Category Archives: writing

Jump In – a writing program ~ a Crew review

Writing is something that has come naturally for Miss L yet it is something that she needed guidance and stretching with. Writing poetry, writing stories, creating cards, retelling events – it was all fairly comfortable for her to do. But, there is more to writing, composition, than just the creative edge of it. There is structure and elements to it, as well as different styles yet unexplored for Miss L, that she could use some guidance in. Jump In, 2nd Edition is a new edition of a program that I used with the oldest giggly girl a couple of years ago for learning composition in middle school.  Sharon Watson is the author of this program and it is a delight for youth to work with. Writing with Sharon Watson has produced yet another outstanding program that encourages students to write, to understand the process of writing, and to do well with writing by just “jumping in.”

cover

We received the digital version of this program for this review. It came as a PDF file. We received both the student textbook and the Teacher’s Guide. Each is a different file.

The Jump In, 2nd Edition student textbook is 292 pages long. It is designed for the student to write their answers and work right onto the page. Miss L enjoys working with the computer and so she used the Fill & Sign option on the PDF reader to type her answers onto the PDF. She then saved it each time she had completed her day’s work so that we had a complete copy of her work. There were some activities that it was better to print so we did print a few of the pages.

example of typing answers into the PDF

example of typing answers into the PDF

 

The student textbook is written directly to the student. There is a Table of Contents and the they are off, jumping right in. The first section, Get Your Feet Wet, has a few skills and gets the student writing in easy bits and pieces right off the bat. The first section is designed to help ease the student’s concerns about writing and help them evaluate what they like and don’t like about writing. It changes the process a bit from the expected. Each section has a number of “skills” and the first section has three. These skills are the small bites that, when put together, create a complete piece of writing.

explaining how they have changed the process

explaining how they have changed the process

The students will work on writing about opinions, persuasive writing, cause and effect,  newspaper articles, narrations, poetry, and more. There are a whole host of styles here for the students to explore with Jump In. And each one of these styles takes the student through it skill by skill. The number of skills in each style ranges from 6 to about 17, depending on what has been taught previously that applies to the writing being developed.

Table of Contents

After the final style of writing, there is a section titled “My Locker.” This section contains checklists and worksheets that the student has used in different sections of the program. There is a page on the steps of the writing process, one with proofreading tips, and one titled “Mistake Medic.” There is a book report form and the worksheet for writing a paragraph. The final important part is the Index. This can help a student use this program long into the future by being able to look up how to write a certain style and getting the tips and tricks Sharon Watson gives in Jump In.

worksheet on Create Your Own Paragraph

worksheet on Create Your Own Paragraph

And, they have thought of everything. Knowing how quickly sources can change, the lesson for creating a works cited page is online. The text tells the student to visit the website for the lesson so that it can be kept up-to-date in this world of every changing technology. What a great idea! No more obsolete texts.

cover of the Teacher's Guide

The Jump In Teacher’s Guide is 123 pages long. It is so much more than an answer key. You do get the answers for each of the skills in the student textbook but prior to that you get a whole lot more. There are three different schedule options – 1 year, 2 year, and 3 year schedules that you can use to help guide you in setting the schedule for your student. A competent, confident student can use the 1 year schedule while a young student will likely be better suited for the 3 year schedule.

Following some random facts (98 lessons called Skills plus 19 more that are assignments and worksheets; “moments of humor may pop up randomly”), there is a list of all of the writing projects or assignments in the program.

some of the assignments to be done including opinion essay, persuasive essay, and cause-and-effect persuasive essay

some of the assignments to be done

Then we get to The Teacher’s Backpack. This contains many of the materials found in the student textbook under My Locker. Plus, we get additional Do’s and Don’ts for different styles AND it is noted on the pages where it is located in the student’s materials.

As a writing teacher, one of the most intimidating parts for me is grading the writing. Sharon Watson removes that intimidation for me by giving us pages of sample essays and grading grids (rubrics or scales). There are sample essays for giving an A, B, C, D, or F. But not just the essay is there. She also includes an explanation of the things that were done well and where improvement could be made for each essay. This is super helpful.

The grading grids are fabulous, also. Not only do we have the example, but we have the rubric which takes out the guess work. Each piece of what should be included in a high-quality essay is listed along with how many points should be given for that skill. (These are found at the end of the guide.)

grading grid for opinion essay

Grading Grid for an opinion essay

There are Ten Minute Writing Plunges included. There are enough plunges (prompts) to be able to use a plunge four days a week each week of the year. They are labeled by month and there are some guidelines to help determine when it is best to utilize these plunges. There is a lot of flexibility with these. These will provide good breaks from the workbook or give some warm-up writing when working on assignments.

The answer key portion of the Teacher’s Guide is well labeled. You can find exactly what the student should be doing with answers to the daily lessons, writing assignments, and schedules. Even when there is no specific answer, there is enough information included for each answer that grading is easy.

example of the answer key showing a skill and what the student must do for that skill

Example of the answer key

Miss L’s Thoughts:

I felt like the amount of instruction given made what I was supposed to do very clear. I like that there are intriguing prompts. The way I was encouraged to do things and the way the examples were given made a lot of sense. As a PDF, this was easy to get to and use. I do think other students would enjoy and benefit from this program.

My Thoughts:

This is a quality program that is adaptable and flexible, making it easy to work with what your student needs. It is easy to use. Miss L completed one skill a day, about three days a week with more time dedicated to the final writing assignment in the style. Opinions was not a simple style for Miss L to start with. But, we felt like it was important to work through the styles in the order presented so that the skills can build one on another.

