Tuesday, April 10, 2012

#WriteShopParty Interview, Giveaway and Twitter Party

As I've mentioned, WriteShop is my wonderful sponsor for The 2:1 Conference. I've got a lot of great stuff to share with you today in this blog post so please read it all the way through! :) First up, I did an interview with a super nice lady - Kim Kautzer, the creative director at WriteShop! 


Hi Kim! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, and your love of writing? Thanks so much for having me, Shay! My husband Jim and I have been married 36 years. We raised our three children here in Southern California, where we began homeschooling in 1988 (our youngest graduated in 2003). Now they're all grown up and married, and we're blessed with seven grandchildren ages newborn to almost 12.
As the creative director at WriteShop, I oversee all our writing projects. That means I spend my days with bum glued to chair, fingers poised over keys, and eyes fixed on a screen. When the opportunity strikes, I bake, read, and hang out with my crazy-pickle grandkids. I really should exercise...but I don't. I'm still trying to figure out Twitter. And I'm the only one in my family who doesn't like coffee, no matter how good it smells or how much you try to disguise it in those fancy caramel frappamajiggies. English breakfast tea, anyone?
As a child, I always loved writing. It came easily for me, though I'm grateful for several teachers who especially nurtured that gift. I journaled often, wrote tons of letters to friends and grandparents, and was fond of writing poetry. Today, my writing is very different. I write to educate, so my blog and other writing projects are mostly expository. While I enjoy it, I do miss having the time to write for sheer pleasure.

How did the creation of WriteShop come about?
It became clear early on that our son learned differently from his sisters. While they were voracious readers who loved to write, Ben didn't read till age 7, couldn't read chapter books till he was 11, and dictated most of his "writing" to me because it was such a struggle to put pencil to paper.
In 1997, after teaching "fun" homeschool classes like geography, art, and California history, my friend Debbie and I decided it was time to really concentrate on our 12-year-old boys' dismal writing skills, so we offered a writing class for middle schoolers. Our first meeting was a disaster—none of the students could write a decent paragraph. It was too late to bail, so we had to come up with something! That's when we started writing our own lessons—and student writing began to blossom! Eventually, we stepped out in faith and published WriteShop I and II. Years later, God brought the amazing Nancy Sanders into our lives. Nancy is the author of our younger levels, WriteShop Primary and WriteShop Junior.

What makes WriteShop different from other writing programs?
Writing is a partnership between parent and child, yet most parents confess they don't know how to teach writing. WriteShop equips parents so everyone feels successful. Especially at the elementary levels, fun is the order of the day!
WriteShop includes engaging activities, brainstorming worksheets, and impressive projects that equip kids to become confident writers. I love that they can learn creatively and have a blast doing so! What better way to learn a new skill or tool than with a non-threatening writing game? Even our older levels incorporate a measure of fun through various activities.
WriteShop's emphasis on editing is one of our greatest strengths. Editing is a battleground in most homes, but armed with self-editing tools and checklists, kids can approach their papers with a real sense of purpose. I think they’re surprised to discover that editing can actually be fun! Parent consistency during the editing stage goes a long way toward building trust. For teens, both the student and parent checklists hold students accountable to meet lesson expectations. Because the checklists are objective, they keep emotional battles and power struggles at bay.

What is your favorite WriteShop product? If you can narrow it down to one! :)
Wow! Only one? Since you’re forcing me to choose, I'd have to say WriteShop Junior. It wins parents and kids over with a fun assortment of writing genres, games, and powerful brainstorming and editing tools. Plus, I absolutely love the Fold-N-Go Grammar component!

Do you have a favorite genre of writing?
I'm especially fond of reading rich, descriptive historical fiction. As far as my own writing goes, it's mostly expository, which I really enjoy, but I wish I also had time for a personal blog. Someday...

What do you feel is the hardest part of the writing process?
Editing and revising, hands down! For one thing, most parents don't have a clue how to edit or grade their children's writing. Meanwhile, the kids think their writing is perfect just the way it is and don't want to make changes. Their writing is so much a part of them that they feel picked on or rejected at the slightest suggestion for improvement. That's why so many writing projects never make it past the first draft. It's also why parents appreciate WriteShop’s unique approach to teaching editing skills.

