WriteShop Primary, designed for grades K-3, and WriteShop Junior for grades 3-6 were written by a different author than the original WriteShop courses for the upper grades. They have many of the same elements that make both programs good choices for homeschoolers. They provide thorough lesson plans for the novice parent/teacher to follow. They are designed as a very interactive, multisensory program. While WriteShop Primary and Junior can be used in a classroom with multiple students, they also work well in a one-on-one situation since most lessons flow from the child's comments and responses.
There is a single course book for each of levels A through F. While each level has a target grade-level range, there is flexibility for overlap. Each book contains step-by-step lesson plans and instructions so you need not always start from the beginning of either series.
WriteShop Primary teaches the writing process from the very beginning steps. Lessons start with the parent/teacher using conversation, responses to picture books, activity sheets , and other tools to elicit the child's ideas. “Guided Writing Practice," an oral exercise, helps the child gradually develop composition skills. As the parent prompts the child to respond with complete sentences, the parent writes the child's response in large print. During the Writing Project portion of the lesson, children gradually take responsibility for writing their own words. They go on to editing and revising their work as well as "publishing" their final product in an attractive format. As they learn to write (very) short stories, they develop skills in sentence structure, punctuation, capitalization, vocabulary, and spelling.
Almost all K and first grade students will begin with Book A. First and second graders might start in Book B if they are ready to write in paragraph form. Second and third graders might start in Book C if they already have developed basic skills. Reading and writing ability is not required in order to use WriteShop Primary. Parents have the option of doing the writing activities orally as the child gains confidence and skill.
There are ten lessons per book with suggested lesson schedules for one, two, or three weeks per lesson. Most families choose the latter, completing each book in 30 weeks (one school year). Following the chosen schedule, children work through a sequence of eight activity sets to complete a writing project for each lesson. The activity sets lead the child through the steps of the writing process from prewriting through brainstorming, writing a first draft, editing and revising, and creating a final draft. Writing projects are designed to be age appropriate and manageable for students. For example, in Book B, examples of the writing projects are a friendly letter, and acrostic poem, rhymes, retelling a familiar story, writing about a problem and its solution, and writing a story about a community helper. In prewriting activities for writing a story, students complete a cut-and-paste activity with one of the activity sheets that has pizza slices with parts of a story that need to be organized.
The goal of the lessons is to help children learn to write and enjoy the process—not to overwhelm them. If your child is reluctant or more advanced, you can adjust each writing project's level of difficulty through activities called “Smaller Steps” and “Flying Higher.” In addition, there are optional “Want to do More?” activities for each lesson that you might use to reinforce lessons or challenge students.
The program incorporates story books and art activities into lessons, each of which revolves around a theme such as animals or friends. Students write on a variety of materials (e.g., large pads, art projects, lined paper, etc.) rather than in a workbook or notebook.
An Activity Set Worksheet Pack for each of the three books provides about 20 or more worksheets for reinforcement, projects, and extended activities. The Pack also has evaluation forms for parents to use with the lessons.
WriteShop Primary is a "parent-intensive" program. It requires some preplanning to gather resources and materials. Lessons require parental presentation. Kindergarten and first grade students will likely need assistance through most of their work, while older students might be able to complete some activities on their own.
There are numerous arts-and-crafts activities in the program. These are all designed to support the goal of each lesson. However, there are some that might be skipped if they do not suit a child's learning style. If you do skip an activity, make certain that you are not omitting something essential from the lesson. The program is likely to be most appealing to children who like the arts-and-crafts activities as well as those who like the storybook connections.
WriteShop Junior continues the series up through sixth grade level with Books D, E, and F. Only Book D is available thus far, but Book E is due summer of 2012 and Book F in 2013.
WriteShop Junior is similar in many ways to WriteShop Primary, but there are a few differences. The ten lessons in each book continue to be “parent-intensive,” so this series is likely to appeal most to students who thrive on the interaction. Oral prewriting games introduce each writing genre, and Skill Builder activities present a new writing skill for that lesson. Students continue to tackle a broad range of writing assignments covering both creative and expository writing. For example, in Book D you find lessons on writing a letter of invitation, narrowing the topic, writing with humor, adding details to a story, choosing strong verbs and adjectives, developing voice through emotion, developing a strong voice, writing a personal narrative using emotion and sensory detail, and learning to use references for expository writing. Book D introduces genres such as mystery, adventure, historical fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Books E and F will also offer a variety of writing projects in both fiction and nonfiction genres. In addition, Books E and F will introduce five-paragraph writing toward the end of each book.
Lesson schedules show options for either two or three weeks per lesson for the ten lessons. You should begin with Book D with students in third or fourth grade in most cases, although older students who have had plenty of instruction and practice with writing might be able to begin with Books E or F. You should probably aim to complete one book per year. You might be able complete one book in 20 weeks and begin another, but it would require a lengthy school year or very intensive lessons to complete two books in a year.
While WriteShop Primary includes lots of hands-on activities and has Activity Set Worksheet Packs, WriteShop Junior makes it even easier with Activity Packs that include both Student Worksheets and the new Fold-N-Go ® Grammar Pack. Worksheets include journaling pages, graphic organizers, self-editing checklists, reading logs, and more. The Fold-N-Go ® Pack is a variation on the lapbook concept. It requires file folders (not included) which students will use to construct ten grammar guides, each of which will have six pages. These are not as artistically complex as lapbooks. Pages printed on brightly-colored paper are cut, layered and stapled into file folders. Once assembled, students review the information and complete a “Your Turn!” exercise at the bottom of each page. In essence, Fold-N-Go's serve as grammar reference and workbooks. The exercises are fairly minimal compared to a standard grammar text, so you should not count on this as your only grammar instruction. However, it might be sufficient for a year if students have done extensive grammar study the previous year. The Fold-N-Go® Grammar Pack is also available as a stand-alone product that can also be used by those not using WriteShop Junior.
WriteShop Junior has an optional extra called the Time-Saver Pack that I think most parents will want to use. This packet includes ready-made “props” for many of the activities that you would normally have to create yourself. Printed on brightly-colored card stock, most of these pages are ready to be cut up to create cards and spinners. For example, among them are “Funny Situations Sentence Starters” cards and a “Where in the World Globe Spinner” that will require minimal assembly.
Since these courses require a lot of parent direction and participation, I really appreciate the extras for WriteShop Junior that should make it easier for parents.
The religious perspective in these books is neutral. WriteShop Primary and WriteShop Junior could be used in government schools without objection.