Entries Tagged 'WriteShop' ↓

WriteShop Primary: More help with choosing a starting level

No matter the curriculum, whether math, penmanship, or writing, picking the best starting level for your child can challenge the most seasoned homeschooler—especially when said child doesn’t exactly fit a grade-specific mold.

WriteShop Primary is no exception—you may need more help picking a starting level than the placement chart offers. The following lists identify specific skills within a range of ages, making it easier for you to choose the very best place to begin the program.

Start with Book A if your 5- to 7-year-old is not yet able to:

  • Identify beginning, middle, and end in a story.
  • Complete predictable sentence starters.
  • Identify and use punctuation marks at the end of a sentence.
  • Begin a sentence with a capital letter.
  • Choose an appropriate title.
  • Think of simple ways to improve a story.
  • Read and write color words.
  • Recognize words that rhyme.

NOTE: Reading and writing skills are NOT required for Book A students. All work may be done orally.

WriteShop Primary Book A (print version)
WriteShop Primary Book A (e-book version)

Start with Book B if your 6- to 8-year-old is not yet able to:

  • Identify or use paragraph form and indentation.
  • Use graphic organizers to plan a story.
  • Include a beginning, middle, and end in his story.
  • Figure out how to add more details to a story.
  • Organize a story to include a problem and its solution.
  • Choose story endings.
  • Write or dictate a friendly letter.
  • Write or dictate about something that has happened to him.
  • Retell nursery rhymes and fairy tales in his own words.
  • Identify the parts of a friendly letter.
  • Identify words that rhyme.
  • Use standard spelling tools such as a dictionary.

WriteShop Primary Book B (print version)
WriteShop Primary Book B (e-book version)

Start with Book C if your 7- to 9-year-old is not yet able to:

  • Plan the main ingredients of a story before beginning to write.
  • Ask who, what, when, where, and why? in order to add story details.
  • Organize story details.
  • Write entries in a personal journal.
  • Use descriptive words in his writing.
  • Write a short nonfiction article.
  • Summarize the contents of familiar books.
  • Collect research facts about a specific topic.
  • Write a simple, short report with introduction, body, and closing.
  • Use standard spelling.
  • Check his own work for correct spelling and punctuation.

WriteShop Primary Book C (print version)
WriteShop Primary Book C (e-book version)

Introducing WriteShop Primary Book C

WriteShop Primary Book C

At long last, we’re excited to announce the release of the final book of our WriteShop Primary series. Yes—WriteShop Primary Book C has arrived!

About WriteShop Primary

WriteShop Primary introduces young children to the steps of the writing process using engaging activities, crafts, and picture books. The program creates an environment that promotes a joy of learning in young students and helps them experience success as they develop the ability to write. Whether you have a more advanced child or one who is just beginning, this program is flexible so children can work at their own level.

Who can use Book C?

Book C is recommended for second and third grade, but many of our test families also used it successfully with reluctant fourth, fifth, and even sixth graders. Parents also appreciated being able to use the book with children who learn with difficulty.

In Book C, children learn to:

  • Plan, create, and publish simple stories, articles, and reports with parent help.
  • Choose the main ingredients of a story before beginning to write.
  • Learn to ask who, what, when, where, why?
  • Use different graphic organizers to plan a story.
  • Write entries in a personal journal.
  • Describe an object, a person, and a place.
  • Write a nonfiction article.
  • Write a book report.
  • Learn to use research to write a short report.
  • “Publish” stories through projects or crafts.

Other skills introduced in Book C

  • Using standard spelling
  • Identifying describing words
  • Using a simple self-editing checklist
  • Summarizing contents of familiar books
  • Collecting research facts about a specific topic
  • Using computer publishing software

Here’s what parents have been saying about Book C

“The lessons were simple enough to build my son’s confidence,
yet challenging enough that he was always learning something new.” –
Tammy, Florida

“I appreciate that I could teach three of my children at the same time and see each one’s writing improve. It’s beneficial for students with a wide variety of writing skills—non-writers, reluctant writers, disorganized writers—even enthusiastically prolific writers!” –Beth, South Carolina

“I am amazed at the progress my son made in such a short time. His ability to put his thoughts together in an organized way has improved dramatically. WriteShop Primary was very easy to teach. I loved that the lessons were easy to adapt to different learning styles.” –Bonnie, TX

Exclusive Introductory Offer for Blog Readers Only

Between October 20-31, you can order Book C, purchasing either a physical copy or the e-book version—and get 10% off!

