Thursday, July 10, 2014

A TOS Review: WriteShop Junior: Book E

I love to write. I might not always write well, but I love it nonetheless. 

I’m not sure when my love of writing began. Was it after the gift of my first little diary with the key? Or was it when I was in 8th grade and my English teacher told me that one day she might be reading one of my books? I am sure this was when I named most of my fictional characters Gwendolyn Raquel. I actually pleaded with my parents to consider changing my moniker to Gwendolyn Raquel. I have been experiencing similar behavior out of Josiah as of late. He has been signing his name "Starkiller."

Writing is one of those things that can be intimidating to teach. No matter how much I love it. I can tell you what I enjoy reading. What makes a good story and if the writer has captured my imagination. 

Creative writing is especially tricky. WriteShop has created a series of products that help the teacher maneuver through the often formidable writing process.They have resources available for K-12.

Josiah and I got to review WriteShop Junior: Book E Set. This book includes topics such as writing in different fiction genres, writing book reports, using references and help with self-editing. The 5 paragraph essay is also introduced.

I received the following goodies from WriteShop. 

Book E Teacher's Guide: Spiral-bound)

Activity Pack: Print version
Optional Time-Saver Pack: Print version
Optional Junior Writer's Notebook 1: Available only in digital PDF format

The whole package costs $45.95. It is intended for grades 4-5, but can be used for reluctant writers in grades 6 & 7. That would be us! 

The WriteShop program isn’t intended to be an independent learning experience. The parent guides the student gently through the entire writing process. It was very freeing to read that we are encouraged to share in the writing process. I don’t have to let Josiah flounder with a writing project that he isn’t sure how to complete. 

The Teacher’s Guide gives plenty of ideas and prompts on how to make this process as painless and fun as we possibly can. 

There are 10 lessons in WriteShop Junior: Book E. They are:
  • Fables
  • Humor
  • Adventure
  • Science Fiction
  • Mystery
  • Poetry/Shape Poems
  • Personal Narrative
  • Descriptive Narrative
  • Book Report/Responding to Literature
  • Expository Writing: Nonfiction Report
Each lesson is divided between 8 Activity Sets. These are:

1.     Fold-N-Go, Reading Log
2.     Pre-writing Activity, Model and Teach
3.     Skill Builder, Journal Writing Practice
4.     Brainstorming
5.     The Writing Project (first draft) Smaller Steps (which are suggestions for weaker and young writers), Flying Higher (suggestions for advanced writers)
6.     Editing and Revising the First Draft
7.     Publishing the Project
8.     Evaluating the Student’s work, Optional Activities

I want to take a little time and give you a peek into how we used the product and several of the activities. 

The Fold-N-Go Activity are reference tools that consist of easy grammar rules and writing skills.
When the student completes WriteShop Junior: Book E he or she will have assembled 10 Fold-N-Go Grammar Guides.

This set is the very first Fold-N-Go. They are so bright and fun. They are also printed on sturdy paper. I didn’t have to use any ink (which is a valuable commodity at our house). The only supplies I needed were the file folders (which are seem to multiply daily here), a stapler and some tape for securing.  All of the worksheets (and the Fold-N-Go worksheets) are a part of the Activity Pack. 

The Reading Log came in mighty handy. 3 different reading logs are provided in the Student Worksheet Pack to choose from. We are encouraged to copy as many as we need. 

Josiah is assigned daily independent reading. He is dyslexic so this has been a relatively new assignment for him. At the beginning of the summer he also started to keep track of his daily reading for our library’s summer reading program. Josiah chose to award stars to the books he read. He liked the idea of rating his reading selections. Sometimes there are ideas for books to read within the lessons. 

Josiah is a mystery lover and he was excited to see some of his favorites on the list. 

The Pre-writing Activity is always a fun hands-on game. I have to say that this idea is brilliant. The games are fun and memorable. Josiah is a hands-on learner. 

This game is the from the very first Lesson on writing Fables.

This example is from our most recent lesson on writing a detective story. Who-done-it? 

The Model and Teach activity is a practice exercise in which the parent models the lesson’s specific writing skill. There is always an example story to read. After the story is read the parent takes the student through a discussion (via a script). What is unique about this part of the lesson is that the student does no writing down on his own. Josiah simply dictated to me and I wrote down his ideas, etc. This freed up his imagination. He wasn’t worried about spelling, handwriting…I can tell you that he came up with some pretty crazy stuff. And he loved every minute of it!

This example is from our latest lesson. Josiah dictated the story and wrote it down. I look forward to see how the finished project turns out. He’s decided he needs to write a book. 

Hello. My name is Detective Starkiller. One day I was playing Black Ops II Multiplayer on my Xbox. I suddenly received a call. It was Nim the White Cat. She had lost her football.
I dropped my Xbox controller and ran over to the farm.
Nim told me that the last time she had seen her football was when she was playing with it in the garden.
We went to the garden and I noticed big paw prints. They were Solomon’s paw prints. He was a big black dog. I followed the footprints and noticed Chris. He is my cousin who sometimes stays at the farm. He really likes football. He was playing a football game on his Xbox.
Next I noticed lots of white feathers and heard a loud cackle. It was coming from the chicken coop. Nim and I ran to the chicken coop. The chickens were playing football! Case solved.
The chickens weren’t done. They next took Chris’ Xbox.

