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?
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.