Giveaway | WriteShop Junior Book E

Giveaway | WriteShop Junior Book E

Have you been drooling over WriteShop Junior Book E? Kris at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers is hosting a giveaway at her blog! Here’s your chance to win the complete Value Pack, which includes the Teacher’s Guide, Student Activity Pack, Time-Saver Pack, and Junior Writer’s Notebook.

WriteShop Junior is a creative writing program that appeals to many learning styles. As with all WriteShop products, Book E helps you guide students through the steps of the writing process. To keep the experience fun, each lesson includes games and activities that teach and review important writing and self-editing skills.

Book E is recommended for 4th and 5th grade, but many families are using it successfully with 6th and 7th graders as well.

Moms and Kids Love Book E!

“I really like that WriteShop is gently scripted and that it offers possible answers while I am guiding and prompting my child.” Michelle, Delightful Learning

“This is a fun introduction into formal writing instruction for her. She has felt very successful.” Lisa, Chickens, Bunnies, and Homeschool

“She loves it! They’ve hit just the right point between learning and fun, and the hands-on activities are always a hit.” Shawna, Tenacity Divine

Easy to Teach

The Book E Teacher’s Guide holds your hand as you take your child through activities that teach prewriting, brainstorming, writing, editing, and publishing. Even though lessons follows a consistent format, the activities offer loads of variety to ensure that your kids eagerly anticipate each lesson.

You’ll also appreciate the schedules that divide the writing process into manageable chunks, making WriteShop Junior easy for you to teach and easy for your child to understand. The program works equally well for reluctant writers and motivated ones. Everyone will feel successful using this exciting new program!

Read Kris’s review of WriteShop Junior Book E and enter the drawing.

Giveaway ends Wednesday, July 23, 2014.

Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Creative writing photo prompts that tickle the imagination

These creative writing photo prompts invite kids to write imaginative, whimsical stories about mysterious and magical places!

It’s fun to take inspiration from a photo, especially when the image is unusual enough to tickle the imagination! Your children are sure to love these four creative writing photo prompts that invite them to write whimsical stories about mysterious and magical places!

The Butterphant

While on a walk through a blossoming meadow, you discover a mouse-sized elephant with butterfly ears flitting among the flowers. What is it doing? Are there others like it? Is it friendly? What will happen if you capture it?

These creative writing photo prompts invite kids to write imaginative, whimsical stories about mysterious and magical places!

Castle on the Moor

Use at least five of these words to tell a story about this photo: wind, balcony, window, dungeon, troll, treasure, knight, mysterious, lonely, rescue

These creative writing photo prompts invite kids to write imaginative, whimsical stories about mysterious and magical places!

Honey, I Shrunk Myself!

Who is this tiny man? Where is he? What is he taking a photo of? What emotions is he feeling? Write a story explaining what’s happening in this picture.

These creative writing photo prompts invite kids to write imaginative, whimsical stories about mysterious and magical places!

Toy Story

Day after day, these Pez heads sit quietly on display in the candy store. But when the store closes in the evening and the owner goes home, funny things begin to take place! What happens at night in the candy store? Write a story from the point of view of one of the Pez heads.

These creative writing photo prompts invite kids to write imaginative, whimsical stories about mysterious and magical places!
Be
sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photo Credits: Fiona McAllister (“Castle“), (“Pez“), Nathan O’Nions (“Viewfinder“), thethreesisters (“Elephant“) courtesy of Creative Commons

How to edit and grade writing | Grading high school papers

Grading high school papers intimidates many homeschoolers. Here are six ways to help you be more objective when evaluating student writing assignments.

Part 1: How to Edit and Grade Writing | Editing High School Papers

One of the hardest parts of teaching writing is knowing how to evaluate a paper. It seems like such risky business—a subjective effort characterized by inconsistency and wild guesses. Last week we might have let an error slip by, yet this week we’ll red-pencil that same mistake with a vengeance.

One thing is certain: Arbitrary grading will never help your student become a better writer.