What advice do you have for homeschooling moms?
At every age, your children need your involvement in the writing process, not just to give editing feedback, but to instruct, guide, prompt, and model. Whether teaching them to make a bed, knit a scarf, or write a narrative, it's important to remain involved until they're confident and successful. So stay connected. It's crucial to your child's writing success!

Anything else you'd like to share?
Thank you for having me as a guest. I've enjoyed sharing with your readers!

A big thank you to Kim for sharing with us! If you're interested in hearing more from Kim or learning more about WriteShop, check out the WriteShop blog, In Our Write Minds and the WriteShop Facebook page!

If all this talk of WriteShop has piqued your interest, why not join us for a super fun Twitter party? Not only will we be discussing their products and strategies for teaching writing, but WriteShop is also giving away a bunch of cool prizes! Check out the Facebook event to see the whole list of goodies!

The party is going to be held a week from today - Tuesday April 17th at 9 PM (EST) on Twitter.
Follow the hashtag #WriteShopParty and (optionally) the hosts (@WriteShop, @Bowmania, @SpellOutLoud, & @mrsaddison) to make sure you don't miss out on the fun. You can also enter below to win a pre-party prize - your choice of WriteShop Book A, B, or C!

And of course, what would a party be without favors?! Here's a fun writing prompt ~ you can check out the four blogs listed below to collect them all!
You can download the prompt here: http://www.hsprintables.com/files/WriteShopsnowcone.pdf

Visit the other #WriteShopParty coordinators party posts for party favors, reviews & more!
www.writeshop.com
www.bowmania.net
www.wonderfullychaotic.com --> You're currently here!
www.spelloutloud.com a Rafflecopter giveaway

51 comments:

  1. I am here from Spell Outloud. Looking forward to reading more of your posts.

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  2. Just realized I am supposed to ask Kim a question: Are you familiar with Susan Wise Bauer's Writing with Ease and The Complete Writer? How would Writing Workshop compare with that writing curriculum?

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  3. visiting from Spell Outloud...I too have the above question. I have a very advanced reader/writer. How do I help her expand her writing to be better/more? The most difficult part of writing for me is teaching conclusion paragraphs!

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  4. The girl who painted trees: I haven't seen The Complete Writer, so I can't make an accurate comparison. I can tell you that both Writing with Ease and WriteShop Primary agree on this: most young children simply aren't ready for original writing all on their own.

    Writing with Ease approaches this problem by teaching writing skills through copywork and dictation. WriteShop Primary encourages parents to share in the entire process—including the actual writing. It's much more a hands-on program that gently eases young children into writing using games, activities, crafts, and picture books.

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  5. Jennifer: How old is your daughter? WriteShop doesn't begin teaching multi-paragraph writing until WriteShop Junior Level E (4th/5th grade), which isn't published yet.

    Writing a solid paragraph with a beginning and a closing is introduced in WriteShop Primary and reinforced through our older levels. This is the building block of organized writing. Many children do not write multiple paragraphs until they reach middle school, but if they have learned to write that foundational strong paragraph, it becomes much easier to make a transition to longer compositions when the time comes.

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  6. My question? Tough. Perhaps, I would ask if it's ever too late to really polish writing....I have a couple reluctant writers...and I'm looking for some great materials to truly polish and encourage writing. Would love to hear what you say!

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    1. It's never too late to learn how to polish writing, Rachel! Of course, I'm pretty biased toward WriteShop products, but we really try to make writing fun. Especially during the elementary years, it's important to think about the way kids learn--and most children learn best using visual, auditory, and kinesthetic activities. Hands-on prewriting games teach writing skills painlessly. Also, if you can use appealing graphic organizers to help your kids brainstorm, most of the work is done before they actually begin to write. Talk about a stress reducer!

      One of WriteShop's strengths is our editing and evaluating tools. Again, making the process more fun and gamelike is the key. For example, rather than make finding and fixing mistakes the goal, start by pointing out things the children did well, from spelling difficult words correctly to choosing strong verbs to writing an error-free sentence. This is a tremendous way to encourage polishing and minimize a child's feelings of rejection!

