Writing seems to be a subject a lot of homeschool parents fear teaching. It feels complex and is something many children don’t want to do. In fact, many hate it! They think it’s boring or their fine motor skills just aren’t ready to tackle it yet. Some children have difficulty gathering their thoughts and expressing themselves. This WriteShop review will introduce you to a program that offers a solution to these problems.
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What Is WriteShop?
WriteShop is a homeschool writing curriculum developed to help parents guide their children through the writing process starting as early as kindergarten. Beginning writing skills are taught using crafts, storybooks, creativity, games, and one-on-one instruction from the parent.
What’s great about this program is there is no previous writing experience needed. The goal is to teach writing in a fun way that is not overwhelming to the student.
How Is WriteShop Set Up?
I reviewed Book B from the WriteShop Primary series written for grades K-3. This series includes Books A through C. Each book has 10 lessons that can be done over one, two, or three weeks, with schedules given for each option. If you choose the 3-week option, it takes 30 weeks or approximately one school year.
How to Teach Writing with WriteShop?
Every lesson is made up of the same series of eight Activity Sets, which end with a completed writing project. The activities are very specific and help guide the child through the process of writing.
Set 1: Overview, worksheet, pre-writing activity
Set 2: Overview of Writing Process, Guided Writing Practice, Pre-writing Activities
Set 3: Guided Writing Practice, Brainstorming
Set 4: Guided Writing Practice (Optional), Writing Project, Smaller Steps and Flying Higher
Set 5: Guided Writing Practice, Editing and Revising
Set 6: Guided Writing Practice, Activity Set Worksheet
Set 7: Guided Writing Practice, Publishing the Project
Set 8: Guiding Writing Practice (optional), Evaluating Student’s Work, Want to Do More?
What Does a Typical Lesson Look Like?
A typical lesson starts with a worksheet from the activity packet, which helps introduce the skill. It then moves on to the parent writing for the child as they discuss and brainstorm ideas about a topic. Simple questions are asked that stimulate answers from the child.
Together the parent and child will do pre-writing activities to reinforce what is being taught and enhance the learning. These usually include hands-on activities that make it fun and memorable.
As the child completes several guided writing practice sessions and begins to progress, he can start to take over some of the writing himself.
The final steps are to edit and revise his piece to create a project that gives it a more polished look. Some examples of the final projects the child will create are an acrostic poem, mini-book, shape book, giant comic strip, and diorama.
WriteShop Primary Features
No stress activities– The activities in the primary level are very relaxed. There is no pressure for the child to come up with ideas on his own. Everything is parent-led and uses gentle prompting to help the ideas flow. This removes the stress generally associated with most writing programs.
Builds Slowly– Each lesson, and the activities within them, build slowly upon each other. A solid foundation is being laid for the future writing skills the child will learn.
Appeals to many learning styles– I am a huge advocate of teaching to your child’s learning style, and this program uses a multisensory approach to reach the auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners.
Uses themes that appeal to children– Every lesson revolves around a particular theme that is fun and will have your child excited about each project. There are suggested ways to adjust the themes if your family uses unit studies and would like these writing assignments to coordinate them. Here are the themes from Book B:
- Planets and Space
- Nursery Rhymes
- Fairy Tales
- Neighborhood and Community
- Ocean Animals
- Animal Homes
- Community Helpers
Includes literature– As part of each lesson, the parent chooses a picture book that goes along with the theme. There is a recommended book list in the appendix, but because the themes are very common topics, if your library doesn’t have them, you can easily substitute.
Incorporates crafts– Most children love to create! Each writing project is put together in its final draft in a creative book or other art form.
Children Don’t Need to Be Writing or Reading Independently– One of the keys to this program that will appeal to many parents is the child does not need to be writing or reading independently to use it. All lessons are parent-led, and the activities can be done orally while the parent models how to write.
Easy to follow scripts– The teacher’s guide is straightforward and includes a simple script that will help the parent to teach and model the new skills taught in every lesson.
Step-by-step lesson plans– Each lesson is set up in the same 8 steps. This makes it predictable and easier for the parent to teach.
Can be modified– Several ways to adjust the difficulty have been built into the program to accommodate children who may need a little more help or perhaps are moving through it quickly. They are called the “Smaller Steps” and “Flying Higher” areas suggested during Activity Set 4 of each lesson. These are not to be done in addition to the Writing Project, but as a replacement to fit your child’s needs.
Covers language arts– Throughout each composition, your child will expand his sentence structure, vocabulary, punctuation and capitalization skills, and spelling.
Spelling practice games– Books B and C also include games for spelling.
Flexible schedules– WriteShop can be done in a one, two, or three-week schedule. Choose whatever works best for your family.
Parent tips– Throughout the teacher’s manual, there are tips to help struggling writers. I think you will find these super helpful!