Just leave a comment below and we’ll send you a coupon code by email entitling you to a 10% discount on Book C and the accompanying Activity Pack for Book C! (Good only at WriteShop. Offer ends October 31. )

Buy the physical book (print version)
Buy the e-book (PDF download)

From the mouths of babes…

boyMarcia in California wrote:

“My seventh grader started a two-day-a-week school this year. He has a fabulous English teacher. I asked him if the things we did last year [in WriteShop I] have helped. He said, ‘Oh yeah, mom, they’re teaching me all the same stuff. She just hasn’t gotten to paired adjectives yet.’  That made me smile. Thought you should know we are happy WriteShop customers!”

Last day to get 10% off Writeshop Primary B

Today is the last day to pre-order WriteShop Primary Book B and get a 10% discount. Offer ends at midnight Pacific time. Hurry!

Get your coupon code here.

Writing game: Toss the pepperoni!

Toss the Pepperoni! Fun writing game for primary kids that reinforces the elements of a story using paper "pepperoni" pieces.

Reading books with simple story lines can help your K-3rd grader become a better writer. Every story has certain key elements: character, setting, problem, solution, beginning, middle, end. But how can you help your child remember these elements and translate them to her writing?

Try tossing some pepperoni!

I’m not talking about a food fight, but a fun writing game for primary kids you can play with two or more players. Here’s how.

Toss the Pepperoni

Prepare the Game

Make the game board: Decorate a large piece of poster board with paint or markers to look like a giant pizza. Cut out the round pizza.

Make the game pieces: Prepare “pepperoni slices” as game pieces to toss onto the pizza. For each player, cut out seven 4-inch circles from sturdy cardboard. To keep the pepperoni pieces separate, use a different color cardboard for each player. (Alternatively, each player can color one side of his game pieces or mark them with a sticker. )Label each set of pieces with the following words, one word per piece: character, setting, problem, solution, beginning, middle, end.

Read a Picture Book

Choose a picture book to read to your child. Make sure there’s a storyline, not merely words or phrases. When finished:

  1. See if your child can identify the main character of the story.
  2. Ask her to describe the story’s setting—when and where the events took place.
  3. Ask her to identify the problem and solution.
  4. Discuss the beginning, the middle, and the end of the story.

Play the Game

Play a game together with your child to help her remember the important parts of the picture book you just read: character, setting, problem, solution, beginning, middle, and end.

  1. Place the giant pizza game board on the floor. Use a jump rope or piece of yarn to mark a line where players must stand when attempting to toss their game pieces onto the pizza.
  2. Take turns tossing game pieces like Frisbees. Before tossing a “pepperoni,” the player must read the word on the circle and give an example from the picture book that corresponds with the word. For instance, before your child tosses her game piece that is labeled “character,” she must name one of the characters in the story.
  3. The player with the most pepperoni slices on the pizza at the end wins the game.

 .  .  .  .  .

“Toss the Pepperoni” is just one of the many fun and creative activities WriteShop Primary uses to reinforce simple writing skills at the primary level. This game appears in Book B.

WriteShop I

teen girlHere’s something almost everyone can agree on: writing is one of the most intimidating, scary, overwhelming subjects to teach.

You struggle with your own inadequacy of never having been taught to write. Or perhaps you’re an intuitive writer who has no clue how to teach your children. Plus, writing just seems so stinkin’ subjective? How do you grade a composition effectively without making random stabs in the dark?

Then there are the kids. So many of us have children who live in terror of the blank page. Even if they’re verbal and always seem to have a lot to talk about, it just never manages to translates to their writing. It’s as though they’re crossing a bridge between Brain and Paper, but along the way, half of their ideas tumble off the bridge and into the canyon below (along with everything you ever taught them about spelling and grammar).

Our twofold goal at WriteShop is to equip parents to teach with confidence and to encourage students that writing doesn’t have to be scary or hard. Though we carry materials for a variety of ages, today I’m going to zero in on our flagship program, WriteShop I.

Who Can Use WriteShop I?

The beauty of the program is its flexibility and ability to encourage success in a wide range of students, whether they’re struggling seventh graders or articulate, motivated sophomores.

Each student improves according to his or her own ability, depending on factors such as age, vocabulary, maturity, and life experience. Students are not measured against one another; rather, their work is evaluated based on each lesson’s expectations.

Working with Different Levels

A tenth grader with a mature writing style and broad command of language may easily earn an A on a given paper. But an eighth grader with a limited vocabulary and little writing experience can also pull off an A on the exact same composition. Why? Because working at their own level, both students can follow the directions and meet the lesson’s expectations! Sure, one paper may be stronger—more interesting, descriptive, or stylistically mature. But it doesn’t make the other paper bad.

