Write Shop Curriculum

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“We love the program.    I find it easy to use and extremely helpful. Although I have a strong background in language arts, I have always found it difficult to teach writing in an orderly, systematic way.     WriteShop = problem solved!” 

 ---Susan, Washington Homeschool Parent


Writing across the Curriculum

By suggesting alternate topics for student paragraphs, you can adapt most WriteShop lessons to fit into a unit study, classical education approach, or literature-based curriculum.

This will not always be easy for the students, since their lesson instructions often ask them to write about a more specific, curriculum-directed topic. Teach them to think outside the box. “Black and white” thinkers will have the most trouble with flexibility.

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Lesson 1 Describing an Object

Instead of describing a common household object, students can describe an object or artifact from history, such as an Egyptian bracelet, a sword or shield, a bowl or goblet, or a farm implement. DK books and Eyewitness Books contain vivid, detailed photographs that would work as suitable substitutes for real objects. If your student has trouble coming up with adequate texture words, perhaps you have fabrics, wooden articles, etc. for him to touch that will help him describe his relic more explicitly.

Apply this lesson to a science study by observing an object such as a rock, mineral, or geode; a leaf, pinecone, or flower; or a patch of bark or moss.


Lesson 2 Describing a Pet

A domestic animal from history can take the place of the student’s puppy or hamster. Perhaps he can describe an Egyptian or Siamese cat, a Japanese koi (fish), or an Arabian horse, for example. Rely on high-quality photographs if an actual animal is not available.


Lesson 3 Describing a Person

Suggest that students pick a famous person to describe. Well-known figures like Lincoln, Washington, or Napoleon would make good choices because their portraits are easily accessed in art and history books. Once you have discerned the goal of the lesson you will be able to steer your students in the proper direction.


Lesson 4 Describing a Circus Performer

Many historical figures lend themselves well to this assignment. Books that contain clear, colorful drawings or photographs of costumed people can serve as the foundation for this exercise, as can costumed dolls. Consider any of the following as substitutions for a circus performer: a Greek hoplite soldier, a Roman centurion, or another soldier from any era; a king or queen; a Pilgrim or Puritan; a cowboy or gypsy; a person from a country of study, dressed in native costume.

Lesson 5 Describing a Food

As a hands-on activity, students could prepare a food from a certain time period or from another country they are studying. Your library should have a number of cookbooks featuring foods from around the world. Slumps, Grunts, and Snickerdoodles comes to mind as an excellent children’s book containing colorful historical information as well as tasty recipes from the days of the earliest American settlers.


Lesson 6 Describing a Season

This topic may prove a bit more difficult to work with. However, a creative mind will come up with possibilities. For instance, if you are studying either the Revolutionary War or the Westward Expansion, perhaps your student could describe the harshness of winter (Valley Forge? Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter?) It is important to remember that this is not a narrative assignment.

Caution students to describe the season itself and not the historical event that took place. The historical event should serve as a background and no more.


Lesson 7 Describing a Place

Here, the student will write this composition in first person, adapting one of the lesson’s suggested sentence starters. Perhaps he can be a Hebrew in the desert during the Exodus, David Livingstone in an African jungle, or a Pilgrim in the Eastern woodlands. Students can use books with vivid photographs or watch scenic travel videos for ideas.

A landscape painting from your country or period of study can also provide the setting for your student’s “place” as well as offer an opportunity to discuss artists who painted during that time.

As with “Describing a Season,” caution students not to turn this assignment into a narrative.


Lesson 8 Explaining a Process

This lesson offers endless possibilities for the creative student. Selecting a task from his history studies, he can explain how to make candles, paper, or a quilt; how to load and fire a musket or cannon; or how to joust in a tournament, build a log cabin, or make pemmican. From science he can describe a natural process, such as how a plant grows or how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.


Lesson 9 Writing a Factual Report

The student can learn more about the animals that inhabit his geographic region of study, whether he writes about a giraffe, fox, or whale. Remind him to select a wild animal for his short report rather than a domestic animal, as he chose in Lesson 2.


Lesson 10 Writing a Concise Biography

Any notable figure from science or history will make a suitable subject for this assignment.


Lesson 11 Introducing Journalism

News articles should be written about an important historical event or scientific discovery.


