Entries from August 2012 ↓

2000 Facebook fans {and a great freebie}

Congratulations to us!

Yesterday, our WriteShop Facebook page hit 2000 fans … and then kept right on going!

To celebrate, we’re offering a thank-you gift to all our Facebook fans: a fantastic free writing lesson you can use for all ages!

Your Freebie Includes:

  • How to write a friendly letter — includes help choosing topics to write about
  • How to write a thank-you letter — with a special section called “What If You Don’t Like the Gift?”
  • Learning the parts of a letter
  • How to address an envelope
  • Sample letters
  • Links to free printables: stationery, note cards, and envelopes
  • Letter-writing tips and etiquette
  • Ways to incorporate letter-writing into other subjects {think history!}

Thanks again, Facebook fans!  Click here to download the gift. FREE OFFER HAS EXPIRED

Not a fan yet? Just follow the link and *like* our page to download your free lesson.

Happy writing,

WriteShop Special: This week only!

Now through Sunday, save $14 on everything you need to get started with WriteShop for grades 6-10—including this cool 8 1/2″ x 11″ poster featuring the 5 Steps of the Writing Process! 

Just visit our virtual booth at HomeschoolConvention.com and click the red Convention Special sign!

Hurry!! Sale ends September 2, 2012 (midnight EST).

4 tips for writing college application essays

Preparing teens to write solid essays during early high school will make them more comfortable with writing college application essays.

THOUGH IT’S been 14 years, it seems like only yesterday that my first college-bound child began filling out forms, submitting transcripts, making lists of extra-curricular activities, and yes—writing college application essays.

Each university had its own specific essay guidelines, so each essay she wrote had to be unique as well (not to mention engaging enough to set it apart from the rest of the applicants’ submissions).

Is your child preparing for university? The admissions essay doesn’t have to be a deterrent. Here are four things you can do to help teens prepare for this task:

1. Teach Essay Writing

I’m sure this seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many parents have not begun teaching essay writing to their soon-to-graduate teens.

Whether writing is your weakest area or your strongest, it can easily take a back seat to other subjects in your homeschool. To keep writing at the forefront, make sure to schedule it into your weekly lesson plans. You may need to invest in a curriculum that lays a foundation and equips teens with tools to sharpen and enliven their writing.

In addition, regularly assign essays related to other subjects of study such as literature and history. Frequent practice with essay writing of all types will make the application-essay process that much less stressful.

2. Encourage Excellence

Lee Binz has made it her mission to help parents homeschool high school. In her article “What’s the Big Deal about a Little Essay?” she says, “Colleges want to know two things about your student – who they are and how well they communicate.”

The folks in admissions read hundreds, if not thousands, of essays every year. Many of these essays are poorly written, lacking in content, style, and creativity. It doesn’t have to be this way! When your students’ essays are lively, personal, and carefully edited, they will stand out from among their dull counterparts.

3. Promote Concise, Honest Writing

Admissions personnel are not impressed by pompous writing. Teach your teen—in all essay writing—to speak plainly, articulately, and honestly. While well-chosen, mature vocabulary words can certainly be tucked into the essay here and there, the text should be clearly written and easy to read.

4. Plan Ahead

Beginning in 9th or 10th grade, essay writing should be part of every high schooler’s language arts diet. Whatever you do, please don’t wait till they’re seniors to introduce this skill!

According to Lee, teens should start the actual college-application process on the day their senior year begins (though essay writing itself shoud be introduced well beforehand). She often suggests that students practice writing essays beginning on the first day of their junior year.

“Practice college application essays before senior year,” she says. “If you go to a college fair, grab some application packets and look at their essay topics. Use those for writing assignments.”

Admissions counselors really do read these essays. They want to see how students handle various topics and how well they express themselves in writing. Preparing your teens to write solid essays during their earlier high school years will make them more comfortable with the process and more confident in their ability to communicate—no matter what the topic.

. . . . .

WriteShop IIWriteShop II teaches advanced descriptive narration, persuasion, and beginning essay writing (including timed essays). To learn more about WriteShop II for your high schooler, visit our website at www.writeshop.com.

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Leaving a journal legacy: Beyond “Dear Diary”

A Journal Legacy | A Journal Legacy | Help teens create a goldmine of unforgettable snapshots of the people in their life

JOURNALING can be the perfect activity to engage students in the writing process.

