Entries Tagged 'WriteShop' ↓

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.

Ways to make grading writing less subjective

Teaching writing is less subjective than you think! Knowing what to look for and having clear expectations can reduce anxiety.

To most parents, the process of editing and evaluating your teen’s compositions does seem like an overwhelming, subjective effort. It’s usually pretty easy to spot spelling and grammar mistakes and other problems with mechanics. But grading for content and style is another thing altogether!

Have you ever said anything like this?

  • I can’t quite put my finger on what’s wrong.
  • I’d say this essay feels like a B+.
  • I love the story, but I don’t exactly know why. It just…sounds good.
  • I hate grading. I’m always afraid I’ll either be too easy or too hard on my child.
  • I never know what I’m supposed to be looking for.

Christy’s Story

I have a junior high boy who hated writing because he (and I) felt it was so subjective. WriteShop . . . breaks it into objective little pieces with skills to practice, examples for visual learning, and student checklists so a reluctant writer has a clear path to follow. It takes the guesswork out!

For the parent, there [are] Teacher Writing Checklists to make specific, encouraging comments to help the student revise his work. The best part is the objective scoring of each component.

My son went from being a C writer to an A writer in just one year! I thought he would never be a straight A student all because of the problems in writing. Well, he is this year thanks to WriteShop.

Finding Answers

WriteShop can help 

WriteShop Teacher's ManualHappily, as Christy and others have discovered, the process is easier and more objective than you think! Knowing what to look for and having clear expectations can take the anxiety out of this task. Since teen writers often make the same kinds of mistakes, the Teacher’s Manual for WriteShop I and II addresses these common areas. In the tabbed sections of the Teacher’s Manual you will find:

  • A step-by-step guide through the writing and editing process
  • Instructions for using the Student and Teacher Writing Skills Checklists
  • Pages of positive comments to encourage your young writer
  • A section that helps you identify and correct problems specific to each WriteShop lesson
  • A section highlighting the most common problems of mechanics
  • Edited samples of student paragraphs to serve as models (this section also contains lessons designed to help you practice and develop confidence in editing)

Learning to edit a composition is a process for both you and your student. WriteShop’s comprehensive Student and Teacher Writing Skills Checklists take the intimidation and guesswork out of editing. Because your teens know what is expected, they also respond more positively to suggestions for improvement.

Good news

The more you edit and revise, the easier it will become for you. Familiarity produces recognition. You’ll quickly become adept at spotting repeated words, “to be” words, and misplaced modifiers. Soon they’ll just jump out at you. But in the beginning, you’ll need to search for these mistakes.

It’s actually more objective than you think—especially when you have WriteShop’s detailed checklists to help you look for specific things, including:

  • Topic and closing sentences
  • Over-used or repeated words
  • Vague or weak words
  • Passive writing
  • Use of sentence variety
  • Correct use of the lesson’s content and style requirements, such as including all the elements of a narrative or using emotion words
  • Avoidance of run-on or incomplete sentences

And here’s a bit of encouragement for you: Even if you only address half of these, your student’s writing is bound to improve! So don’t worry about doing it “perfectly.” Just begin offering concrete suggestions and you will see improvement right away.

Your student’s role

But it’s not all up to you! Your teen plays a big role. Asking the following questions of your student’s composition will address his or her two biggest stumbling blocks to success:

  • Did my student follow the assignment’s specific directions? She will avoid countless problems later on by doing exactly what the lesson requires.
  • Did she correctly use her Writing Skills Checklist, including using colored pencils on the “sloppy copy” (rough draft) to underline and circle as the checklist directs? Students who diligently use their checklists to find errors and make changes, and who earnestly look for ways to improve their compositions, will be more successful writers than those who sit back and let you do all the editing for them.

WriteShop I and WriteShop II have a proven track record! Using the program will help prepare your teens for advanced high school and college writing. But don’t take my word for it! Christy and Dottie have said it better than I ever could.

Dottie’s Story

When I placed two of my daughters in WriteShop I, I had no idea how greatly it would impact them. My youngest daughter took WriteShop in 7th grade. Now in 9th grade, with little other formal writing instruction, she is still applying the techniques she learned two years ago.

Her older sister did WriteShop I in jr. high also. She is now in college and was asked by her composition teacher to work in the English lab helping other students with their writing. I attribute this honor largely to the skills she learned in WriteShop I many years ago.

. . . . .

Do you struggle with teaching, editing, and grading your teen’s writing? Are you looking for ways to make the process of teaching and grading writing less subjective? Perhaps WriteShop is the answer. Visit www.writeshop.com and poke around. About WriteShop and Parent Testimonials may be good places to begin.

Photo: Laura Dye, courtesy of Creative Commons.

FREE gift with WriteShop Primary pre-order

Through July 20, we’re including a WriteShop Primary Activity Set Worksheet PackActivity Set Worksheet Pack ($4.95 value) for FREE to everyone who pre-orders WriteShop Primary Book A!

There’s one 2-sided worksheet for every lesson in Book A, along with evaluation charts to help you track your child’s progress.

The copyright give permission to reproduce worksheets and charts for single-family use, or you may purchase extra workpacks for additional children.

