Saturday, March 28, 2009

Review: WriteShop Primary (Book A)

When my daughter was a young and early writer, I wasn't exactly sure the best way to guide her. There didn't seem to be many early writing programs available for the younger ages other than workbooks, most concentrating on parts of speech. Instead, in those early years, I taught her to write by writing together and guiding the process, in a step-by-step manner. Each day she would write a few sentences, needing less and less of my help as she progressed. It was one of those lucky moments when I actually intuitively selected the right thing to do, rather than my more common trial and error. While I didn't follow a writing curriculum, at the heart of the latest writing curriculum for review is a similar method called Guiding Writing Practice.

Early in the year I reviewed WriteShop's StoryBuilder cards (here), a fun way to get the writing creativity flowing. This time I was sent WriteShop's Primary, Book A, the first in a series of three, authored by Nancy Sanders. Book A is for grades K-2 and available in both print and digital. I received the digital version. Also included in my review package was the Activity Set Worksheet Pack for Book A.

Primary Book A, 186 pages long, is an intro to early writing skills through flexible and incremental teaching. Throughout the lessons, the parent guides and models the writing process for the student. In fact, the early lessons start with the parent writing and the child helping, slowly contributing more as the lessons continue. A foundation through modeling is established in an encouraging, easy-to-implement manner through predictable Guiding Writing Practice activities.

Before even starting, parents are given several schedule options, with lessons lasting 1-3 weeks, depending on the needs of the student. Suggestions for teaching different levels, creating a writing center and how to teach the lessons are also included within the first 20 pages of the book.

There are a total of 10 lessons, each focused on a new writing skill. Sure to appeal to younger kids, each lesson also has a theme, e.g. animals, trains or friendships. Picture books and fun craft projects are incorporated into each lesson. To get an idea for what sort of activities and projects are incorporated into the lesson, you can view a list here. The lesson starts with a clear objective and materials list for the parent, followed by 8 activity sets, each incorporating about 5-10 minutes of Guided Writing Practice.

Activity Set 1: Guided Writing Practice only
Activity Set 2: Pre-writing Activities and Picture Book
Activity Set 3: Brainstorming
Activity Set 4: The Writing Project
Activity Set 5: Editing and Revising
Activity Set 6: Activity Set Worksheet
Activity Set 7: Publishing the Project
Activity Set 8: Want To Do More?

Depending on the schedule selected, the number of weekly activities will vary. Be sure to check out a sample lesson for Book A and the scope and sequence for the complete series.

The Activity Set Worksheets are considered to be integral rather than supplemental, but are sold as a separate item. Included are two worksheets per lesson and two evaluation forms that track progress over five lessons. The worksheets are simple and support the material covered in each lesson. Below is a sample worksheet from Book A.

The Activity Worksheets, use of picture books and craft-like projects are definitely suited for the younger child. Book A would be best used with K-young 2nd students. Most 3rd graders will find the lessons too childish. Second and third graders can begin with Book B or C of the series, expected to be released in the next 3-6 months.

Being in 4th and 6th grade, both of my kids are too old for Primary Book A and were unable to give it a trial run. From the teacher perspective, the lessons are easy to understand and seem easy to implement. Any prep work required is noted in a text box preceding the activity. For the Guided Writing Practice, prompts and scripted examples are provided. I especially like the flexibility of the lessons, which accommodates both the pre-writer and the accelerated student. This is always a big plus for me when looking at resources for our homeschool. With the parent guiding, the student participates as they are able. Some activities have Smaller Steps and Flying Higher sections to adjust the activity for younger or accelerated learners. The download process was easy, though I prefer printed materials. As far as the layout and readability, this didn't make for a complicated digital product for those of you who prefer to go the digital route. You will need Adobe Reader 8.0 or higher in order to read the document.

If you are in the market for something a bit more formal to guide writing instruction for your younger student, WriteShop's Primary series may be worth checking out. WriteShop PrimaryBook A is a gentle introduction to writing that is easy to teach and fun for the student. It doesn't get much better than that!

WriteShop's Primary Book A is available in print for $26.95 or as an ebook for $24.25. The Activity Worksheet set is $4.95 for the print edition and $4.50 as an ebook. WriteShop has writing resources through high school and well as a blog that contains a wealth of writing teaching ideas and information.

Read more review on this product and others by visiting the Official Blog of the TOS Crew.


Because my children are older, I have received permission from WriteShop to bless another family's homeschool with this product. Click here for the details of a blog giveaway for the digital version of Primary Book A and the Activity Set Worksheet Pack.

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