Teaching Writing to Elementary Students

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As we began our homeschool year back in July, I was searching for something to use for writing. We’d tried some things that I really liked and which seemed to work well for the kids at first, but which, after continued use, proved to be a poor fit for them – not for me, necessarily, but for them.

Review WriteShop Junior

I’d been hearing about WriteShop for a couple of years and decided to check it out. What I found, first of all, is an author passionate about her subject matter. Kim Kautzer, who co-authors the WriteShop books and supplied supplemental materials for WriteShop Junior, was so helpful to me in making sure I got the right levels for each child and in answering all my questions to get us off to a great start.

The folks at WriteShop want to make sure every family using WriteShop gets all the help they need to be successful. That’s why you’ll find an entire section of their website dedicated to supporting you, with articles, forums, online resources, and even tutoring if you need extra support.

Each of my kids is using a different level of WriteShop. I’m not going to lie to you – that caused levels of confusion and frustration that I haven’t experienced in awhile trying to figure out everyone’s schedules. I can speculate with some confidence, though, that it wouldn’t be so tricky for one child…and it’s been smooth sailing once I got out basic schedule worked out in my mind.

I’ll be reviewing the middle and high school levels of WriteShop after the first of the year. Today, I wanted to share my review of WriteShop Junior, Book D – the book that Megan (age 11, 5th grade) is using.

WriteShop Junior Book D

WriteShop Junior starts kids off writing something that most of them enjoy – fiction. Students practice writing genres such as:

  • Mystery
  • Humor
  • Science fiction
  • Adventure

They also practice non-fiction writing skills such as:

  • A letter of invitation
  • Haiku
  • Personal narrative

It took me a little while to get the hang of how WriteShop Junior is set up (like a few hours of planning not weeks of use), but once I got it figured out, it’s been easy because even though each lesson is different, the basic outline is the same.

One thing that I’ve found that has worked really well for me, is I sat down and wrote out a six week basic outline for writing (which should explain why my head was spinning at first because that outline includes my older children, as well).

Writing out my outline was just a matter of meshing three kids’ schedules. If you just have one child using WriteShop, your work is done for you because each level contains several lesson plan options. The three week lesson plan worked well for me because, although Megan could handle a faster pace, with three kids needing one-on-one time when it comes to writing, I couldn’t handle a faster pace.

Megan finishes two complete writing lessons in six weeks. So, I put together two folders, brilliantly titled “Megan’s First Three Weeks” and “Megan’s Second Six Weeks.” Once every six weeks, I sit down and do all the prep work and put everything we need into the appropriate folder. Planning and prep work is super-simple with the help of the optional Time-Saver Pack, which includes things like ready-made game cards.

It was a little confusing at first because some things you need are in the student pack and others are in the Time-Saver pack, but once I used WriteShop for a couple of lessons, I started seeing how everything is laid out and labeled for each lesson.  The last six weeks that I planned went really smoothly and quickly.

The basic outline for teaching writing with WriteShop Junior includes:

  • Fold-N-Go grammar
  • Pre-writing activities (games!)
  • Model and teach
  • Skill builders
  • Brainstorming
  • Writing
  • Editing and revising
  • Publishing the work

The Fold-N-Go grammar packs are one of my favorite parts of WriteShop Junior. They cover basic grammar skills such as nouns, punctuation, and self-editing (teaching real editing marks, which will be so helpful later). You read through the pages with your child, allowing her time to complete the “Your Turn!” section.

Then, you cut the pages on the dotted lines and assemble them in a file folder for easy, portable access later on, hence the name, Fold-N-Go.

Fold-N-Go Grammar

They even include bookmarks with a recap of the basic information. These just happen to fit right into the handy little sleeve on the inside of Megan’s school binder.

Megan’s favorite part, of course, is the games. They’re the best kind of learning – the kind where the student is having so much fun playing that she doesn’t realize she’s learning something, too.

WriteShop Junior games

The heart of the program (in my opinion, not necessarily the author’s) is the model and teach part. This is where you sit down with your child and work together through a sample paragraph. You, as the teaching parent, are taking the lead, modeling the skill that your student will later practice on her own.

This is followed by journal writing, in which the student completes a paragraph, on her own, based on that lesson’s theme, but without the pressure of a grade or editing. It’s not for you to check or grade, just for your child to practice before working with you on the final product.

After she’s finished with all the writing, editing, and revising, the student publishes her work. There are a variety of suggestions for doing this, but the point is that it should be fun and that the final product have some importance and significance.

The first writing project we did was a letter of invitation. It just happened to work out that we did this project right around Megan’s birthday. For her birthday, she wanted us to take her and her cousin to a really cool bowling alley that also has great video games and laser tag.

Megan’s publishing activity for that project was a fancy, decorated letter of invitation to give to her cousin for this real-life event. (A good blogger would have been sure to have taken a photo of said invitation for posting on her blog. {ahem})

WriteShop isn’t something that you can buy and send your child off to do independently, and the one-on-one lessons can be time-consuming. The fact is, though, that’s the only way to really teach writing effectively – by giving step-by-step guidance and instruction on the front end so that kids can learn the skills to write well on their own.

I received this product free for the purpose of reviewing it. I received no other compensation for this review. The opinions expressed in this review are my personal, honest opinions. Your experience may vary. Please read my full disclosure policy for more details.

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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    1. LOL Isn’t it cute? She can totally pull off hats. I can’t, but she has lots of them and they’re all so cute on her.

  1. I bought Write Shop C this year and we will be starting it this week. I put all three of my children in level C for ease of teaching. They are 3rd, 4th, and 5th. My 5th is a little delayed in learning so it works well for him to start there. We’ll see how it goes I am a bit overwhelmed as I don’t have a very good background in writing or grammar so much is new to me also, at least in the grammar area. It’s so nice to read these reviews about how others are using the program

    1. I’m pretty sure that would be a violation of the copyright on the products. You can view sample pages on the WriteShop website.

  2. I know this was written a while ago, but I just read it and I’m so glad I did. I just found out about Write Shop and am trying to decide between level D or the one coming out soon, level D, for my son who will be a 5th grader next year. Thanks for your honest, and very helpful review! Just curious, are you still continuing with Write Shop??

    1. Yes, we’re still using WriteShop. I am currently using WriteShop I with my 6th and 8th graders.

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