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  7. Visiting from Spell Outloud :). I guess my question would be how to encourage really young children to write. My son is 4 tomorrow and is finishing Kindergarten this year (we have had it confirmed that he's intellectually on a 5 year old's level). He doesn't have the dexterity yet. How will this curriculum help me help him? Is there a minimum that they should have (like being able to write all the letters or something) before beginning level A?

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    1. There's no need for your child to know how to read or write on any level before starting Book A. You can have him dictate his "writing" to you until he has the confidence and skill to do it by himself.

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  8. Hi, everyone! I'm going to check in throughout the week to watch for your questions. As time permits, I'll post answers here, on my blog, or on our Facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/writeshop. When leaving a question, please mention your children's ages. That will help me answer in a way that will be most helpful to you!

    I'll do my best to keep up, and I will try to answer as many questions as I possibly can!

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  9. question...hmm, How many families have thanked you for giving them permission to let their child dictat most of their "writing"?
    That has to be the thing I learned most from using WriteShop, and the thing that helped my children enjoy telling stories again.

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    1. Yabby, what an encouraging comment! Honestly, it saved my son's life (and my sanity) to let him dictate to me till he was mature enough to handle writing all by himself.

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  10. Hi, I am an immersion teacher for English as a second language in Germany. I have a kindergarten group and second grade. My question for you would: What is the biggest challenge in homeschooling?

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    1. Good question! In my experience, the challenge will vary from mom to mom. For some, it's juggling school, housework, and errands. For others, it's guarding against overcommitment in social activities. Other moms may struggle to teach many children or to homeschool older kids while balancing a demanding baby or toddler on their hip.

      When I was homeschooling, my biggest challenge was teaching my son, who learned very differently from his sisters. I was always seeking out new ideas and curriculum to see what would click for him. When I could see the lightbulb go on, it was very rewarding for me, but it was an often-exhausting journey.

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  11. Hmmmm, a lot of my questions have already been answered. But, one I'm struggling with is my boys in particular, but my kids in general struggle with wanting to write because they insist on writing with correct spelling but they're not ready to do that yet skill wise. So what should I do with that? I want them to start writing on their own not just doing copywork, but don't want to frustrate them.

    My boys are 7 and my daughter is 5. She loves to write letters and writes nonstop letters to friends, mostly saying "I love you. Do you want to come to a tea party?"

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    1. Ticia: It's normal for boys to struggle more than girls with writing, but I'm guessing the root issue is that, like most kids, your boys don't appreciate or "get" the value of the writing process.

      The idea of planning, writing, editing, and revising is foreign to many children. They want to write something once and call it a day, and they want you to love what they've written. Because children see their writing as an extension of themselves, they feel rejected by any criticism or suggestion you might offer.

      That's the main reason they want their spelling to be perfect. In their minds, they wrote the story the way they wanted to, and they don't want to make any changes (or be told they have mistakes).

      Don't worry if they're not writing on their own just yet. There's a lot going on in those busy brains, and it's hard for them to get their ideas on paper while also trying to concentrate on spelling.

      As Shay suggested below, you might check out my blog for articles and activities that target reluctant writers. Here's one article that talks about helping young children edit in a fun, positive way. http://www.writeshop.com/blog/2010/06/14/editing-and-evaluating-writing-k-3rd-grade/

      Hope this is helpful!

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  12. My question would be HOW DO YOU START with a 7 yr old who just is so reluctant? She is just now writing two sentences and HATES it!

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    1. I'm not Kim but I know she's swamped with questions (not just here but other places too!) so I'm trying to help her out a little. :)

      I have a six (going to be seven in August) year old son who is a reluctant writer as well. I try to focus on the fun aspects of writing. My son doesn't like copywork but he does love making up stories - so I have him dictate the stories and I help him to write them out. And although he doesn't like copywork, he does like writing down words he sees on signs, his favorite books or on things around the house. The WriteShop blog (http://www.writeshop.com/blog) has some really great ideas & activities to try with kids to encourage them to write - like this one: http://www.writeshop.com/blog/2010/01/07/writing-with-your-little-ones/

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    2. Thanks for pitching in to help, Shay. Great answer! Here's another blog post that may inspire and encourage you.

      http://www.writeshop.com/blog/2010/08/26/do-you-have-a-reluctant-writer/

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  13. Echo Meghan's question ... My 7yr old (2nd grader) can tell a FABULOUS story, but writing it is a completely different story! I saw an above comment about her dictating her story to me ... I will try that, but I am very interested in other ideas!