Both types of student will grow in their writing abilities. Both will learn to brainstorm effectively, organize their writing, self-edit and revise, and submit to parent feedback. Through this process, the tenth grader will hone her style, learn to write more concisely, and develop a stronger vocabulary. The eighth grader will begin to write longer, more concrete sentences, and discover some new sentence variations that make his writing sound fuller, richer, and more alive.

Help for Parents

For parents, we’ve tried our best to make WriteShop user-friendly. If you start with our Basic Set, it includes a wonderfully resourceful Teacher’s Manual as well as a student workbook. Where editing and grading writing has always seemed so subjective, we’ve made it as measurable and quantifiable as possible so that you can really, truly offer objective input—regardless of your own confidence or experience. And you can always email us or give us a call if you have questions or need encouragement.

Suggested Placement for WriteShop I

  • 5th grade or below: It’s best to wait a year or more before beginning WriteShop I. For 4th-6th graders, consider Wordsmith Apprentice or WriteShop Primary Book C.
  • 6th grade: Proceed into WriteShop I with caution, holding off another year if the student is reluctant (and try the above resources instead). However, for a strong 6th grader who loves to write, is pretty motivated, and has good basic writing skills. WriteShop I should be a good choice, especially if you take two years to go through the program.
  • 7th-10th grade: The average student in these grades can launch right into WriteShop I regardless of past writing experience or skill level. The program works for almost every learner in this age range.
  • 11th-12th grade: Older students can certainly benefit from WriteShop I, but we usually recommend starting them directly in WriteShop II. Or, you can use WriteShop I during the first semester and WriteShop II during the second. However, if your student plans to take the SAT at the end of the junior year, you’ll probably want to use WriteShop II, which teaches both standard and timed essays.

I hope this sheds a little more light for those of you who are deliberating about a writing program. There’s a lot to think about, and I know it always helps to go into a new situation with as much information as possible.

Make a story pocket

Publish Your Child’s Stories 

ColoringONE OF the most encouraging and rewarding experiences for a young author is to see her work published. As a second and third grader, I remember how much I loved to find my own little stories and poems published in our school’s newsletter.

WriteShop Primary gives your student the opportunity to publish her writing project as a book or other art form that she can share with others.

She might make a story kite to fly around the house as she “reads” it to Daddy; create a paper-plate face book; or turn her story into an accordian-folded train. (Visit our website for more info about WriteShop Primary, our delightful parent-guided writing program for K-3rd graders. It’s filled with fun, engaging activities to promote a love for writing!)

Make a Story Pocket

Featured in Book A, story pockets make wonderful publishing tools, and they’re perfect for storing and displaying a child’s early stories and drawings. Here’s how to make one.

Advance Prep

Short Pocket: Paper plateUse one paper plate. Cut it in half. Place both pieces face to face and staple together around the curved edges. The top straight edges remain open to form a pocket.

Tall Pocket: Use two paper plates. Leave one plate whole. Cut the second plate in two, discarding one of the halves. Staple the half plate to the full-size plate to create a tall pocket with a high back.


  1. Allow time for the child to use crayons, markers, paint, or stickers to decorate the paper plate so it matches the theme of the story.
  2. Fold the story and store it inside the pocket.
  3. (Optional) Have your child draw a picture of each object in the story on cardboard, poster board, or tagboard. Cut out the tagboard pieces and store them in the pocket along with the story.
  4. Encourage your child to read her story to family members or a friend, pulling out the corresponding pieces from the pocket and placing them on the table as she shares.
  5. These pockets also make great holders for holiday greeting cards!

. . . . .

Copyright © 2008 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Introducing writing through narration

Young children in grades K-2 are usually considered “pre-writers”—just learning to write letters, words, and groups of words. Their writing experience should be fun! After all, isn’t our goal is to help our primary-age children build confidence as they gain the ability to write?

Daily Guided Writing 

Because children learn best by example, take time to model good writing techniques to your child. Let her narrate her words to you through a daily time of guided writing. This gives her that predictable, shared writing experience that’s so important to her development.

For beginning readers, the predictable patterns and easy sight words build confidence. For more confident readers, narration gives daily practice in reading and writing harder words and sentences.

Most importantly, this time of guided writing gives kids the freedom to put together ideas and create word patterns without the limitations and fear of having to write them down. So even if your child already knows how to write simple sentences, you can often get more from him if he is allowed to dictate his words to you rather than write on his own.