The Skill Builder Activty teaches a new writing skill. They might be how to use synonms. In Lesson 2 we played a game similar to Taboo. Josiah wrote a word on a card and we had to come up with words that could replace that word. During the game itself we had to avoid those words. I will say that in all my years of playing Taboo that men generally aren’t the best players. Women always seem to be much more descriptive. Josiah is surprisingly wordy. I say “surprisingly.” I should be surprised. The boy could talk a rattle off a rattlesnake. 

This Skill Buider comes from the Mystery Lesson. All of the activity pieces can be found in the Activities Pack, but the sturdy (cardstock) pages come in Time-Saver Pack. It is not necessary to purchase the Time-Saver Pack, but I loved it.

In the Journal Writing Practice Activity I gave Josiah 10-15 minutes and a journal prompt. He really enjoyed this. The Teacher’s Manual gives some ideas for alternate prompts as well. This wasn’t a stressful activity. Josiah has quite the journal now. He’s pretty proud of it. This is not edited or critiqued. The WriteShop folks admonish us to Praise the student for trying. There are optional activities that coincide with the Junior Writer's Notebook 1. This is a handy product to have whether or not you chose to use WriteShop. It comes in PDF file. Josiah has begun to include quotes he likes, a list of things he would like to study and a list of video game character names he might include in his next project. The Notebook provides several worksheets that help the student with preparing and planning their projects. I wonder if the shirt on his head helps his creative process?

Activities 4-6 all involve writing a complete project. They take us step-by-step. Throughout the process there are tips, helpful advice and gentle reminders. I loved the easy pace. I have to be reminded that Josiah’s intention is not to write the Great Novel. He is writing pieces he can be proud of. He is learning and he is having fun. 

Each lesson provides a unique and creative way to publish the student’s work. I must admit we haven’t completed any of them yet. Josiah has a few completed projects, but we have yet to get beyond a finished copy on the computer. He simply has not been as excited to craft a book or fun file folder foldable as I’ve been. It is probably the boy in him. 

I will share with you his finished story from Lesson 2: Writing with Humor. 

The Three Buff Pigs
By Josiah Teague
Once upon a time there lived 3 Buff Pigs.
The First Buff Pig liked to roll around in the mud all day. He built his house out of mud.
The Second Buff Pig liked to eat all day. He liked watermelon and ice cream the best. He decided to build his house out of watermelons and paint it with ice cream.
The Third Buff Pig was really strong. He liked to lift weights. He built his house out of dumbbell weights. They were the only things he could find.
One day the Wimpy Wolf came to see the First Buff Pig.
“Buff Pig, Buff Pig. Let me come in,” The Wimpy Wolf yelled. “Or I’ll huff and I’ll puff.”
The First Buff Pig opened the door to his mud house and said, “Come roll in the mud with me. It will release your tension.”
The Wimpy Wolf went inside and rolled around in the mud. He felt nice and refreshed.
“Thanks for inviting me in,” he said to the First Buff Pig.
The Wimpy Wolf went to the Second Buff Pig’s house.
He said, “Buff Pig, Buff Pig. Let me come in. Or I’ll huff and puff.”
The Second Buff Pig opened the door to his watermelon house and said,” You look hungry. You are too wimpy. Come in and have some ice cream and watermelon.”
The Wimpy Wolf went inside and ate and ate. He ate 200 helpings. He was so full he stayed there and napped for 2 hours.
After he felt better he went to the Third Buff Pig’s house made of dumbbell weights.
“Buff Pig, Buff Pig,” He cried.
The Third Buff Pig yelled through the door.
“I’m busy lifting weights, but you can come in and join me.”
The Wimpy Wolf went inside and lifted weights. He was so happy because he wasn’t wimpy anymore.
He and the Third Buff Pig decided to open a gym built of dumbbell weights. The other two Buff Pigs decided to join the business and they all lived next door to each other.
And they lived happily ever after.

The most difficult part of the whole process has been not to help to edit Josiah’s stories beyond recognition. I had to bit my   a few times. “Wouldn’t this be funny if you had the Buff Pig…?” 

An easy evaluation tool is provided with each lesson. I also had Josiah follow it to check his work. The optional activities can be as simple as a game or research a particular topic. In the Lesson 3: Adventure, the student can cook a dish from another country. 

You can see that we are having a good time with WriteShop Junior: Book E. It has been easy for me to prepare for. The tips and helps in the Curriculum guide are just what I need to take me through each lesson. It is a thoughtful curriculum. And so very helpful. Josiah has had so much fun. Hey! I’ve had fun! 

There are several other WriteShop products the TOS Crew is reviewing. You can read more by clicking on the banner below. 

Oh. One more thing. You can connect WriteShop through any of the following social media networks.


Click to read Crew Reviews

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