With no demands for extensive planning or revision, journals can chronicle your children’s maturing abilities, interests, and attitudes. A journal allows the creative student to unleash a host of ideas about current pursuits and future dreams.

As a journaling veteran, however, I caution you to beware, lest your kids start wandering into Dear Diary territory!

Emotional Diary . . . or Purposeful Journal?

A writing devotee by age eight, I entered the realm of embarrassing revelations when I turned thirteen. Soon, several diaries overflowed with my adolescent emotions, self-critiques of my personal appearance, and many internal debates.

Dreaming of a future marked by literary fame, I shielded myself from the awful truth: most of my “dear diary” entries were, at best, reserved for a shredder (or a bonfire, if my future self were to take a dramatic turn of mind)!

I knew better. After all, I had proudly worn my teen-volunteer badge at homeschool conventions and taken copious notes on myriad subjects. I still remember the afternoon session taught by the scholarly Miss Katherine Dang. In crisp tones, she admonished her audience: “Don’t keep a diary. If you don’t want anyone to read it, you should never write it down.”

In theory, I agreed with her wisdom. In practice, I allowed myself to fall under the deceptive charms of Fresh White Pages and Exquisite Binding.

Looking back, I wouldn’t say my time spent in self-examination, goal-setting, and introspection was wrong. Yet now I confidently follow and promote the principle of writing for a purpose, even in our personal lives.

We choose to homeschool in order to create a family legacy and impart a cultural and spiritual heritage. Therefore, we ought to write—and teach our children to write—with the forward-minded intention of leaving a legacy. Parents and students alike can create a journal legacy filled with snippets that future generations will learn from and thoroughly enjoy.

Create Character Sketches

The best journaling practice I’ve discovered is creating character sketches. How many people come into our lives for a season, only to move on or pass away before we’ve taken time to capture them in words? How many brothers, sisters, friends will grow up and change before we’ve reflected on the wonder and beauty of their earlier seasons of life?

Journal Legacy | A Journal Legacy | Help teens create a goldmine of unforgettable snapshots of the people in their lifeEach of us becomes a fuller, richer person for having crossed paths with a spirited daughter, sympathetic teacher, insightful grandfather, or iron-sharpens-iron friend. Their image, their words, and their effect on us ought not to be forgotten.

So find a quiet place, and invite your children to join you. Choose a new pen and a bright, fresh page. Close your eyes and think of someone who touched your life last year, last week, or this very morning, perhaps, writing your impressions of:

  • A child’s peculiar gait: the way he runs up to you out of breath and full of laughter, or the way he rambles with hands in pockets and head in the clouds.
  • An elderly aunt’s odd speech habits: the outdated expressions she uses on Sundays, or the pet names she bestows on each family member.
  • A brother’s endearing  facial expressions: the puzzled wrinkle of his eyebrows as he wrestles with a math problem, or his unconscious mouth-puckering at piano recitals.
  • A mother’s deep impression on you: the day she cried over long-forgotten photos, or the night she soothed your fever and sang you to sleep.

Defer Perfection

Remember, journals are for sketching, with plenty of rough edges but a wealth of heartfelt truth. You can fill in the sketch with color and details later, perhaps when you complete a WriteShop lesson.

If you do write your novel someday, you can sweat and strive to paint the perfect masterpiece, with every nuance of character in faithful hues of light and shade. For now, relax. Smile. Breathe. Your journal is becoming a goldmine of those unforgettable moments you’ve shared with remarkable, everyday people.

Don’t forget that you’re one of them.

Daniella Dautrich is a homeschool graduate and WriteShop alumna. A happily married writer and homemaker, she blogs at www.waterlilywriter.wordpress.com

Photos: Barabeke and Joy Coffman, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Choosing a writing program for teenagers

In choosing a writing program for teenagers, look for lessons that walk students through the writing process from brainstorming to final draft.

Recently, we peeked at WriteShop Primary and WriteShop Junior for elementary ages. But if you’re homeschooling for junior high or high school, you’ll want to consider WriteShop I and II, a writing program for teenagers.

WriteShop I and II – Middle and High School

The flagship WriteShop program sets teens on a course for success, guiding them through each step of the writing process.

I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful your program is. The improvement in my daughter’s writing is phenomenal.” —Sandy, North Carolina

Teacher’s Manual for WriteShop I & II

Award-winning WriteShop takes the guesswork out of teaching writing. The Teacher’s Manual helps you teach writing with confidence.

