WriteShop: an Incremental Writing Program – A Review

by Lynée Ward

I used WriteShop with a student who went on to get a full academic scholarship in college. Granted, she was smart and had a natural writing ability, but I believe this curriculum helped her learn how to organize her writing to communicate well. Here are some advantages of WriteShop besides its being written from a faith foundation: it teaches the basics of different kinds of writing, gives a grading rubric, and has thorough student and teacher manuals. The program can be done in two or three years, depending on how much practice a student needs. It gives additional writing activities should someone need three years to go through it. It is recommended for 7th to 9th graders. I actually used it for grades 9-11 because I didn’t discover it before then, and it still worked well. (Update: the program currently has three different products — WriteShop Primary for grades K-3, WriteShop Junior for grades 3-6 and Write Shop I & II for junior high/high school.)

Different Types of Writing

The WriteShop curriculum teaches students how to write the following ways: creative, expository, narrative, and persuasive. Spread throughout the different kinds of writing are writing strategies such as making a mind map and writing character sketches. Just in the seven lessons on descriptive writing, a student is taught about paired adjectives, metaphors, topic sentences, choosing appropriate titles, similes, and present participles. He is then required to use them in his writing for that lesson. My student wrote this: “I really enjoyed the broadness of the writing assignments given. For one lesson I was prompted to describe a place and was allowed to describe any place I wanted. For another assignment I was asked to write a biography and given the choice of any historical figure that interested me. This freedom of subject matter allowed my creativity to flow. It also gave me the ability to take information that I was learning in other subjects and incorporate it into my writing.”

Grading Rubric

The grading rubric for each lesson is included in the student notebook so that he knows what he will be graded on. It has different points under Content (one is graciousness), Style (one is sentence variation and style), Mechanics (one is spelling, punctuation, and capitalization), and General (one of which is overall neatness of final draft). It tells the teacher how many points to count for each element. Not feeling like much of a writer myself, I found this very helpful in grading my student’s papers.

Student Workbooks

There are two student notebooks, WriteShop I (17 units) and Writeshop II (14 lessons). Starting in WriteShop I, a student is first taught how to write descriptively. Here is a sample from the first lesson: In the part done with the teacher, the student is given a sentence and then asked a lot of questions to help him describe it. Using a thesaurus is a must! Each lesson has a section to go over with a teacher and some skill builder worksheets to do independently. Each lesson then gives an assignment, at least one real child’s sample, a page of directions, and a worksheet to help the student with his writing assignment. It then has a writing skills checklist so that the student can make sure that he has done everything he is supposed to. Eventually the student learns to self check his work without having to depend as heavily on the checklist.

Thorough Teacher’s Manual

The teacher’s manual discusses each part of the writing program and how to space out the lessons depending on which plan you choose (two or three years). The first lessons give plenty of explanation on how to do things. By the end of the program, there are shorter simpler instructions since by then the teacher is expected to know how things work. Each lesson contains pre-writing activities, a practice paragraph to be done together, brainstorming, and then guidelines for the “sloppy copy” and the first revision. The instructions give you specific things to look for in a particular lesson when you are editing a student’s first revision. Generally each lesson is expected to take two weeks.

The back of the notebook contains sections on editing and evaluation, positive and encouraging comments, addressing errors lesson by lesson, common problems of mechanics, student writing samples, skill builder keys, and several appendices.

Someone asked me what I didn’t like about the program, and I couldn’t think of anything.

More information can be found at WriteShop.

Permission is granted to copy, but not for commercial use.