How to Elicit Narration from Young Children

Together, you and your child can write several short sentences about simple, familiar topics such as animals, friends, the weather, or upcoming events. Sounds easy, right? But if you ask your son to tell you all about friends, for example, he’ll probably say, “I don’t know.” It’s an awfully broad topic, after all, and his little mind may be all a-jumble. Most kids need direction, but some will need more help than others to formulate their thoughts into simple words.

So how do you get your child to dictate to you? It’s all about asking questions! For the youngest or most reluctant kids, begin by writing three to five predictable sentence starters, such as:

    A friend is
    Friends like to
    Friends are special because

Next, discuss various options for ideas on how to complete each of the three sentences. Ask questions to lead and prompt your little one and to keep the dialog on track. Here’s one idea:

    You:  Let’s think of some words that tell us about friends. I’ll go first. A friend is funny. Now it’s your turn.
    Child: A friend is happy.
    You:  A friend is important.
    Child: A friend is kind.
    You:  These are all great. Which one should we choose for today?
    Child: A friend is kind.
    You:  Let’s write that. A friend is kind. Here’s the marker. Can you help me write the word kind?
    You:  What do friends like to do together?
    Child: Play games.
    You:  Let’s use complete thoughts. Friends like to play games together. Say that. “Friends like to play games together.”
    Child: Friends like to play games together.
    You:  Great. Let’s write it down. Friends like to play games together. Can you help me with the marker?
    You:  Tell me—why are friends special?
    Child: Because they share their toys?
    You:  Yes, that’s a very important reason. Can you finish this sentence to make a complete thought? Friends are special because ____.
    Child: Friends are special because they share their toys.
    You:  Good job. Now let’s write that down. Friends are special because they share their toys.

When you’re done, you might end up with something like this:

    A friend is kind.
    Friends like to play games together.
    Friends are special because they share their toys.

Not only have you modeled thinking skills to your child (by asking questions like who, what, and why), but you’ve also demonstrated simple techniques of beginning with a capital letter, ending with a period, and using a complete thought. See how a simple five-minute dialog can go a long way in teaching basic writing skills?

Copyright © 2008 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

. . . . .

WriteShop Primary Book AThis dialog comes from Lesson 4 of WriteShop Primary Book A. WriteShop Primary is filled with dialog examples to help you prompt your child during daily guided writing times. Book A is now available in our store. Book B should be released later this year.

Writing with young children

IT’S NEVER too early to introduce your young children to the joy of writing.

Even during the early elementary years (K-3), there’s so much you can do to model and encourage pre-writing and writing skills, such as reading aloud from quality picture books or asking your child to tell you about a picture he drew while you write down his words.

Early Writing Skills

Bear in mind that children develop at different rates. Fine-motor skills, like other stages of development, vary from child to child. Some budding writers, especially boys, will struggle with writing on a line, copying and forming letters, and putting their words and thoughts on paper. These skills and more come with time and patience.

The development of a young child’s writing is best achieved through:

  • Plenty of time spent on writing activities.
  • Many opportunities to write during the school day.
  • Focused instruction that builds from your child’s efforts.

Your Child Needs YOU

Clearly, young children cannot learn to write on their own. Even if you create an atmosphere rich with educational materials—picture books, lined paper, colored markers, crayons, and an alphabet chart—it’s not enough. To effectively develop basic writing skills, your child needs YOU—along with your example, encouragement, and daily guidance.

This season in your child’s educational development is an opportune time to teach and model writing within a warm, safe environment. As you teach your primary-aged child to write, you’ll find that repetition, routine, and consistency play a vital role in teaching basic skills. There’s no way around it—your involvement with your child during writing sessions is key to his success!

Consider WriteShop Primary

If your child is in kindergarten, first, or second grade and you need some help guiding her writing along, consider WriteShop Primary WriteShop Primary Book ABook A. It encourages and reinforces this special parent-child partnership young learners depend on.

The beauty of WriteShop Primary is its adaptablity to meet your needs. If your child is older, yet behind in her writing, you can utilize many components of the program but not use the activities that have a “younger” feel. You can challenge your older child to write more each step of the way, according to her ability, especially taking advantage of the “Flying Higher” suggestions and optional activities at the end of each lesson.

And for beginning students, WriteShop Primary can be used as more of a “pre-writing” launch pad. You can use the discussion starters and activites to introduce your very young child to the wonderful and exciting world of writing. Your younger children will delight in the crafts and illustrations, and you can prompt them to tell you the stories and writing projects that you then write down for them until they are ready to start writing letters and words (and eventually sentences) on their own.