Lesson 12 Writing a Narrative of an Emotional Event

Students can write a first-person narrative from the point of view of a famous historical or biblical figure, explorer, or scientist. Caution them to follow directions, limiting narration to one setting, one short time frame, etc.

Peter’s travels with Jesus would be too broad, but his denial of Jesus would make a perfect topic. Other ideas include writing a first-person account of Martin Luther nailing the Ninety-Five Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, a plantation slave escaping to freedom, or a Pilgrim sailing on the Mayflower (again, limiting the narrative to a single experience). Encourage each student to put himself in the shoes of his historical figure so he can understand and write about his or her emotions and experiences.

Lesson 13 Writing a Narrative of Another Person’s Experience
This lesson is similar to Lesson 12, except that the student must interview another person about his or her own emotional experience. Ideally, he should interview one of his parents who has, for example, taken on the role of a Roman slave, a sailor, a soldier, or Joan of Arc. The parent must limit the information to one brief incident in this person’s life.


Lesson 14 First-Person Point of View

Instead of merely choosing to personify an ordinary object from a historical period, students can consider objects whose “experiences” could be considered exciting or interactive. A silver bowl fashioned by Paul Revere would certainly work, but his saddle could narrate a more spine-tingling tale! Students could personify a mortar or pestle, a Roman shield, Thomas Edison’s light bulb, Ben Franklin’s kite, or an old English waterwheel. Encourage their imaginations!


Lesson 15 First-Person Point of View

Choose a Bible story, one of Aesop’s fables, or another short literary narrative that has at least two points of view.


Lesson 16 Third-Person Point of View

This is probably the most challenging lesson to adapt. Students must write this third-person narrative from different points of view. If you can think of a creative way to customize this assignment, feel free to do so. If not, ask students to write the composition as directed.



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Lesson 17 Describing an Object

This assignment asks the student to select a multifaceted object that has a little more detail than the one he picked for Lesson 1. Perhaps he could describe a monument, building, or statue. An exotic headdress, jeweled crown, or interesting period costume would also make excellent subject matter. Again, use an Eyewitness book, National Geographic or Smithsonian magazine, or other detailed photograph, since the object will probably not be available firsthand.

Science studies lend themselves to observing objects like Saturn or the moon; a flowering hydrangea bush or needle-covered pine tree; a cumulus cloud; or a butterfly, beetle, or spider web. When the object is not readily observable, use a good photograph.


Lesson 18 Describing a Place

See suggestions for Lesson 7.


Lesson 19 Writing a Short Report

See suggestions for Lessons 9 and 10.


Lesson 20 Exaggeration

In the early 1600s, the Virginia Company exaggerated the truths about the Jamestown settlement in order to lure settlers across the ocean. Suggest that students choose a historical site like a castle, fort, inn, or mine to “propagandize.” Ask them to think about claims that lured people to places like Africa, India, China, or the New World, or even to California or Kentucky, and to incorporate these ideas into their exaggerated paragraph.


Lessons 21 and 22 First-Person Point of View, Parts 1 and 2

This lesson asks students to observe and write about the same event from the first-person perspective of two different individuals. Consider viewing a feast from the point of view of an Indian and a Pilgrim, a Roman patrician and a slave, or a medieval lord or lady and a servant. During the first Civil War battle at Manassas, wealthy citizens rode out to the battle site to picnic and watch the “show.” Journalists also came to watch and record. Both of these perspectives would make for excellent paragraphs. Suggest events such as the plague of frogs, a battle, a medieval joust, a coronation, or a performance by a Baroque musician. Again, no matter what event they choose, remind them that observers, not participants, write the paragraphs.


Lesson 23 Narrative Voice

Students experiment with changing narrative voice and tense. See Lesson 9 for topic suggestions.

Lesson 24 Persuasive Writing (Writing an Ad)

Encourage students to choose a popular child’s toy of the time period as the subject of their advertisement. It does not have to be a toy; other ideas include any invention, discovery, or object from their history or science studies. (You will have to adapt the lesson instructions if the object is not a toy.)


Lessons 25-30 Essays

The supplemental section of your Teacher’s Manual (Appendix B) contains many suitable topics for writing across the curriculum. Examples include discussing the significance of a famous battle or contrasting two artists from a particular period.

Kim Kautzer and Debbie Oldar


Do you have a topic you’d like us to address in future articles? E-mail us and we’ll do our best!

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