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    1. Kim is swamped with questions so I'm trying to help her out a bit. :)

      On The WriteShop blog, there's a whole section devoted to elementary writing activities that I think you'll find helpful - http://www.writeshop.com/blog/tag/elementary-writing-activities/
      I think the writing activity centers and crafty publishing ideas are neat!

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  14. TEaching writing can be so difficult--especially for boys! I would love to know how to inspire boys to write, both creatively and instructively.

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    1. Here are some ideas your boys might be interested in! :)

      www.writeshop.com/blog/2010/08/09/writing-for-an-audience/

      www.writeshop.com/blog/2011/09/19/writing-activity-centers-part-i/ (There's 4 parts to this one and they're all full of good activities!)

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  15. I'm visiting from Spell Outloud and I actually have had a wonderful chat via facebook with Kim. She helped me get my oldest son wanting to write something. The prompt cards that she has made have really helped my son. I do however want to make a suggestion.... KIM -- You could totally make some picture cards for a more visual appeal. I've played around with this with my oldest and I actually think its helped him to have a picture or several small ones to help him explain his story better. Is this normal?? Kim I love you and thanks for all the help you've given me!!

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    1. I can't speak for Kim but I think that sounds like an excellent idea! I think that boys are often more visual creatures and are able to understand things better that they can see or hold. I know that my son is a much more visual learner than my daughter - giving him pictures helps him as well!

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    2. Kayla, you are beyond sweet! You just made my day with your kind words!

      For others who may not know about the prompt cards, they're called StoryBuilders, and we have four different sets (e-books) available here: http://www.writeshop.com/store/products.php?cat=18

      (By the way, at the Twitter party, we'll be giving away some StoryBuilders!)

      One idea would be to print some images from the Internet. If he's using World of Animals, print pictures of a bat, spider, or giraffe to match his character card. If the setting is the pantry, a car, or the jungle, print out a picture. That way, your child can help choose the images he wants for the story he plans to write.

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  16. Question for Kim... What is your favorite way to clear your head at the end of the day?

    Thanks for the Twitter Party.

    Blessings,

    PK

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    1. Wow, fun question! We're at church two nights a week, and we share a meal with our church family on those evenings. After spending my days *thinking* and writing in my home office, getting out of the house and fellowshipping with other believers is a great way to clear the day's cobwebs.

      Other nights, I either read in the evenings, cheer our grandsons on at Little League, or (yes, it's true) watch NCIS on DVD with my husband. :)

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  17. I have a very reluctant writer (boy, 1st grade) but he is super imaginative and loves to draw. Any ideas on how to get him writing about his drawing in order to tie in the two?

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    1. If he's talkative, the drawing can be used to help focus his verbal skills. Here's one idea: Prompt him with questions such as "Where is the airplane going? What is the dog doing? Is it a raining or snowing?

      As he gives answers, help him phrase them as complete sentences and repeat them back to you. For instance:

      You: Where is the airplane going?
      Child: To the island.
      You: Oh! The airplane is going to the island. Say that: "The airplane is going to the island."

      After he repeats the phrase as a complete sentence, write it down. Then, ask another question to prompt more of the story.

      You: Why is the plane going to the island?
      Child: It's taking a family there.
      You: Why?
      Child: So they can live on the island.
      You: It's taking a family to the island so they can live there. Is that right?
      Child: Yes.
      You: Okay. Say: It's taking a family to the island so they can live there. (Write this down.)

      You can continue like this, prompting with who-what-when-where-why-how questions. Pull out more information and detail from him in this manner, and write down his answers. Together, you'll come up with the perfect story for his drawing!

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  18. If I could buy anything from Writeshop it would be the new level D.

