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WriteShop Primary Book B Review by Dena Wood

WriteShop, Inc.
5753 Klusman Avenue
Alta Loma, CA 91737-2223

I'll admit to a bit of apprehension when I agreed to review WriteShop Primary Book B with my more-than-reluctant reader/writer. While my other kids all caught on to reading and writing rather quickly, my youngest has been a challenge, to say the least. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. My son absolutely loves this book! The introduction states that this book is not meant to be a rigorous writing program but rather "an introduction to early writing skills that gives young children tools to experience success as they develop the ability to write." Though written for a typical six- or seven-year-old, this volume works perfectly for reluctant or inexperienced eight- to ten-year-olds. My son is eight, and I found this assessment to be quite accurate.

The book begins with a section of teacher instruction: choosing a weekly plan, creating a writing center, and instruction on teaching the lessons. You'll find information on guided writing practice, activity set worksheets, pre-writing activities, brainstorming, writing projects, editing and revising, publishing, and evaluating the projects. You'll also find instructions on making and using a Super Speller, a Story Idea Box, and a Garden of Rhyming Words. I was tempted to skip these, but my son surprised me with his enthusiasm for the Rhyming Word activity. In fact, he loves working on his "flowers" (the petals are made of rhyming words) in his free time!

Once you're ready to start the activities, you'll find the book broken into ten lessons, each focusing on a different skill with a different theme. For example, the first lesson focuses on Writing a Letter with the theme of Grandparents. In this lesson your child will use worksheets, practice brainstorming, work with you in guided writing practice, and write and mail a friendly letter. The guided writing activities in this lesson include specific scripts to help you aid your child in writing more expressively, as well as learning the mechanics of writing.

Child: What animals do you want to see first?
You: Is this a question?
Child: Yes.
You: What punctuation do we use at the end of a question?
Child: I don't remember.
You: We use a question mark. (Demonstrate) What punctuation do we use at the end of a question?

These scripts were invaluable to me in helping me be aware of what I should be pointing out to my child as we worked through the practices.

The worksheets for the activities are well designed and enjoyable. The activities themselves engage the child. My son initially balked at the idea of brainstorming. We were to fold a paper into four parts and write something he could write about in each section. After a bit of prodding, we were able to come up with four topics. We then turned the paper over and created a mind map of the topic he chose. By the end of this process, my son was begging to write the actual letter!

Topics in the other lessons include Standard Spelling, Acrostics, Poems and Nursery Rhymes, Fairy Tales, In the News, Humor, Problem and Solution, Character and Setting, and Story Organizers. Again, each topic revolves around a specific theme ranging from Holidays to Dinosaurs to Animal Homes. The book is chock full of creative writing experiences as students work through the lessons. Your child will create a diorama, make a shape book, design a game board, make a comic strip, and more. I can honestly say that this book is an excellent introduction to writing. I'm amazed at how much it manages to cover, while constantly keeping the content fresh, fun, and interesting. I give this book an A+!

Product review by Dena Wood, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, December 2009