child needs to edit his or her own work.  We didn't make a bag because we have a huge caddy with highlighters, pens, markers, pencils, erasers, and everything else we need for editing on our homeschool table.  Here we are working together to find any problems with spelling, grammar, structure, etc. and also revising any content Audrey might change her mind about.

Now we are ready to Publish the Final Project.  

This is the fun and very rewarding part of the Lesson where we really see the fruit of our labor.  *smile*  This is also the part Audrey loves because she gets really creative and has fun with design.  For this project, I encouraged her to type out her Letter of Invitation, which is something we haven't really done before.  Part of this is because I want our kids to have a bit more exposure to typing to build their skills.  You could choose to have your child print or cursive write their invite as well.  It's up to you.

For the last step in the Lesson, we are encouraged to Evaluate the Student's Work.

Audrey's final project was awesome.  I loved it!  It reflected her personality as well as what she had learned about writing a letter of invitation.  She wrote a letter of invitation to Chicken Appreciation Day, which is creative and fun.  I was impressed with her work, how much she learned, and her enthusiasm towards the project.  All in all, a huge success.

Brainstorming sheet on left, final project on right.

Adding color and design to her final project.

I hope this walk-through of Lesson 1 of WriteShop Junior, Book D was helpful to you!  Blessings to you and yours.


The Compassion Experience Tour

Saturday, October 22, 2016

This week our family (and some good friends) had the opportunity to go to the Compassion Experience Tour presented by Compassion International.

This is a completely interactive, story-based exhibit put on my Compassion International.  It is free and really worthwhile visiting if you have one close enough.  In a nutshell, you walk through a simulation of a child's life from another part of the world.  These children face huge barriers and challenges in their lives and we walk through these right along with them as they tell their story through a headset/ipod that each visitor has in their hands.  It is a true 'living story' experience, friends.

We were all moved to near tears as we literally felt like we were immersed in the lives of these two precious children, Yanelly from Dominican Republic, and Jey from Kenya.   I will not give away their stories, in case you have the opportunity to visit the tour.  They are powerful, hard, heart-breaking, but then very hopeful stories of how the love the Jesus transforms lives.  The stories vary depending on where you catch the tour.

There are events coming up all over the United States so there are lots of opportunities to check it out with your children, family, or even homeschool group.  

(There were so many homeschoolers there when we went on a Monday!)

What I truly loved about this experience was how the kids got to really feel like they were part of this child's life.  They listened so attentively to the story as it was told from the perspective of a child their age.  At the end (in the last room), we are invited to watch our ipod screen as the 'real' Jey or Yanelli appears and shares that this was their REAL story and they express how the love of Jesus shown to them through Compassion completely changed their lives.  It is powerful!!!

 I thought I would share our experience with you...

Also -just wanted to mention, the quality of these photos isn't the best... which drives this A-type perfectionist slightly crazy.  However, the lighting was challenging and I was trying to snap shots while also remaining present in the experience... so forgive me!

Yeah... I'm taking the photo - you'll rarely find me in many photos...  *wink*  This is my husband with our three kids (Alex in blue, Audrey in stripes and Simon in grey long sleeve), and our two very good friends, Chantal and Ian.

Yanelly's story... growing up in poverty in the Dominican Republic.

Jey's story... growing up in Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya.

Pray for Compassion International and all their volunteers as they tour the country sharing these stories in hopes of encouraging more people to join with them in bringing hope to those who need it most.  Praise God for the work He is doing through Compassion.

Have a lovely weekend, friends.

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



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
Science Fiction
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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