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  19. I have a question....I have a 4th grade boy who has a high school reading level, but when it comes to writing, it's a constant battle! He's very intelligent, but just can't seem to express himself well on paper. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that most things come easy for him, so when he has to put much time or thought into it, he just doesn't want to give it the energy. Any suggestions, other than the constant battle we have going right now? Thanks!

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    1. Angie: No matter how smart a child is, or how gifted a reader, it's completely normal for a 4th grade boy to struggle with writing. I've written several articles on my blog about this topic. Rather than reinvent the wheel here, may I invite you to check them out?

      http://www.writeshop.com/blog/2010/08/26/do-you-have-a-reluctant-writer/

      http://www.writeshop.com/blog/2008/08/25/how-do-i-motivate-a-9-year-old/

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  20. here's a question for Kim...I think it's a good idea to let a child write her story/sentences without worrying about spelling, but do you correct it at all or just let it go? (this is for daily writing, not doing any editing or re-writing) at a first grade level.

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    1. Hey, Jen!

      If it's not a writing assignment that will be edited and revised, there's no need to correct the spelling. Instead, simply note the words she is misspelling, and keep a running list. These can become spelling words to work on later. As a matter of fact, we introduce a "Super Speller" in WriteShop Primary Books B and C to do just that!

      Working on words a child is misspelling in her own writing makes sense. It's a natural approach to spelling, and one I used with my own children many years ago.

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  21. Kim, do you have any advice for a child with fine motor issues? My 1st grader can do 2nd-3rd grade work and reads at a 5th-6th grade level but has trouble holding a pencil. What are your thoughts on letting him do writing assignments on the computer? TIA!

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    1. Such a great question, kp. A 6-year-old can be advanced academically, even as his fine-motor skills are trying to catch up.

      I think the computer is a great tool, and certainly it's the wave of the future. Though it's important for our kids to learn computer skills, we also need to encourage them to write by hand.

      If your son is able to write stories on the computer, let him do so. But also give him the opportunity to practice writing by hand. This may mean he shares the pencil with you so that he writes some of the words and you write others. Gradually, he should be able alternate with you to write every other sentence, and eventually he'll write by hand all on his own. It's a process that takes longer for some children, as their little hands tire easily. Maturity may take a while, but don't give up having him practice his penmanship in the meantime!

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    2. Here's an article you might find helpful.
      Here's an article that may be helpful: http://www.writeshop.com/blog/2010/09/28/helping-your-k-2nd-grader-with-writing/

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  22. I am simply wondering where to begin with the young child - Kindergarten to be exact. Besides learning to write letters, words and simple sentences, how do we begin to get the creative writing juices flowing?

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    1. Hi, Michelle!

      The best way to dip a kindergartener's toe in the waters of writing? Make it fun and bite-sized! I'm fond of asking lots of who-what-when-where-why questions to pull detail out of little ones. I also find it important to let them dictate their stories and ideas while Mom acts as scribe.

      One idea is to let your child draw a picture and then dictate a story to you about it. Here are a couple of blog posts I wrote that should give you even more tips:

      http://www.writeshop.com/blog/2010/01/07/writing-with-your-little-ones/

      http://www.writeshop.com/blog/2008/08/05/writing-with-young-children/

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  23. How do you know how much to expect from a child's writing? I have trouble knowing when to let things slide because of age/ability so that writing doesn't seem so difficult and discouraging.

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    1. That's the age-old question, isn't it? My son wasn't up to "standards" through most of our homeschooling, till he hit high school. That's when all the pieces started coming together.

      Just know that you're always safe to let a child dictate to you, even in upper elementary school. As skills and confidence increase, they can take on more of the actual physical writing. Meanwhile, share the pencil and take turns.