Order Book A

Photo courtesy of stock.xchng

Pottery Barn meets sentence variations

Pottery Barn CatalogWHO KNEW you could find a grammar lesson in the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog?

Browsing the latest edition, I enjoyed identifying a wide range of sentence variations on page after page. Between PB’s concrete word choices and interesting sentence structures, no wonder their products sounds so enticing!

In our junior high/high school WriteShop curriculum, we teach students to use a nice assortment of sentence variations. Among top reasons, using different sentence types:

  • Peppers a composition with interesting phrases
  • Adds zest to otherwise dull writing
  • Expands sentence length
  • Offers alternatives to the subject-verb sentence structure
  • Improves the rhythm of a sentence or paragraph
  • Often helps eliminate a “to be” verb
  • Brings maturity to the writing

Just a few of the many sentence types I spotted in the August 2008 Pottery Barn catalog:

Paired Adjective Sentence Starters

Clever and versatile, our modular Daily System is the ultimate home-office assistant. (p. 108)

Soft and weighty, our cotton velvet is saturated with intense color made even more dramatic by its deep matte texture. (p. 117)

More on paired adjectives

Present Participial Phrase Sentence Starters

Standing more than five feet high, our cylinder lamp creates a striking setting for seasonal displays. (p. 12)

Combining linen’s distinctive texture and appeal with cotton’s natural wrinkle-resistance, our drape has an easy elegance. (p. 134)

Past Participial Phrase Sentence Starters

Woven of incredibly soft cotton yarn, our velvet pillows are available in an array of saturated colors. (p. 8 )

Rendered in warm ivory and pale espresso stripes, our hand-tufted wool rug brings a bold look to your room. (p. 53)

Defined by clean, minimalist design, our Landon Collection lends a modern aesthetic to the bath. (p. 78)

“-ly” Adverb Sentence Starters

Originally popular in coastal countries like Belgium and the Netherlands, the sandrift gray finish is created by brushing the ash-framed furniture with washes of eggplant, taupe and blue… (p. 22)

Beautifully crafted of birch and birch veneers, the table has a turned pedestal that rests on a scrolling three-footed base. (p. 56)

Subordinate Conjunction Sentence Starters

Although the design was originally European, and based on the classic Windsor chair, ladder-back chairs have become American icons… (p. 51)

Since then, this highly comfortable and durable design has been a favorite at cafés all over the world. (p. 57)

As in nature, our cheetah-pattered wool rug has markings that graduate from small to large, close-set to widely spaced, all set off by tonal variations in the neutral colors. (p. 107)

Prepositional Phrase Sentence Starters

In the tradition of Scandinavian design, we’ve brought graphic appeal to the simple forms of flowers and leaves. (p. 12)

Like well-traveled furniture pieces that have been painted and repainted over time, these cabinets have a richly layered finish. (p. 32)

 For graphic impact, nothing beats our stoneware in black and white. (p. 67)


Hand quilting and tonal pick-stitching, two techniques that have been used for over a thousand years, require detailed hand work… (p. 37)

Canopies, or four-post standing beds, were originally introduced in the 15th century. (p. 92)

More on appositives

Transition Words

Each piece is shaped from copper with rolled-in edges, then coated with a layer of tin.

Next, the surfaces are meticulously hammered for rich texture.

Finally, the pendants are plated with silver and rubbed with a blackened finish that accentuates each indentation. (p. 65)

More on transition words

Sentence of Six or Fewer Words

High function meets great style. (p. 109)

Give your windows modern style. (p. 139)

Isn’t it fun to find “school exercises” in real writing? It’s all about application!

If you’re already a WriteShop user, you may want to print out this blog post for ammunition in case your teen moans and complains over an assignment. After all, if the copywriters at Pottery Barn use sentence variations to increase the appeal of their descriptions, it only makes sense that our kids’ writing can improve with simple changes too. Showing examples from real-life writing encourages them that the skills you’re teaching will make a difference in their writing style.

. . . . .

Do you struggle with teaching and grading writing? Does your teen’s writing need a boost? Consider adding WriteShop to your curriculum choices for this school year!

As part of most lessons, WriteShop teaches—and offers practice in—a new writing skill, including a wide array of sentence variations that help to enhance a student’s paper with fresh style and vigor. When combined with strong, dynamic word choices, sentence variations give dull writing new life.

To learn more, visit our informative website at www.writeshop.com.

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