Book A is nearing its ship date!

WriteShop Primary is the delightful new program for children in K-3 grades. Book A, the first in the series, targets kindergarten and first-grade students, but you can also use it with second graders who have limited or no writing experience. Books will begin shipping very soon!

See a sample lesson

Our website is now filled with all sorts of information about WriteShop Primary. Begin at the WriteShop Primary Home Page and visit the other links from there. You can find:

Pre-order here

Hurry over to the store to pre-order your new book. You’ll love this gentle, effective method for introducing writing skills to your little ones! Books will ship in mid-July.

Learning disabilities & writing, Part 2

2008-06-23 Learning Disabilities Part 2 (2)

In Part 1 of Learning Disabilities and Writing, I broadly defined three particular learning challenges: ADHD, dysgraphia, and dyslexia, specifically identifying how each affects a student’s writing.

Well, it’s one thing to put your finger on the problem, but quite another to find a working solution! We often get the question, “Does WriteShop work for children with learning disabilities?” For many older students with ADHD, dysgraphia, and dyslexia, WriteShop does seem to be an excellent fit.

“WriteShop’s lessons tend to work well for many types of learning-disabled children because of their explicit instructions and requirements.” – Nancy, learning specialist

Below I’d like to share ways that WriteShop can help students who learn with difficulty. Bear in mind that WriteShop I and II are written for 6th grade and above. But the following tips may help you overcome writing hurdles no matter what writing program you choose. 

Struggling learners benefit from specific instruction

  • WriteShop instructions are written directly to the student in an orderly, step-by-step fashion. They not only include writing ideas and clear directions, but many lessons also tell the student what NOT to write about or include in the composition. Furthermore, the Teacher’s Manual includes tips for the parent so that you can anticipate the most common kinds of errors your child might make.
  • Students do better when they can use graphic organizers such as mind-maps (clustering), charts, lists, or diagrams to help them outline and plan their work. WriteShop lessons provide many such opportunities for students to brainstorm and prepare for writing assignments.
  • Students who are easily distracted or who spell poorly benefit from word banks. WriteShop’s comprehensive, topical word lists help students make better vocabulary choices because new words (and their spellings) are readily available.
  • Checklists are vital to the struggling learner. It’s important for him to be able to mark his progress. WriteShop provides a lesson-specific Writing Skills Checklist for every writing assignment to help the student with his self-editing. A visually-overwhelmed student can use a plain sheet of paper to help him track each line of the checklist.

Struggling learners need reinforcement and repetition.

  • WriteShop lessons build on previously-learned skills.
  • Checklists help students apply these skills regularly.

Struggling learners benefit from alternative methods.

  • HugsThe physical act of writing may be too challenging. Instead of making your student write by hand, allow her to dictate to you while you write or type. Usually a student will use more complex vocabulary and sentence structure when speaking, but if asked to write the same information, she will often choose shorter words and sentences. Allowing her to dictate to you helps ease her stress about writing.
  • Perhaps she can edit and revise the draft you write and can recopy her own revision.
  • Or allow her to use the computer, including the spell check function.

Struggling learners do better with strict parameters.

  • They flounder when assignments are open-ended.
  • WriteShop gives specific requirements for each lesson, from brainstorming to writing. Students always know what they need to do.
  • WriteShop also restricts the number of paragraphs (usually just one) and paragraph length (at first 5-7 sentences but never more than 10 sentences in WriteShop I).

Struggling learners need bite-sized assignments.

  • WriteShop’s lesson schedules spread out assignments to allow for paragraphs to rest between drafts.
  • Assignments begin with prewriting activities and brainstorming exercises that narrow and focus in on the topic.
  • Lesson instructions are written in a step-by-step manner.

Dyslexic/dysgraphic learners benefit from projects that build writing skills.

  • Have them write letters, keep a diary, and make projects that use writing but are not writing-intensive, such as posters, mobiles, brochures, and cartoons.
  • WriteShop’s Teacher’s Manual has a wonderful supplemental appendix that is filled with ideas you can use with students of all ages.

Parent Testimonial

          “Our son is a junior in high school, and writing has always been rather a nightmare for him. He has ADHD and getting thoughts and words on paper is a difficult and long, drawn-out process for him. BUT your curriculum so quickly gave him the tools to help him to put descriptive, concrete thoughts on paper that I am truly amazed at what he can write after only Lesson 4. I know of at least one other home schooling family that has a son with special learning needs, and they rave about your writing program as well.” –Laurie, NY

To learn more, visit writeshop.com or download a sample lesson from WriteShop I.

Photo: Patrick Bell, courtesy of Creative Commons.


Writing a business letter

As students enter junior high and high school, it’s time for them to practice writing business letters. Whether writing to a company to offer praise for a product or addressing a city councilman about a neighborhood eyesore, using a  more formal business-letter format adds credibility to the sender’s request, position, or opinion.

In WriteShop II, we teach students how to write a letter to the editor of a newspaper. The example composition in the student workbook urges the governor, by way of a letter to the editor, to take action on a bill. With a few word changes, the letter could just as easily address the governor himself.