      I wrote a blog series that might be helpful to you. I talk about how much writing to expect at each age.

      http://www.writeshop.com/blog/2010/09/28/helping-your-k-2nd-grader-with-writing/

      http://www.writeshop.com/blog/2010/10/05/helping-your-3rd-5th-grader-with-writing/

      http://www.writeshop.com/blog/2010/10/12/helping-your-5th-8th-grader-with-writing/

      And here's an article that talks about how to put a positive spin on editing. You can find other articles on editing by searching the Categories menu!

      http://www.writeshop.com/blog/2011/02/21/putting-a-positive-spin-on-editing/

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  24. How do I handle a child who doesn't like to write????? kbalman@gmail.com

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    1. A lot depends on the child's age--and by what you mean by "doesn't like to write." If the child has tons of ideas swirling around in his head, loves to tell stories, has no trouble answering verbal prompts and questions, but hates to hold a pencil, the answer is: let him dictate to you! Even if he's older, you won't ruin your child for life by sharing the pencil. This article may give you some encouragement:

      http://www.writeshop.com/blog/2010/08/26/do-you-have-a-reluctant-writer/

      On the other hand, if physical writing isn't the issue, but your child freezes at the sight of a blank page, he may need some tools in his writer's toolbelt to save the day! Kids who struggle to come up with writing ideas benefit from lessons with specific guidelines. They also do extremely well with graphic organizers that help them think of details to add to make the story or report more interesting. This article may give you some ideas and encouragement:

      http://www.writeshop.com/blog/2010/07/13/how-is-writer-like-spelunker-caver-part-1/

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  25. I have one child who doesn't like to read and write, it's like a chore. For both of us. I can't relate and that makes it harder. My husband and I are both avid readers, my younger daughter loves to be read to and pretends to write letters all the time. My 9 year old has never even liked to be read to. I've tried all types of books, tried to just use something he's interested in, and it's just still not something he wants to do. How can I help him so he can progress and get some enjoyment from it...or at least help it not be such a chore for him? Don't get me wrong, I don't expect him to have the same love for reading as I do, and don't push him to, but I would love to find a way to make it easier for him.

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  26. I will have a kindergarten and a 1st grade boy using this program in the next school year. Do you recommend a handwriting program to go with Writeshop?

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    1. Amie: I don't have a specific recommendation for handwriting, since any program will work alongside WriteShop. Perhaps other moms will jump in with their own suggestions?

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  27. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity. I've been looking at this program for some time and am excited to see good curriculum with a multi-year scope and sequence. My background has been a 15 year career in the elementary classroom. My how I did not love grading writing, but loved teaching it!

    My questions for Kim would be...

    Do you incorporate the skills taught in the famed "6-Traits" in your writing curriculum? Would it be overkill to use a 6-traits book along with your writing materials? I will be starting home instruction in 1st grade in the fall with a precocious boy with very developed fine motor skills in addition to high academics.

    Also- how does your program address grammar? Is it complete enough to where I should not supplement with an outside grammar source?

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    1. KT: Welcome to homeschooling! I think you'll love the way you can tailor curriculum and activities to suit your son's giftedness!

      Most homeschoolers aren't too concerned about whether their various curricula closely shadows what's taught in the public schools. For those of us who are products of the system ourselves--or who are trained educators--it can take a couple of years to shake off the cobwebs of public schooling in order to teach our children "in the way they should go." For many, including you, that means allowing our kids to move ahead when they're clearly beyond Dick and jane. For others, it means allowing our struggling students the freedom to learn in a relaxed, unhurried atmosphere without needing to hold them up to a public-school standard of a particular grade level.

      That said, I think you'll like the way our elementary writing programs reflect the 6-Traits model without feeling "schoolish." you would not need to use a 6-Traits book in addition to WriteShop Primary or Junior.

      As for grammar, we don't introduce formal grammar in WriteShop Primary. Students learn basic capitalization and punctuation rules, but we don't begin grammar instruction till WriteShop Junior. If you're inclined to teach grammar during the primary years, you will need an outside source.

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  28. Thank you Kim for the time to answer my questions!
    We are finishing up our first year homeschooling and I think letting go of what my training taught me to do and go with the flow of my children has been one of the bigger learning experiences to date. I've also learned that there is a big difference between curriculum designed for mass education and that geared toward individual learners. I'm working on finding the blend of being a professional educator and mom-as-teacher!

    By the way, none of the blogs in this giveaway published who the winner was. Just curious!

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    1. The winner will be announced tonight at the Twitter party. 9 p.m. EDT. Follow @WriteShop and @SpellOutloud, hashtag #WriteShopParty. Hope to see you there!

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