Containing daily lesson plans and schedules for both WriteShop I and II, the Teacher’s Manual offers tips for editing and grading, answer keys, student samples, and supplemental writing activities, as well as dozens of essay topics for WriteShop assignments.

I love WriteShop. I used to feel so inadequate teaching writing but now I am confident they are learning all the tools they will need for High School level writing.” —Heather, Montana

Student Workbooks

Assignments give students a chance to practice various kinds of writing, including creative, expository, and narrative.

  • WriteShop I gives your 6th-10th grader the basics of descriptive, informative, and narrative writing.
  • For grades 8-12, WriteShop II introduces descriptive narration, point of view, narrative voice, persuasion, and essay writing.

Lessons focus on clarity, conciseness, colorful vocabulary, and sentence variety, with a strong emphasis placed on the editing process. With each lesson, students learn and practice new skills, apply them to their current writing project, and edit and revise the composition several times.

The consumable workbooks contain Skill Builders, word banks, detailed lesson instructions, editing checklists, and grading forms. TM required.

First-timers should begin with the Basic Set or Starter Pack.

Someone asked me what I didn’t like about the program, and I couldn’t think of anything.” —Lynée Ward, iCHED

WriteShop also makes a great writing program choice for homeschool classes, co-ops, and private schools. As you consider curriculum decisions for the upcoming year, let us know how we can help!

Photo credit: Karah Fredricks. Used by permission.

Choosing an elementary writing program


FOR MANY homeschoolers, summer is the time of year to scour websites and homeschooling catalogs in search of just the right curriculum products for your children’s varying needs. So many subjects, so many choices! What to pick for science, math, history, language arts?

As you consider your purchases for writing and composition, here’s a brief overview of WriteShop— products that can help you feel more equipped as a teacher while giving your kids a leg up in the success department!

WriteShop Primary – Grades K-3

An introduction to early writing skills, WriteShop Primary gives young children tools to experience success as they develop the ability to plan and write stories.

Whether you have a more advanced child or one who is just beginning, this program’s flexibility lets your young students work at their own level. Pre-writers can even do all the activities orally!

Taylor has already asked if we can buy the other two books in the series … This really just speaks volumes for this program.” –Chris, Armyof5

Teacher’s Guide

Gently introduce writing through guided writing practice, favorite picture books, hands-on activities, and crafty writing projects. Extra challenges appear throughout each lesson to keep the interest of a more advanced child.

It’s also fun! Most writing programs seem kind of boring to me, but Write Shop Primary includes fun games, visuals, activities, crafts and books that help to enhance the writing experience.” –Erica, Confessions of a Homeschooler

Activity Set Worksheet Pack

WriteShop Primary Book BIn addition to your Teacher’s Guide, you will need a reproducible Activity Set Worksheet Pack to round out the program. Illustrated activity pages introduce or reinforce writing skills taught in each lesson. The pack also contains Evaluation Charts for tracking your child’s progress.

Not all children need to begin with WriteShop Primary Book A! We can help you choose the best starting level

WriteShop Junior – Grades 3-5

WriteShop Junior eases your upper-elementary students into writing. Engaging games and activities teach and review important writing and self-editing skills while keeping it fun for everyone. (Note: Only WriteShop Junior Book D is available at this time.)

Book D was so easy to teach, I couldn’t possibly fail! The lessons were concise and fun, which made my reluctant writer start to come out of his shell. His writing skills have come a long way—and so have mine.” –Kelley, SD

Teacher’s Guide

Easy-to-use lesson plans and schedules help you lead and guide your children through the steps of the writing process. WriteShop Junior exposes them to genre, fiction and nonfiction writing, and journal writing and introduces exciting new brainstorming and editing tools that truly motivate young writers!

Activity Pack with Fold-N-Go™ Grammar

Each 2-pack contains BOTH the Student Worksheet Pack AND Fold-N-Go™ Grammar Pack.

Student Worksheet Pack: Activity pages your child will need to complete portions of each lesson. These worksheets introduce WriteShop Junior Activity Pack w/Fold-N-Go Grammar, Book D - Print Editionyour child to writing skills such as brainstorming and self-editing.