Homeschooling moms are always relieved to learn that parts of writing can be quantified. Sure, there will always be judgment calls about clarity, content, and organization. But here’s the good news: when you’re able to give a grade based on (mostly) measurable standards, your confidence will soar!

I learned to grade papers by trial, error, and necessity when I first began teaching writing. Many years and hundreds of papers later, those methods have proved solid and reliable—and I’m confident they’ll help you’ll feel more prepared.

1. Use an Evaluation Form

If you’re anything like I used to be, you worry about under- or overcorrecting. You make stabs in the dark. Your daughter’s paper may “feel” like a B, but when she asks why she didn’t get an A, you don’t have a good answer. You simply don’t know how to tackle that final draft.

But guess what? You’ll be miles ahead when you use a rubric that helps you grade objectively.

This can be:

  • A rubric that comes with your writing program, such as the WriteShop I and II composition (and essay) evaluation forms;
  • printable grading form you find online; or
  • One you create yourself using the assignment’s standards.

2. Tell Students What to Anticipate

Before they start writing their rough drafts, teens should already know what you’ll be looking for along the way. That way, there won’t be any bombshells when they get their final grade—a grade determined not by your random whims, but by how well they met the expectations of the lesson.

3. Expect Progress

You edit earlier drafts and grade final drafts.

Remember: most student’s papers will be much better by the end because they’ve been revised and rewritten at least twice. Therefore, don’t be surprised if the final drafts score consistently well. Your goal is mastery, so it’s natural to see progress and improvement from draft to draft!

4. Know What to Look For

GRADE FOR CONTENT

The meat of a paper is its content, which you grade according to subject matter, substance, argument, evidence, logic, or other relevant criteria.

If this is an essay, also include an evaluation of the thesis statement. In one or two sentences, the thesis should state the essay topic, give the purpose of the essay, and suggest the main points that will be developed in the paragraphs that follow.

A typical writing assignment goes through each of these stages:

Not every paper must jump through these hoops. For the learning experience of proper writing, only one paper at a time needs to go through the entire writing process. For example, a book report, science article, biography, literature essay, or history report might be evaluated on content alone.

GRADE FOR STYLE AND ORGANIZATION

When grading a paper’s style, look at the kinds of words and sentences your student has used. Style can include concreteness, conciseness, sentence variety, tense agreement, and voice.

An effective essay is also unified and well organized. Each paragraph in the body of the paper should begin with a topic sentence telling the main point of the paragraph. In a persuasive essay, each paragraph should begin with a sentence that makes a claim. The body of that paragraph, then, should support the claim with examples, facts, and logic. The more solid the content, the higher the grade you can assign.

A fictional story or narrative will be organized in a different way, but it should still flow well from start to finish. For a stronger grade, this kind of prose should follow the five stages of storytelling.

GRADE FOR MECHANICS

Grammar, punctuation, spelling, and sentence completeness fall under the heading of mechanics. A high-scoring paper will be free (or nearly free) of mechanical errors.

Run-on sentences, sentence fragments, or misplaced modifiers will count against the final score, while using parts of speech and punctuation marks accurately and making sure words are correctly spelled will contribute to a higher grade.

5. Assign Points

Ah, that’s the tricky part, isn’t it? How do you decide how many points to give? There are many ways to assign/deduct points, such as:

100-POINT NARRATIVE

  • Content can include paragraph unity and development, subject matter, use of details and examples (40 points)
  • Style can include voice, readability and sentence fluency, sentence variety, vocabulary, conciseness (40 points)
  • Mechanics includes grammar, punctuation, spelling, and correct sentence structure (20 points)

100-POINT ESSAY

  • Content can include thesis, development of main points with facts and examples, topicality, conclusion (45 points)
  • Style can include organization, clarity/fluency, sentence style and complexity, parallelism, vocabulary, use of transitions (45 points)
  • Mechanics includes grammar, punctuation, spelling, and correct sentence structure (10 points)

6. Take Attitude into Consideration

When bad behavior persists from beginning to end—even if the paper itself has improved—you’re well within your rights to give consequences. So if your teen’s attitude has been just awful throughout the entire writing process (e.g., unwillingness to brainstorm thoroughly, disrespect for deadlines, refusal to accept feedback or make changes), take this into account when giving points.

