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WriteShop I | Help for Beginners

WriteShop I Student WorkbookIf you’re new to WriteShop I and find yourself scratching your head about an assignment or exercise, we’re confident you’ll find the answer here. (If not, just send us an email.)  Once you get the hang of WriteShop, you’ll find that every lesson follows the same format. By the time you complete Lesson 2, both you and your student will be accustomed to the schedule, and you’ll easily slip into a familiar routine.

Understanding page numbering

TM p. __ refers to material found in the Teacher’s Manual and p. __ refers to material found in the Student Workbook. TM p. A-__, B-__, or C-__ refers to material found in Appendix A, B, or C of the Teacher’s Manual.

How to plan a three-year track

Most homeschoolers follow the standard 2-year track (TM p. 18), completing WriteShop I and II in two school years. However, the Teacher’s Manual also offers several suggestions for a three-year track, a good idea if your student is in 6th—or even 7th—grade. TM p. 11 offers two options, but here’s one more: Try a schedule of three weeks on, one week off. To do this, divide the chart on TM p. 18 into four weeks instead of two.

  • Week 1: TEACH Introduce the new lesson. Together, do the pre-writing activities and the practice paragraph.
  • Week 2: WRITE Have your teen choose a writing topic, brainstorm, and write a rough draft (“sloppy copy”).
  • Week 3: EDIT & REVISE Complete all student and teacher editing, revising, and rewriting.
  • Week 4: OPTIONS Assign a book report or other writing, or take a writing break this week.

By following this plan, you’ll complete WriteShop I in two years working roughly two days per week. Plus, you’ll have lots of freedom to stretch writing over several days as needed. When you’re finished with WriteShop I, advance to WriteShop II, completing it in either one or two years (assuming the WriteShop II student is now in at least 8th grade.)

Coordinating the schedule with the lesson plans

It helps to understand how the schedule and lesson plans work together. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be working through WriteShop like a pro!

Turn to the lesson plans (starting on TM p. 20). Notice the bold subheadings such as “Pre-Writing Activities,” “Practice Paragraph,” and “Sloppy Copy.” Next, look at the Lesson Plan Overview (scheduling chart) on TM p. 18. Do you see how those same headings appear in the chart? When you plan your week, simply plug each of the activities from the lesson plan into its corresponding spot on the chart so that on Day 1 you’ll do pre-writing activities, on Day 2 you’ll write a practice paragraph, and so on.

If you’re having trouble cross-referencing between the weekly schedule and the Teacher Lesson Plans, photocopy your chosen schedule (TM pp. 18 or 19) and keep it close at hand. You can also download our three different schedule options.

Will I always need to do this much flipping back and forth?

At various points in first few lessons, the lesson plans will send you to different pages of the Teacher’s Manual. Many of the pages you need to flip to are reference pages, and as you grow more familiar with the program you’ll find yourself jumping around less and less.

Locating Skill Builders, Writing Skills Checklists, and Composition Evaluation forms

You’ll find these pages in the student workbook, where everything needed for that lesson is organized together. With the exception of Lesson 1a, workbook pages always appear in the same order: 1) writing lesson and related activities; 2) brainstorming worksheets; 3) Skill Builders; 4) Student and Teacher Writing Skills Checklists; and 5) Composition or Essay Evaluation forms. Students will always know where to find the pages they need in their binder, even if the Teacher’s Manual presents the material in a different order.

Understanding Lesson 1a and 1b

Lesson 1 is divided into two parts, 1a and 1b, to make it more manageable. When you first begin using WriteShop, take a few days to teach Lesson 1a. Just know that it won’t fit neatly into the scheduling charts on TM pp. 18 or 19. On the other hand, treat Lesson 1b as a complete lesson, plugging each activity from the lesson plan into its corresponding place on the scheduling chart. (Note: Lesson 1b does not have a Skill Builder.)

What is a Practice Paragraph?

The practice paragraph helps both you and your student get familiar with lesson objectives. TM p. 16 gives step-by-step instructions for how to write a practice paragraph, but here’s the general idea: Following the instructions in the student workbook, you and your teen(s) pick a topic and brainstorm to gather ideas for the paragraph. As you come up with sentences together, write them on a whiteboard. You’re not required to edit the practice paragraph with your teen, but you may want to do so once in a while. Spend about 30 minutes on this activity.

Do you have to write a practice paragraph for every lesson? Not necessarily. If your student quickly gets the hang of each writing assignment and appears to follow directions well, you might only choose to write a practice paragraph now and then, perhaps when a new kind of writing is introduced. On the other hand, if she has trouble staying on track, needs more guidance, or has trouble grasping lesson objectives, you’ll probably want to write practice paragraphs more often.

The practice paragraph is not the same as the writing assignment your teen will write later in the week. For her own composition, she’ll need to choose a completely different subject. For instance, Lesson 5 has you write a practice paragraph describing fresh popcorn. But when it’s time for your teen to describe a food for her personal assignment, she can write about fried chicken, pizza, or cinnamon rolls, but not about popcorn.

When to assign Skill Builders

Skill Builders because are fairly self-explanatory, so the Teacher’s Manual lesson plans don’t usually mention them. According to the schedules on TM pp. 18-19, you’ll always assign Skill Builders on the first three days of every lesson. (It’s important to complete them before writing the “sloppy copy,” since students must typically apply these new skills to their composition.) For more information about Skill Builders, see TM p. 13.

When to assign copying and dictation

Your lesson plans won’t mention copying and dictation, so refer to TM pp. 18-19 for scheduling suggestions. To gain a better understanding of the importance of these exercises, see TM pp. 13-14.

Where to find passages to use for copying and dictation

Sources for copying and dictation are as close as your own bookshelf. Choose famous quotations or grade-appropriate passages or verses from storybooks and literature, famous documents, speeches, poems—the possibilities abound! An anthology or a collection of children’s stories from your local library will often provide wonderful copying material.

If relating literary passages to the lesson is important to you, some of your family’s favorite books may contain descriptive passages that are perfect for copywork. For example, The Swiss Family Robinson contains a number of excellent paragraphs describing animals. Anne of Green Gables or the Lord of the Rings books may be used for passages describing scenery or people. A contemporary cookbook or a food article in a magazine will have colorful and sensory food descriptions, as will many restaurant reviews. If you prefer to use pre-selected passages, consider WriteShop’s Copying and Dictation Exercises for WriteShop I.

What are the “to be” words?

As lessons progress, students will learn to choose stronger verbs instead of weaker “to be” words. It’s a good idea to have them memorize this short list: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, and been.

Who edits the “sloppy copy”?

The sloppy copy is the student’s rough draft. Before they turns their paper in to you, they have a chance to improve the writing by using a Student Writing Skills Checklist as a guide. Make yourself available as needed, of course, but know that this exercise is designed to train them in the important skill of self-editing.

Who edits the first revision?

You do, using the Teacher Writing Skills Checklist (found within each lesson of the student workbook). If you or your teen needs help understanding any of the terms, the “Editing and Evaluating” section of your Teacher’s Manual explains each element of the Student and Teacher Writing Skills Checklists in detail.