Fold-N-Go™ Grammar Pack: Fun reference tools with simple exercises that introduce or review grammar rules and essential writing skills. Printed on brightly colored paper, pages are assembled inside a file folder to form 10 large flipbooks, one for each lesson in each WriteShop Junior book. {The Level 1 Fold-N-Go Grammar Pack is also available to purchase separately.}

The Fold-N-Go packs are really what I loved the most about the student part of this curriculum. It was the ‘hook.'” –Christina, I Have Been Blessed

Time-Saver Pack

For parents and teachers who appreciate shortcuts, the {optional} Time-Saver Pack includes a number of sturdy, ready-made props for activities featured throughout Book D, such as game cards and spinners.

If you prefer to make your own, that’s okay too! You’ll find instructions for each activity in the Teacher’s Guide.

WriteShop Junior SUMMER SPECIAL!

Get a FREE Time-Saver Pack ($14 value) when you purchase both Book D Teacher and Student books! Visit our virtual booth at HomeschoolConvention.com and look for the Summer Special banner. Hurry–Summer Special ends soon (offer valid thru August 15, 2012).

 

. . . . .

Now that you’ve had an overview of our younger-level writing programs, come back tomorrow for a look at WriteShop I and II for junior high and high school!

Photo credit: Karah Fredricks. Used by permission.

4 art-inspired writing projects

Art Inspired Writing Projects | Writing Across the Curriculum

SPECIAL PROJECTS can grow naturally from your children’s studies and interests. When they invest in a such a project, it can benefit them by:

  • Providing the opportunity for delight-directed learning;
  • Opening doors to more deeply explore a topic;
  • Appealing to their unique interests;
  • Allowing them to use their individual skills and abilities;
  • Helping them experience greater success with writing.

When kids are inventive, artistic, or crafty, it’s important to find ways to incorporate those interests into other subjects. They’ll more readily embrace a history, science, or other writing assignment when they can use their gifts and talents alongside the writing.

Here are a few ways imaginative students can combine creativity with writing using these art-inspired writing projects.

1. Alphabet Book

Create an illustrated alphabet book or scrapbook representing a historical era, single historical subject, civilization or country, or science topic.

  1. First, make an alphabetical list from A to Z. Brainstorm and write down several words, phrases, or terms for each letter of the alphabet that directly relate to your overall topic. Narrow your choices and make your final selections before creating pages.
  2. Make one page for each letter. Choose a word or phrase that relates to your book’s theme.  Example: xylem (Plant theme, letter X)
  3. Write a sentence that offers a brief explanation. Example: Xylem are plant tissues that transport water and minerals from the roots to other parts of a plant.
  4. Draw pictures or cut photos from a magazine or online source to illustrate the sentence and embellish pages.

Possible Themes: Japan, Incas, the Renaissance, the Civil War, the Victorian Era, nutrition and health, plants, rocks and minerals, weather 

2. State Birds or Flowers Book

Art Inspired Writing Projects | Writing Across the Curriculum

Research the birds or flowers for each of the 50 states, and make  an illustrated booklet.

Include the name of the bird or flower. In your own words, write a few sentences telling interesting facts about each.

This activity will take time, so spread it out over several months, perhaps drawing and coloring two birds or flowers each week. This would also make a great family or group project!

State Birds
Official US State Birds
State Flowers
Official US State Flowers

3. Collage

What period of time are you studying? Design and make a collage about a certain decade, historical era, invention, or historical figure. Collect pictures from online sources or old magazines such as National Geographic, which you can often pick up at library sales or thrift stores for pennies.

Alternatively, create a college that reflects the popular cultureof a particular time period. Your collage could include painters/artists, books/authors, sports figures, entertainers, musicians/music titles, and clothing for a certain decade or era.

Either way, prepare a written guide that explains the symbols, people, and other images you chose, telling the importance of each.

How to Make a Collage
14 Tips on How to Make a Collage (see “Paper Collage”)
Make Collage Art Using Magazine Clippings

4. Coloring Book

Do you draw or sketch? This would be a great way to use your artistic skills!

  1. Create 12-15 outline drawings that illustrate the life of a famous historical figure, the historic events of a particular era, sea creatures from an oceanography study, leaves or flowers from a plant study, or other subject-specific area you’re learning about.
  2. Add a caption to each page.
  3. Include an appendix for the back of the coloring book that features a brief paragraph about each of the coloring pages.
  4. Design and color a cover.
  5. Assemble the pages into a book, which you can have bound inexpensively at most office-supply or copy stores.

Consider photocopying the originals to create several coloring books to share with others.

Photos: Adreson Vita Sá and bobistraveling, courtesy of Creative Commons.
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