7. Be Flexible and Fair

What happens when you find mistakes in the final draft? As a rule, don’t penalize students for mistakes they weren’t told about earlier in the editing process. If you happened to miss something during parent editing (and therefore failed to bring it to your teen’s attention), he can only assume what he’s written is correct.

Let’s say, for example, that you didn’t catch an awkwardly written sentence in an earlier draft—but it jumps out at you in the final. As you’re grading, you might let that one slide. Point out the error, certainly, but assure him you’re not penalizing him for your earlier oversight. Kids always appreciate fairness!

On the other hand, if he’s simply careless with spelling or punctuation, or he writes a sentence fragment when he clearly knows better, you’re within your rights to deduct points accordingly.

Finally, if you’ve discussed the paper and identified ways to improve it—and the final draft reflects many positive changes—give full points whenever possible (along with kudos, of course!).

Grading high school papers doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Start small. Be consistent. Cheer your kids on. I know you’ll get the hang of it!

6 beach-themed writing prompts

These beach themed writing prompts will help kids make up stories, plan a seaside tea party menu, choose a crab's new house, or make three wishes!

Whether you live near the coast or far inland, nothing says “summertime” like the beach! Gather your kids around the table for some summer writing fun, using these beach themed writing prompts as a jumping-off point. They’ll love creating imaginative stories, planning menus for a doll’s tea party, or choosing a new home for a crab.

1. The House that Herb Built

Herb the Hermit Crab has outgrown his shell. In his search for a new place to live, he comes across a plastic cup, a tin can, and a large, empty snail shell. Which one will he choose for his new home? Explain your answer.

2. On the Morning Tide

On a morning beach stroll, you stumble upon an unusual item that has washed ashore. Write a paragraph telling what is it, where it came from, and whether you will keep it or throw it back into the ocean.

3. Ocean Overtures

Describe the ocean using all five senses. What color is the water? How does it move? What sounds do you hear? How does ocean spray feel and taste? If you have never been to the ocean, use your imagination! Or, with a parent, you can watch some of these short ocean video clips:

Waves Crashing on Rocky Beach

Birds Flying Over the Ocean

Thailand Sea

Sunny Oregon Coast

Turquoise Waves on a California Beach

4. Digging Deeper

Write a short story beginning with this line: My jaw dropped when a tiny voice at the edge of my shovel said, “Don’t hurt me!”

5. Genie of the Shell

At a beachside souvenir shop, you buy a beautiful golden shell. As you polish the shell to remove some crusted sand, a genie suddenly pops out to grant you three wishes! His only condition is that each wish must bless someone other than you. Who will benefit from your wishes? Explain what you will wish for, and why.

6. I’ll Have a Sand-wich

You are a restaurant owner who has been hired to cater a doll’s tea party. Create a beach-themed summer menu for the party guests using only items you might find at the seashore. Give each dish a descriptive name, such as “Mixed Seaweed Salad in Clam Shells.” Include each of the following on your menu: Appetizer, Soup, Salad, Main Course, Dessert, and Beverage.

Did you enjoy these writing ideas? If so, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photo Credit: Bill Sutton, courtesy of Creative Commons.

July Homeschool Conventions

WriteShop will be exhibiting at several conventions this month. We’d love to see you there!

July 2014 WriteShop Conventions

July 11-12

AFHE – Arizona Families for Home Education
Phoenix, AZ
www.afhe.org/

Kim Kautzer’s Vendor Workshop: Inspiring Successful Writers

July 11-12

H.I.N.T.S. Book Fair
Matthews, NC
http://hintsonline.org/bookfair.htm

Workshop: (TBD)

July 25-26

VHE – Valley Home Educators
Modesto, CA
www.valleyhomeeducators.org

Kim Kautzer

Kim Kautzer is a featured speaker at VHE:

  • Writing is a Process, Not a One-Time Event!
  • Teaching the Timed Essay
  • Writing Strategies for Special Needs Kids

Visit the Vendor Booth

As you begin looking toward the next school year, it’s also the perfect time to stop by the WriteShop booth to ask questions, see what’s new, or browse through our full line of WriteShop products in person.

