WriteShop Primary: Book A (Review)

Rose loves to make up stories.  I’ve actually shared several of her creations over the past year or two.  Because writing is one of her interest areas, I’ve been looking for ways to facilitate her growth as a writer.  So, when I had an opportunity to review a product from WriteShop, I realized that it could be a great tool to help Rose gain writing skills and confidence.

WriteShop Review

 

WriteShop has created a full range of Primary and Junior Level products that are perfect for Kindergarten through sixth grade.  The program we chose, WriteShop Primary: Book A, is aimed at kindergarten and first grade students. We received the Primary Teacher’s Guide, Book A (Digital PDF) which is currently priced at $24.50 and the Primary Activity Pack, Book A (Digital PDF) which is priced at $4.50.

When I picked Book A, I planned on using the program solely with my seven year old daughter, Rose.  However, my nine year old son, Firecracker, was excited about the fun looking activities in the book and the unit topics that Book A explored, so he participated too.  Because of this, the way we approached this product is completely different than it would have been if I were using it just with my first grader.

I decided to print out and bind the entire teacher’s guide.  However, if you wanted to save paper, there’s no need to print out anything but the worksheets from the Activity Pack.  You’ll need to print one copy of the activity pack for each student.  These worksheets are scheduled into the curriculum, so all you’ll need to do is find the correct worksheet when you need it.

One of the first things you’ll notice when you look at the teacher’s book is that there are several different schedules for teaching through the material, so you can always speed up or slow down with the book if you feel it is necessary.  If you complete the lessons at the four day a week pace that the book is written to, you’ll complete this level in about 20 weeks.

writing project

The book is split into ten 2-week units.  These are:

  • Animals–There aren’t any new skills being introduced in this unit.  You’re really just getting accustomed to doing the daily writing and to the structure of the lessons.
  • I Am Special–Here’s where you start to learn to journal about yourself.  You begin sharing personal opinions and writing as well as understanding that a sentence is a complete thought.
  • My Favorite Things–In this unit, students begin to learn about developing ideas for writing and how to generate those ideas.  They’re also gently led to the understanding that each story they write will be about one topic.
  • Friends–This is a unit where children begin to select the main ideas in their reading and writing and use those main ideas to make titles.
  • Trains–This lesson focuses on the idea that stories have a beginning, a middle and an end.  As a part of that, their final project has them writing a five sentence story.
  • Colors–This lesson focuses on the idea that each sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a period.  As part of this lesson, students will also practice reading, writing, and spelling color words.
  • Rhymes–This lesson starts focusing on word families and using those families to create a story with rhyming words.
  • Insects and Bugs–The shift is beginning to be made here from the parent doing most of the writing to the student taking ownership of writing.  Students research insects and bugs, learn how to use a story web to organize their thoughts and write a little nonfiction story.
  • TV and Movies–Here the student will continue using story webs and begin to write about something that happened to himself to create a story.
  • Cars and Trucks–This unit has the student thinking about how events are ordered and writing things in order.  Your child will use order words and be introduced to exclamation points and question marks.

 WriteShop Review

As you can probably tell from my descriptions of each unit, the program is gentle and incremental.  There’s a lot of repetition for practice and the units build on each other.

A regular day within a unit usually consists of daily guided writing practice along with some other activity.  The units are each split into eight days that follow this predictable pattern:

  • Day 1–Guided writing
  • Day 2–Guided writing and Pre-writing activities.  These are often warm-up games and exercises along with reading a picture books or two together based on the unit topic.
  • Day 3–Guided writing and Brainstorming.
  • Day 4–Guided writing and the Writing Project.  The writing project pages also have “smaller steps” and “flying higher” tweaks to make the curriculum work best for your child.
  • Day 5–Guided writing and Editing and Revising
  • Day 6–Guided writing and Worksheet pages from the activity pack reinforcing lesson concepts
  • Day 7–Guided writing and publishing the project
  • Day 8–Guided writing and evaluating your child’s work.  There’s a checklist to go by in the student activity packet where you can assess where your child is in developing her writing.  There are also “Want to do more?’ activities on day 8 where you can challenge your student to apply his/her writing in other subject areas and/or do some writing on the computer.

guided writing

As you might can tell, the guided writing is a real teaching time and at the heart of the program.  In the guided writing, student and teacher sit together and develop a daily shared writing.  (Don’t worry about topic!  The book will guide you on suggested structure and things to write about!)  The intent of the book is for the teacher to write the shared writing on chart paper with the student filling in the words they already know and can spell as the writing develops.

Because Firecracker is already a proficient writer, we altered our guided writing time for the children to write individually.  Firecracker would write on his own and occasionally ask for spelling words.  Rose would look at my written dry-erase board version of the journaling and would copy it onto her paper (usually leaving out capitals and punctuation).  Then, after we read the journaling together, I would have the children draw a picture  and file it into their WriteShop notebooks.  (If you’re interested, the writing paper my children are using for their journals is from DonnaYoung.org.)  This added to the difficulty sufficiently that Firecracker was not bored.  I can easily say that he loves the program and is happy with the writing he is doing.

Rose, however, is an artistic child and not interested in being told what to write about.  She complained her way through this curriculum because she didn’t want to be given topics to write about and she doesn’t want me to direct her writing.  Hubby and I have both sat with her and explained that one must learn how to actually write before one can write well.  I think that this curriculum has value and that the deeper she gets into it the more challenged and interested she will be.

prewriting activities

This curriculum is not exactly open-and-go.  There are some advance preparation activities that the teacher has to set up in advance.  These activities are specified by a gray box and are labeled “Advance Preparation.”  It would be in your best interest, when using this curriculum to look a unit ahead at the advance preparation and the supply list.  However, once the advance preparation is done, the lessons are open and go.

I feel certain that we will continue with this curriculum, especially as we head into fall.  I have enjoyed our daily writing times together, and I think this will provide a great daily writing practice along with adding techniques in for the children as they write.  I think the concerns that Rose has about topics and writing will be smoothed away as we progress further into the book and there is more room for creativity.

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4 thoughts on “WriteShop Primary: Book A (Review)

    • Thank you! Firecracker’s had several great journaling pieces that shows how he’s grown through guided writing, but he wouldn’t let me share them. He said it was too private. Why do they get big enough to jave opinions about our writing? LOL

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