Great for students with learning disabilities– This program was not specifically written for students with learning disabilities, but its techniques will benefit them. WriteShop’s site says this writing program works great with children who are reluctant to write or who have ADHD, high-functioning autism, dysgraphia, or dyslexia. An example of a tool used is a story organizer, which will help a child focus and get his thoughts on paper. In addition, the repetition, specific instructions, and small incremental steps that build on each other are all strategies that work well with struggling students.
Great for beginner parents– Everything is spelled out, and once you have gathered the materials needed for the lesson, you can simply pick up the manual and follow the instructions.
Gentle approach to introducing writing to your child– Children quickly develop an aversion to writing when they are asked to do more than they are capable of. The gentle approach used by WriteShop ensures your child is not doing more than he can handle.
Group or individual setting– This book can be used in a classroom setting such as a co-op, but works well with one-on-one or multiple children in a homeschool setting.
Use with multiple students– If you have multiple students that are close in age, you could easily use one book for them and take it up or down a notch for the projects.
Options for further learning– The authors have even included ”Want to do more?” activities if your child is really enjoying a particular topic and you want to stay there for a bit longer, or you want to challenge him.
Evaluation forms included– If you want to track your child’s growth, there are evaluation forms in the activity pack. These charts help you figure out if your child is gaining the necessary skills to move on to the next level. These forms would also be useful if you do a portfolio review for your state.
How to Choose a Level
It is suggested that children in Kindergarten start in Book A. Children who are in first or second grade or are ready for paragraph writing should start in Book B. Second and third graders who already have a writing foundation can start in Book C. Here is a list of skills included in Books A, B, and C.
If you are still unsure, here are some samples lessons you can download to help determine which level is best for your child:
If you are jumping into the program and are starting somewhere other than book A, you are fine. Each book is a stand-alone, and there is a section in there telling you what activities were covered in the previous book that you may want to have on hand when they are referenced in the book.
A WriteShop Primary set includes a teacher’s guide and activity pack (printed version or PDF download), which contains all the necessary worksheets to complete the activities, as well as evaluation forms for the parent. Each of these items is sold separately as well.
Does This Require a Lot of Preparation?
There is some preparation required for many of the lessons. All the materials needed are listed at the beginning of each one. The suggested picture books will need to be checked out of the library in advance, as well as gather some simple supplies you can find around the house. Also, there are a few other suggested items (some of which are optional) you will want to gather or set up to assist you throughout the lessons. I did not use all of these.
Some of these items include:
- Writing Center- This should be a comfortable place that invites your child to write. It can be at your kitchen table or a little area somewhere else in your house that draws them in and ignites a desire to write.
- Storage system for writing materials- This can be something like a bin that can be moved, or a drawer or shelf. It just needs to be a place to store all the writing materials where your child can easily access them. This will make it much easier for your child to write when inspiration hits.
- Gathering or creating pointers for the lessons
- File Box for story ideas
- Portable Word Bank or Word Wall
- Reference tools
- Writing tools
- Publishing tools
Our Experience with WriteShop
I used WriteShop B with my daughter, who is in second grade. She was very excited to try it out. The craft-style projects were right up her alley. She even liked the idea of the Super Speller we were making so she could refer to it when she wanted to write something on her own.
She liked having a discussion type of lesson where I asked her questions and then wrote down her answers during the guided-response. It was very relaxed and often felt like a natural conversation we were having. It really helped spark ideas and keep her sentences on the topic. This is so much better than just saying “Write about …” and her having to come up with something on her own.
The actual lessons themselves don’t take a lot of time to do each day, which I think is important with the little ones. They don’t want to sit for an hour for one subject.
The themes were appealing to her and having a variety of final projects kept it from being monotonous, which writing can sometimes be.
Because this program requires a parent to prepare materials, lead the lessons, give guided questions, and write answers for the student, there is a lot of teacher involvement. This is not a curriculum you are going to just hand to your student and walk away. As your child gets into the higher books and is more comfortable writing, he may be able to do some of it on his own.
I think you will find that any writing curriculum requires some effort on the parent’s part. It’s one of those subjects you have to roll up your sleeves and get involved if you want your child to learn it. But I think you will find it’s worth the time and effort and it will pay off in the end.
Presenting the process of writing to children in such a fun way at a young age is certainly going to make it easier when it is required later on. And you never know, you could discover you have a budding writer in the family!
Teaching homeschool writing doesn’t have to be a challenge or something to fear. If you have a child who loves to listen to stories, do arts and crafts, and is excited about doing lessons based around themes, he will most likely enjoy this program.
Each step is well thought out, and you can tell a lot of time has gone into presenting the writing method in an easy format that will gently teach children how to write.
What’s different about this program, that may be attractive to you, is your child doesn’t have to be able to write sentences to begin. Children who have an aversion to writing will still be able to discover how to write without the painful act of writing itself. Speaking from experience of having a child who hated to write when he was younger, this would have been a blessing!
Being able to give answers orally and have someone else write them down doesn’t hinder the learning process. In fact, I think it helps them to move on while letting their fine motor skills catch up, especially for boys. If you have wondered how to teach writing, I hope this WriteShop review has been helpful and has sparked your interest in checking these materials out.