WriteShop Products

Thumb through the exciting new WriteShop Junior Book E materials –>

Learn how you can teach a WriteShop co-op class in your area

Receive much-needed encouragement about teaching writing

We’re looking forward to meeting you!

Free Robot Writing Printable

Robots come in all shapes and sizes. Imagine you are a medical nanobot exploring the brain. What did you find? How did you get there? What did you see? Write down your observations on this month’s free robot writing printable.

Free robot-themed printable writing prompt

Click the image above to download the “robot-themed” free writing printable. If you would like to share this free writing prompt with others, link to this post. Do not link directly to the PDF file.

Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

4 Independence Day activities for middle school kids

Independence Day activities for middle school kids include focusing on our freedoms, writing an adventure, making family flags and planning a party

July 4th is just around the corner! For holiday fun, here are four simple Independence Day activities for middle school kids. (There’s a good chance your other children will enjoy them too!) This week, why not try one or two on for size?

1. Make a “Freedoms” Chain

In many countries, people don’t enjoy the same liberties as most Americans. This activity will help you reflect on the many freedoms and choices you have as a citizen of the United States.

  1. Cut red, white, and blue construction paper into strips approximately 1” x 8”. On each strip, write one freedom you’re thankful for, such as: I’m free to read books of my choice.
  2. Roll one strip of paper into a circle and tape or staple the ends together.
  3. Loop the next strip of paper through the circle to form the next link in your chain.
  4. Keep going until your chain is as long as you want. (If you want a longer chain, but you’ve run out of word strips, you may add plain paper strips to your chain.)
  5. Hang up your chain. Each day, read one of your freedoms—and be thankful!

2. Write Your Own Adventure

Write a story about an unexpected 4th of July adventure. Use at least six of the following words:

baseball, home run, disappeared, fireworks, hot dog, foul ball, surprise, famous, explosion, stadium, mistake, sister

3. Design a Family Flag

Did you know that flag colors have special meanings?

Red can mean courage, change, strength, or heroism
Yellow can represent honor, loyalty, or humility
Green can be symbolic of hope, growth, or fruitfulness
Blue can mean freedom, justice, wisdom, good fortune, or patriotism
Black can mean determination, grief, or sorrow
White often represents peace, purity, harmony, or faith
Purple isn’t often found in national flags, but it is known as the color of royalty or sacrifice

Take some time to learn about the meaning of the colors and symbols in the American flag, and then make a flag of your own!

  1. On a sheet of white paper, design and color a flag that represents your family.
  2. Include shapes and images that have special meaning. You can use traditional shapes such as a cross, stars, or stripes; objects from nature such as leaves, trees, or mountains; animals; vehicles; outline of your state; or other symbols.
  3. Using separate lined paper, explain what each symbol and color says about your family.

4. Plan a Celebration!

For many families, July 4th means celebrating our nation’s independence at backyard barbecues, patriotic parades, or picnics at the lake. Some gather on front lawns at dusk to eat homemade ice cream and twirl sparklers, while others take in baseball games and fireworks shows.

If it were up to you to plan this year’s Independence Day festivities, where would you have your party? Whom would you invite? What foods would you eat? Would you plan activities?

Either jot your ideas in list form or write a one-page sensory description of your holiday celebration. This Independence Day word bank will help!

Writing prompts about books

Using books as a springboard, kids can discuss characters' personality traits, describe a main character, and persuade a friend to read a book.

This article contains affiliate links for books we think your family will love!

From wordless books to favorite novels, your kids’ reading can provide a springboard to book-themed writing activities. This week, let them take journaling inspiration from literature with these writing prompts about books.

