Writing is one of those things that I assumed would be easy to teach my kids. I love to write. I write well. Ergo, I can teach my kids to write well. That approach worked really well with Therese. With Nicky...not so much. In general, if an approach worked well with Therese, it will not work all that well with Nicky. When the chance came to review the incredibly well-regarded WriteShop, then, I was very anxious to see how it would work for my newly 11 year-old!
Deciding what level to get for Nicky was very, very hard for me. He has not done much in the way of formal writing, but his grammar program is high school level. In fact, he is almost done with formal grammar altogether. Because WriteShop incorporates grammar, I knew that we would be adapting the program regardless of the level we chose. Finally, I decided to go with WriteShop Junior: Book D Set.
The WriteShop website indicates that this level is ideal for third and fourth graders, but that it can also be used for reluctant fifth grade writers and, possibly, some sixth graders. Since Nicky is a rising sixth grader and has, as I indicated, not done much of a formal writing curriculum, I decided to put him here (just for perspective, the Crew was able to pick from WriteShop products through Level E). The WriteShop website indicates that students who have not yet learned punctuation and grammar skills should start with this level. Again, Nicky has mastered both of those skills, so I was hesitant to start him here, but it was the fact that Book D teaches structuring sentences, writing paragraphs, and using sentences of varying length that convinced me to start him here. Book D teaches these skills through letter writing, historical fiction, personal narrative, and mystery and adventure stories (among others).
In the end, though, he came up with this:
awesome, loving, cute
bounding playfully outside
bright, black, beautiful
Now all of the kids want to write Haiku. The process through which WriteShop takes a student in order to write a finished Haiku is quite good. Whether you need a complete script or whether you prefer to free form, the worksheets for brainstorming are terrific, and I love that you can print as many as you want with the ebook version.
After Haiku, I backtracked to science fiction (we're on a big Doctor Who kick here right now). Again, while I skipped a lot of the "extras" that I know some other moms are going to love, but that send Nicky into a tantrum-tailspin, there was still so much in this chapter to love! The objective of this lesson is adding details to the middle of a story, and this is an area where Nicky is weak. Like most kids, he loves to write stories and, like most kids, he starts off with a bang, writes enthusiastically, wanes in the middle, and then has his surprise stellar ending! Again, for us, it was the journal prompt and brainstorming pages that were instrumental in helping Nicky understand the importance of those middle section details. For kids who are more tactile, there is a neat construction paper "sandwich" activity that could be very illustrative of the key ingredient that is the middle!
Nicky wouldn't let me include his story here. He was embarrassed enough that I wrote down his Haiku (I was allowed to do so on the condition that I edited for spelling - his original spelling of beautiful was not included in the final draft posted here). I was so pleased, though! He definitely learned from the WriteShop lesson.
Recently, Nicky has been working on writing a personal narrative. Here he is sitting in my room working on writing down emotions he experienced and the senses through which he experienced them (ignore the knitting bags spilling over in the corner). This assignment has been a little challenging for him. Like most boys his age, he is not used to really thinking about the nuances associated with his emotions. I am anxious to see how this assignment plays out.
As I said, I really wanted to like WriteShop. While I definitely found ways to use it with Nicky, it is not exactly what I hoped for. I can definitely see it being an ideal program for some families, though. For kids who love any curriculum that incorporates crafts or games, this is perfect. For moms who want to make writing fun and want a program that makes grammar integral (and crafty!), this is perfect. If you require a script, this is perfect. Further, for all you get, it's very reasonably priced. Finally, if you start your journey with WriteShop, you will not be disappointed with the later levels of the program!
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