The point of the lesson, of course, is to help students articulate a concern and seek or suggest action. The audience can be a member of any political, social, or commercial group as long as the student is learning how to address such a person with polite conviction.

Who’s the Audience? 

But if your children need an audience for their letters, and the daily newspaper isn’t the outlet that seems to work for them, you might suggest a different audience. Some ideas that spring to mind:

  • City council member
  • State legislator
  • State representative
  • Governor
  • Owner or developer of a property (eyesore, maintenance issues, health and safety concerns, etc.)
  • Owner of a local business
  • President or CEO of a corporation
  • College or university admissions department
  • Chamber of Commerce (to request brochures or travel information)

If you shift away from the letter to the editor and instead have your student address her letter to one of the above-suggested recipients, consider teaching her how to format a business letter. Since WriteShop doesn’t teach business-letter structure, this would be an added tool in her writing belt.

When to Write a Business Letter

  • To praise a product, service supplier, or staff person
  • To compliment a speaker
  • To compliment or praise an author
  • To praise someone for an achievement
  • To complain about poor product quality or poor service
  • To ask for political or social action or change
  • To write a letter of recommendation
  • To request information

Would you like to teach the business letter to your kids? Here’s a link to a site that models several kinds: WriteExpress.com (Business Letters)

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.

A real proof copy. Really!


I’m beginning to think someone has let a gremlin loose between the pages of WriteShop Primary.

Maybe that cute little tiger has secretly gone undercover to wreak havoc moving bullet points and misspelling words.

In the last week alone, David has sent me four—yes, four—“this-really-is-the-final” versions of Book A. And every time I think I’ve found all the bugs, I spot something else.

  • A title that didn’t get underlined.
  • An activity that needs to be italicized.
  • Yet ANOTHER misspelled word.
  • An index reference that takes you to…um…the index.
  • A schedule chart that’s missing half the activities.
  • Text that’s “leaking” out of its text box.

Mind you, this is after five pairs of eyes have scoured the pages of this book. I laugh as I email David, that patient saint, for the zillionth time: “How DO we keep missing this stuff?”

It just never ends! :) But we knew that at some point we would simply have to say: No more. Done. Finished. 

So yesterday we closed Book A, sent the PDF file off to the printer, and ordered three proofs. My copy sits before me now, ready for the last sweep of the red pen. Ready for the final list of tweaks.

Yep, yesterday was huge for us. And today I can announce with great excitement that I now have a real proof copy of WriteShop Primary Book A in my hands. Really!

Pinch me. We’re almost there!

Update: WriteShop Primary Book A

Interest in WriteShop Primary continues to mount!

WriteShop Primary Book A
At last weekend’s FPEA conference in Orlando, nearly 100 people signed up to receive e-mail notification of WriteShop Primary’s release dates! We’re excited to bring out a product that will meet many of your needs for a gentle early-elementary writing curriculum.

WriteShop Primary Book A’s release is getting closer, so let me catch you up a bit!

  • We’re now calling Book A a K/1-level book, but it’s really ideal for pre- or beginning writers in kindergarten, first, or second grades.
  • We feel quite official now that we have ISBN numbers for our books!
  • After introducing our prototype at several conventions, we’ve made a few simple changes, including a font change to improve readability.
  • The Activity Set Worksheet Pack for Book A is finished. There’s a worksheet to support and reinforce skills taught in each lesson. Here’s a little peek at the worksheet for Lesson 8. Continue reading →

WriteShop Primary Book C – take a peek!

Just thought you might like to take a peek at our WriteShop Primary Book C cover. Isn’t it just adorable? Makes me want to pinch that chubby, huggable little panther!

And if you love the cover, you’ll be even more in love with the contents.  Here is the scope and sequence for the ten lessons of Book C:

  1. Planning the Story
  2. Writing a Mystery
  3. Self-Editing
  4. Journal Writing
  5. Descriptive Writing: Describe a Thing
  6. Descriptive Writing: Describe a Person
  7. Descriptive Writing: Describe a Place
  8. Writing a Book Report
  9. Writing a Simple Report (no research needed)
  10. Writing a Simple Research Report

In addition, you and your child will enjoy some delightful picture books together, create fun-filled writing projects, and learn more about the writing process in WriteShop Primary’s gentle, step-by-step manner. More details to come, so keep checking back with us! 

Book C, for grades 2-3, will be available sometime this summer, but definitely in time for the start of school in the fall. Would you like to be notified when WriteShop Primary comes available? Just drop us an email!

Willy Worm Word Wall

If the Gathering of Adjectives game seems too advanced for your K-2nd graders, you may enjoy using this simplified adjective-building activity with them from WriteShop Primary Book C.

Willy Worm Word Wall  


Make a Willy Worm Word Wall

First, cut out about a dozen 3-inch circles from construction paper to make a Willy Worm Word Wall. Tape the circles together in a row to form a worm. Mount the worm on a wall or place it on a countertop. Draw a smiley face on the first circle to represent the worm’s face. On the first three blank circles, write various describing words (adjectives), one word per circle. Use words such as small, fast, yellow, soft, or bumpy. Continue reading →

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