1. You Have to Read This Book!

Some books are like best pals: we never get tired of spending time with them! Think of such a book—one you love to read again and again. Then, persuade a friend to read this book by making a list of 6-10 reasons why it’s so appealing.

2. No Words

Find a wordless book—one that has mostly pictures and no (or very few) words—and write a story to go along with each page in the book. It will help to ask yourself what is happening in the picture, how each character might feel, and what might happen next. Feel free to give the characters names!

Encourage kids to write a story that goes along with a wordless book such as Chalk.
If you have younger siblings, you probably have some wordless books lying around, such as ChalkGood Night, Gorilla, or The Red Book. If not, visit the library and look for one of the shorter books on this list of 10 wordless books

3. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

In fiction, the protagonist is often called the “good guy,” while the antagonist—the character who opposes the protagonist—is known as the “bad guy.”

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, for instance, Aslan is the protagonist and the evil White Witch is the antagonist. In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the protagonist, of course, is Alice, who finds herself at odds with the cruel Queen of Hearts.

Choose a protagonist from a favorite book and explain how this character’s behavior and positive character qualities inspire respect or admiration. Then, think of an antagonist (from the same book or a different one) and explain what makes this character unlikable.

4. She’s Got Personality

Have you ever thought about writing a novel? If so, you probably already have ideas about the characters you might include!

Write a paragraph that describes your main character. Include details about this character’s appearance, personality traits, likes or dislikes, and a surprising or interesting fact about his or her background. If you get stuck thinking of words, you can find some ideas here and here.

Did you enjoy these writing ideas? If so, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photo Credit: Kozzi

Dream vacation writing prompts for kids

Let’s face it. When you tell your kids you’re going on vacation, it usually means a road trip to visit Grandpa and Grandma!

Sure, you might spend a week at the beach—or even blow a wad at Disney World—but it’s pretty unlikely that most homeschooling families can afford to take the children to faraway places around the globe.

Dream vacation writing prompts let kids dream about exotic trips to places they may never get to visit, such as an English castle or African savanna.

That’s what I love about today’s dream vacation writing prompts: they let your kids dream about exotic trips to places they may never otherwise get to visit. So, what are you waiting for? Pull out the atlas and set the kids free to do some armchair traveling!

1. Hakuna Matata

You just found out your family is going on an African safari! Write about four things you will do at your exciting destination.

2. How I Spent My Summer Vacation

What if your restful summer vacation turned into an unexpected adventure? Write a story about this crazy experience using at least five words from this list: roof, jewels, thief, trap door, popcorn stand, tourist, speedboat, bookstore, escape, camera.

3. Where in the World?

If you could travel anywhere in the world for a two-week vacation, where would you go? Write a letter convincing your parents to take you there.

4. Distinctive Digs

Imagine spending the summer in Great Britain! For your holiday accommodations, would you rather:

  • Lodge at a restored English castle?
  • Explore the Devonshire countryside from a thatched-roof cottage?
  • Stay in a lighthouse on the rugged coast of Scotland?
  • Sleep in a fancy hotel in the heart of London?

Explain the reasons for your choice.

5. Horsin’ Around

Your aunt and uncle have just invited you to spend a week at a dude ranch in Colorado. Make a list of 10 things you’ll want to pack in your suitcase.

Did you enjoy these writing ideas? If so, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

. . . . .

Photo Credits: “Eiffel Tower” by Lauren ManningAn Interesting Animal” by Justin Jensen, “A girl and her Canon” by John Benson, “Bodiam Castle” by Phillip Capperused under CC BY

How to edit and grade writing | Editing high school papers

Tips for homeschool parents who need help learning how to edit and grade writing, esp. their high school students' compositions and essays.

Homeschooling middle and high school kids carries an extra weight that isn’t nearly as evident when we’re teaching our younger ones: the older the kids get, it seems, the more intimidating it becomes to homeschool them.

Moms confess to me that writing is one of the most challenging subjects for them to teach. And when it comes to editing and grading that writing, they feel like they’re all adrift.

