A lot of parents are looking for a writing course their kids can do on their own. This one is not it—but when you consider that writing is one of the foundational elements of a good education, do you really want to let your impressionable offspring learn composition unsupervised? That said, many of us haven't been equipped to teach our kids to write well, largely because we were never taught to write well ourselves. Nancy Sanders is doing her part to rectify that problem by offering WriteShop Junior, the follow-up to WriteShop Primary and intro to WriteShop for mid and senior high students.
How Does This Work?
There are three elements to this one-year course: the teacher's guide and Activity Pack (both necessary), and the optional but extremely helpful Time-Saver Pack. Ten lessons are scripted and outlined in the teacher's guide, with schedules for completing each lesson in either two or three weeks (for a 20-week or 30-week program, respectively). Lessons will require preparation, and there are lists at the beginning of the book to help you assemble necessary materials before each one.
One feature of these elementary WriteShop books is the "writing center" you'll construct with your kids. This is a place to organize and store writing assignments, reference tools, and hands-on projects, as well as where class periods are to be conducted. Putting the writing center together isn't absolutely crucial (though it's routinely mentioned in the lesson plans), but it goes a long way to making "writing=fun" as Sanders puts it.
Eight elements comprise each lesson—Fold-N-Go Grammar activities, reading log, pre-writing/model and teach, skill builders/journal writing practice, brainstorming, the writing project, editing and revising, publishing the project, and evaluating your child's work. Users of WriteShop Primary will recognize many of these elements, though there are a few elaborations (mostly tips to improve and fine-tune compositions). By making each lesson repetitive in the sense that it follows the same rubric, the author helps students improve their skills since they don't have to worry about a new format all the time.
WriteShop Junior D gets more into mechanics than the Primary volumes. Topics include letters of invitation, science fiction and historical fiction, haiku, peronal narrative, and expository writing. Within each lesson, issues such as punctuation and capitalization, choosing strong verbs and adjectives, narrowing a topic, adding details, and developing a strong voice are explored through the lesson's overall theme.
The Time-Save Pack is a series of reproducible workpages that help kids play games related to what they're studying; for instance, the "Where in the World? Globe Spinner and Cards" help students describe the setting of their adventure story. The Activity Pack includes both worksheets for completing each stage of the lesson activities, and the Fold-N-Go Grammar Guides. The Fold-N-Go Grammar Guides are small books students make for easy grammar reference while completing assignments.
Our Honest Opinion:
The hands-on learning approach works especially well for elementary students. Writing can be an intimidating subject even for those who are good at it, and this program replaces the fear with energy-channeling activities and fun assignments easy for both parents and kids to understand. If you want your children to really understand the fundamentals of creative writing (without simply reverting to the Charlotte Mason "copy, dictate, repeat" methodology, WriteShop Primary and Junior is a good place to start.
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