Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Write Shop Primary Book A: Early Elementary Incremental Writing Program

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, we received Write Shop Primary, Book A to review.  It's designed for Kindergarten - 1st grade students ... or the reluctant 2nd grader.  Well, that would be my 2nd grade son ... reluctant.  I decided to work through this with him. 

Each of my children has been fearful of writing.  Some struggled to express the thoughts in their head in a way that satisfied them.  Others seemed afraid of making spelling or grammar mistakes.  I've tried to encourage them to just write, to just begin.  I don't want writing to be so daunting to them, and have attempted to just get them started writing before we addressed issues of spelling and grammar. 

At times I felt that perhaps I was helping them too much, giving them too many suggestions or prompts.  I have even felt guilty for allowing them to dictate to me instead of writing for themselves.  But one of the very first things we did with Write Shop Primary, Book A was a guided writing exercise.  Aha!  The same methods I had used to help my children think through their writing assigments was the very one used in the book.  I'll be honest and admit I found that reassuring.  I know Write Shop is a quality writing program that many homeschoolers use, and I was glad to see that it uses a method similar to what I have used.

I haven't made writing a focus of our early years of school.  Our focus has always been on reading at that point, but Write Shop Primary makes it easy to introduce writing to our students.  For me, the ease is in the fact that the lesson ideas are there for me already.  I don't have to think of an age appropriate writing assignment ... it's there.  The other benefit is that having a curriculum which makes it so easy can keep me from neglecting this subject.

I'm thankful that Write Shop Primary uses an interactive, parent-involved approach to writing.  I prefer using interactive methods of education with my young children, building up their independence as they reach upper elementary and junior high.

Not only does Write Shop Primary take an incremental approach to teaching writing for our students, it also breaks down the process of using Write Shop Primary for the parents.  The introductory section includes charts that suggest a schedule for teaching at different paces, and for teaching multiple levels of Write Shop Primary.  The instructions are very clear and understandable.

In addition, Write Shop Primary's Activity Set Worksheet Pack includes an evaluation sheet  to help the parent evaluate their child's writing and their progress.  Evaluation is likely the hardest part of teaching writing, for many homeschool parents.   It seems so subjective.  The evaluation sheet provides questions to help you with this process.

What does it cost?
  Write Shop sells the Write Shop Primary Book A teacher's guide for $26.95.  The e-book version is available for $24.25.  The Activity Set Worksheet Pack is available in print for $4.95, and as an e-book for $4.50.

What is included in this curriculum?  The teacher's book is available in a spiral bound softcover version, or an e-book.   It includes 10 lessons, divided into 8 mini-lessons, and a 20 page introduction with instructions for the parents.  The appendix includes a master supply list and a list of picture books to use with the lessons.  (I love the books on this list!)  The worksheet packet is sold separately, in print or e-book format.  You can view a placement chart, lesson sample, and worksheet sample HERE.

How long to complete the curriculum?
  If you follow the 3 week/lesson plan, it is a full year's curriculum.  If you follow the 2 week/lesson plan, then you will finish it and move onto level B before your year is over.  The 1 week/lesson plan will get you through the book in 10 weeks, and you can cover all 3 levels in one school year at that pace.  The introduction includes guidance on which plan to follow for your child's age and abilities.

Can you use it with multiple ages?
  Well, it isn't designed to be used in that way, but you can.  If you have children close in age, you could use it with both, assigning the older student to do more independent work and write longer assignments.  It would take more tweaking for that, but that is how I used it when I was reviewing it.  I used it with my Kindergartner, and my 2nd grader.  I even drew the 4th grader in for some assignments, expanded to her level.

Is this curriculum a necessity?  No.  You could teach writing to your young elementary students without it.  Some unit studies and other curricula do include writing suggestions for your children, and you could use those to teach writing.  But Write Shop Primary breaks down the steps of the writing process in a very helpful way.  It teaches children HOW to put their thoughts on paper instead of just saying "Write about your dog."

Is it reusable?  Yes.  Write Shop Primary teacher's book is reusable and non-consumable.  The worksheet packet (sold separately) is reproducible for SINGLE family use only.  You can make as many copies as your family needs, to teach it to multiple children.  But, while you could sell your Write Shop Primary teacher's book, you can not sell your worksheet packet.  However, the worksheet packet is  inexpensive. 

Who would benefit most from Write Shop Primary?  Those required to cover certain subjects and report on them to an overseer.  Those who have a child that needs extra help learning to express their thoughts in writing.  Those who need help (either with the methods or the accountability) teaching writing to their children.  If you're using the Charlotte Mason methods of dictation, narration, and copywork, then this curriculum may not be necessary or helpful to you.

My final thoughts ...
I can't see myself using this curriculum as intended.  I don't see me adding in weekly structured writing assignments for early elementary students.  I prefer to use Charlotte Mason methods of dictation, narration and copywork, as well as more natural writing opportunities.  We just do not use much curriculum at this age. 

However, it is a well-designed and helpful curriculum.  It is well-written and would provide an excellent introduction to writing for elementary students.  Although it isn't for our family, I would definitely recommend Write Shop Primary, Book A to others looking for a writing curriculum.  Having seen its quality and the incremental approach it uses, I am very interested in their upper level curriculum for our older students.

Click the banner at the top to read more reviews on this product by other Homeschool Crew members.

Trusting in Him,

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