Do you feel that way too? Take heart! If you’re just starting to teach writing to your teens, don’t expect to know everything at the beginning! It’s a learning process, and I hope these editing and grading tips will give you more confidence.

Today we’ll look at editing your students’ compositions with the intent of helping them write stronger final drafts. Then next time, we’ll talk about how to actually grade those finished papers.

Begin with Self-Editing  

After your teen writes a rough draft, have him use a writing checklist to look for errors in his own writing. (Some programs, such as WriteShop I and II, include checklists—and they’re invaluable to both student and parent.)

Once he has self-edited his rough draft and written a revision, it’s time for you to review it and make suggestions before he writes a final draft.

Use a Teacher Writing Checklist  

A well-written checklist will remind you of the lesson’s expectations so you don’t have to make guesses about what that composition or essay should include. This is the key to being objective and consistent. Using a checklist keeps you focused and fair because you’re not making stabs in the dark. Instead, you know just what you’re looking for as you edit the text.

Your child has had a chance to self-edit and revise already; this is your opportunity to catch and comment on anything that still needs attention. Typically, the more suggestions you give during editing, the better his final drafts will become. As you edit, do your best to identify the errors your student has missed during his own self-editing. Otherwise, he won’t even realize he made those mistakes—and they’ll go uncorrected in the final draft.

Is It Laziness?

Your role is to help your teens spot errors he just doesn’t see—those subjective details such as “strong topic sentence” or “communicated clearly.” He may think he’s done those things, but if you believe differently, you can then steer him in the right direction.

On the other hand, if he’s clearly being lazy about self-editing, and he’s not catching obvious things (such as “to be” verbs, repeated or weak words, or missing sentence variations), return the paper to him and tell him you will edit his paper once he has done his job.

Try These Editing Tips

Not only are the following ideas helpful for parent editing, they’re great tips to share with your teen when he does his own self-editing.

SEARCH FOR ONE KIND OF PROBLEM AT A TIME. Read through the paper several times. As you do, watch for something specific each time, such as strong word choice, sentence variety, grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, etc.

1. Content

Check the paper’s content. Did your teen fulfill the lesson expectations? Are there areas where he needs  to add more details, facts, or explanation? Are any parts of the text unclear?

2. Organization

Is the writing organized and easy to follow? Does it flow well from one point to the next? Does he use transition words and phrases to connect ideas?

3. Clarity

Is the paper’s tone appropriate for the audience? Does your student need to restructure any awkward or wordy sentences to make sure his writing is clear and readable?

4. Mechanics and Word Choice

Look for misspelled words and grammatical errors. Check sentence structure, word choice, and punctuation. Again, you’re more likely to catch errors if you look for one of these details each time you make a pass through the paper.

BE POSITIVE. Note things your student did well. Finding every error should not be your primary goal. Yes, it’s important and necessary to identify mistakes. Otherwise, your teen’s writing will never get better! Just remember to edit with grace and kindness so your suggestions are more well-received.

An Analogy

Learn how editing a writing assignment is like making chicken stockSuppose you’ve just made a big pot of chicken soup. You ask your teenager to take out the large chunks of vegetables, meat, and bones—anything he can scoop out with a large slotted spoon. This is just like self-editing, where he catches obvious errors in content, style, and mechanics himself.

When he has finished removing the big pieces, you then strain the broth to catch whatever he missed—those soggy celery leaves or pieces of onion skin that still remain. This is like parent editing, where you find the errors that are less evident to him—as well as the occasional bigger mistakes that went unnoticed the first time.

Even after straining the stock, you may find a few bits that never got caught—and that’s okay! It won’t ruin the soup. Likewise, neither you nor your teen will always spot every writing error. That, too, is okay.

In truth, even if you only catch half the mistakes in his writing, his revision will be greatly improved over the first draft. So relax and do your best, dear homeschooling mom, knowing that your encouraging input is making a difference.

Photos: woodleywonderworks and SaucyGlo, courtesy of Creative Commons
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