Monday, April 13, 2009

Write Shop

After 13 years of being a homeschool teacher the only subject I still hesitate to recommend curriculum for when asked is writing. Ironically, even though I am a free-lance writer I never felt I could find the magic instructional tool to teach my children to write. My oldest is a math and science brained child and really HATES the written word about as much as I hate math study. My second oldest, a soon to graduate high schooler, recently decided she enjoys writing, but can not spell to save her life. My third child, a teenaged boy and, not to stereotype, a typical male, is only interested in written communication if it involves some sort of score or sports related statistic. For years I blamed myself for my children’s seeming lack of interest in writing, but recently, I have come to realize through God’s grace, they have miraculously learned necessary skills for writing, despite the lack of passion I have witnessed over the years.

Times are about to change in our little homeschool for I have discovered the joy of Writeshop! I recently received and reviewed WriteShop’s StoryBuilders this year and now I have the pleasure to offer you my opinion regarding WriteShop’s newest release, WriteShop Primary Book A.

WriteShop curriculum written by homeschool Moms, Kim Kautzer and Debra Oldar, was developed out of necessity. Like many great stories from home education these women were faced with a need in the form of their sons not being able to write and determined to fill it.

“In need of new resources, we pulled out every writing program we’d ever used (and believe me, between us we had them all!). We drafted a wish list detailing the components of our “ideal” writing class: prewriting games to stimulate creativity; a way to introduce and help develop new skills; creative, varied writing exercises with clearly defined expectations; incremental lessons that built upon previously learned material; writing checklists to help students edit their own work; and a simple evaluation tool to help us grade final drafts objectively. We didn’t think we were asking much! While each of the programs on our shelves had merit, not one of them provided everything we needed or wanted to help us feel successful at teaching writing. In that moment of clarity, WriteShop was born.” (Kim Kautzer,

Write Shop Primary Book A is one of the latest releases from the dynamic duo of Kautzer and Olgar. I received a copy of this incremental writing program designed to be used with K-1 students and immediately put it to task with my 7 year old sweetie Sierra. Like all good curricula, WriteShop Primary A is theme based filled with simple to follow instructions, lesson planning suggestions and short and effective writing lessons for the little ones.

WriteShop Primary A is available in print version for $26.95 plus shipping or by e-book for $24.25. The print version arrives as a 186 page plastic coil bound softcover teacher’s manual that lays flat during lesson time. A 20 page activity worksheet pack is available for an additional $4.95 print version or $4.50 for the E-book. WriteShop Primary A will encourage your little author to “generate story ideas”, “experience planning a story before writing it”, “gather simple information about a topic”, “use a story web to organize information”, “identify a beginning, middle and an end”, “choose an appropriate title”, “think of simple ways to improve a story”, and “publish work through crafts and projects”. My experience has taught WriteShop Primary A will also help little ones with early reading skills, identify proper ending punctuation for sentences, and correct capitalization of title, beginning sentences and names.

Sierra and I worked through Lesson 1 over the course of two and a half weeks. There are 10 lessons total in the one year program. The theme of lesson one is animals; a favorite topic at our house. I love the “Guided Writing Practice” portion of each activity set because it is scripted which helps distractible Moms like me keep focus on the goal at hand and know just the right words to say to encourage guided learning. The authors have included a sample of what the child’s writing might look like which I also found helpful as I tend to be a Mom who expects William Shakespeare to emerge after one lesson. The samples provide instant perspective as to the ability and expectations of a young author.

All activities within the lesson are allowing parent and student to complete them within an average of 15-20 minutes. A sample lesson can be viewed here. The curriculum encourages parents to utilize narration with their young children having the parent take on the role of scribe. My daughter desperately wanted to write her own sentences, so most of our lesson time was spent in spelling out words letter by letter and reminding her of the direction and shape of the handwriting. In the future I intend to insist we simply use the narration method so frustration with the physical act of the writing does not overshadow the value of learning to compose thoughts.

I found the curriculum to be extremely child-friendly a very important aspect in teaching little ones. The authors suggest utilizing colorful markers, crayons and pens and guided lined paper or oversized chart paper for writing exercises. The use of colorful markers really appealed to my daughter and even though markers tend to be a bit unforgiving with mistakes we used them for every activity.

Sierra gave WriteShop Primary A a two thumbs up rating. She said, “I liked when they helped you think of ideas about animals. I really liked writing about my favorite stuffed animal. I liked writing with the markers because of all the colors. I want to still keep writing for a long time.”

We will definitely continue with WriteShop’s wonderful primary writing program. It’s delightful incremental, confidence building approach is exactly what this Mom needs to be able to teach her children to write effectively.

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