This is a high quality program that empowers the student to work hard while learning skill by skill what is needed to write strong, effective works. Whether a young 6th grader or a high-schooler who needs a bit of help with writing, this program will provide the encouragement and support the student needs to become a strong writer.

Visit the Writing with Sharon Watson website to get a sample of Jump In, 2nd Edition.

Also, if you are looking for a high school literature course, take a look at the review we did of Characters In Crisis. It was a great program for high school that my oldest giggly girl really enjoyed.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Please click on the banner below to visit the Homeschool Review Crew and read more reviews. Many families have been using Jump In so you can read how it worked for their students.

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Lightning Literature & Composition Grade 4 ~ a Crew review

Hewitt Homeschooling Lightning Lit 4

While my youngest girl loves stories and being read to, she doesn’t always have the drive to read for herself in a constructive and discerning manner yet. Hewitt Homeschooling Resources has a series of literature and composition curriculum that I have long been interested in. We were actually a part of their grade 3 beta program a few years ago and used it for several books. I liked the way it flowed and so when we were given the opportunity to work with the Grade 4 Lightning Lit Set, I was glad to do so. It came with the Teacher’s Guide and the Student Workbook, both soft cover books.

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While Miss J is often considered 5th grade for this coming school year, I took a good look at the samples for the level on the Hewitt Homeschooling website. It showed me enough to know that since Miss J is a strong reader but is not always able to answer comprehension questions about the reading easily, this might be a really good fit for her. The books are pretty challenging, in my opinion, for a 4th grader who is not a super strong reader with strong comprehension. Take a look at this list.

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There are a total of 12 books on the list. Not included in this picture from the Student Workbook is Tuck Everlasting and The Borrowers. I also felt that the grammar includes so many skills and covers so many concepts that she has not yet dealt with that this would be a very good challenge for her. With a total of 36 weeks of materials, this is easily a full literature, composition, and grammar curriculum.

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I really like the way the Student Notebook is put together. The pages are perforated and set up by week. I can easily take one week’s worth of work out of the book and staple it together. Miss J then only has to deal with those pages and not the whole 400+ pages of the workbook.

Miss J started at the beginning of the workbook and has worked through several of the weeks. She is currently working on the book The One and Only Ivan. She has completed The Earth Dragon Awakes and Morning Girl. Each week is set up with four days. The fifth day is left as an optional day where additional work could be completed on the composition project or maybe completing an optional workbook page. Each week from the Student Workbook has a cover page that indicated the week and the pages of the book that will be read during that time.

Lightning Lit

The second page of the week has a checklist that shows what will be done during the week. It includes the readings, broken up into four parts. There is also the grammar pages to be completed on each of the four days and what they are, such a common and proper nouns. The composition is also included here and broken up into four parts, as well as any extra activities that can be completed if assigned. I did assign the extra worksheet pages, as I felt they were really helpful and Miss J completed them on day 4 of the week.

 

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The readings did a great job of putting the story into smaller chunks for each day. There were daily comprehension questions to go along with the reading. These always asked the student to think deeper than the surface understanding of the story. For example, in The Earth Dragon Awakes, there were questions regarding the understanding one of the characters has of another. In Morning Girl, the student was asked to recognize the emotions of the character and to use examples from the text to support the answer.

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The grammar portion of the work builds slowly upon the work that comes before it. This level started with nouns on the first day. Then it added the recognition of common nouns and proper nouns. The week ended with abstract nouns. Week two dealt with verbs, including linking verbs and helping verbs. Week three added types of sentences and week four added adjectives.

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a simple start to diagramming sentences

Each week, there was also diagramming sentences, beginning in week 3. This is something I have never done formally and so it was a learning experience for both Miss J and myself. The diagramming is handled very well, adding very small chunks each week. It is not overwhelming and the Teacher’s Guide is really helpful for me here.20190613_135255

Speaking of the Teacher’s Guide, let’s take a look at what it offers. It does include the expected – answers for the workbook pages the student completes each day. But there is quite a bit more to it. It is quite a bit more compact that the Student Workbook as it contains only around 250 pages. It begins with the table of contents listing each of the books for the weeks. The information is also listed by week, after the initial “How to Use This Teacher’s Guide” section.

Don’t skip the “How to Use” section. It includes a lot of information about why the curriculum is organized the way it is and why the choices were made to include things. There is information that will help with understanding the best ways to guide your student and suggestions for modifying where needed.

Each of the week’s lessons have additional information for the teacher that will help you be prepared to address concerns with your student or to guide them in discussions. Each section of the student’s workbook pages have a section in the Teacher’s Guide, giving answers or suggestions.

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I do wish that the Teacher’s Guide has a listing of all of the aspects of grammar and composition that are specifically addressed. This information would be really helpful if you are coming to this from a different curriculum or need to go to a different one for next year. (Grade 5 is in progress for Lighting Lit. See their website for the listing of books and outline of what is coming in Grade 5.)

The grammar and composition pretty well go hand-in-hand throughout the study. What is being worked on in grammar is often part of what they are being assigned to include in the composition. The concepts covered include:

  • nouns
  • verbs – from basic verbs to linking and helping verbs to the different tenses of verbs
  • adjectives
  • pronouns
  • conjunctions
  • articles
  • homophones
  • poetry – terms, types, rhyme, stress
  • punctuation – commas, quotations marks, ellipses, etc.
  • capitalization – sentences, in poetry, in letters, names and titles, etc.
  • figures of speech – onomatopoeia, simile, metaphor, personification
  • writing techniques – alliteration, assonance

Through the lessons, the grammar portion circles back to review concepts and ideas that had been previously taught and to take the student a little bit deeper. This is done through intentional reviews or by including the more complex form of the concept, such as specific types of clauses or different tenses of the verbs.

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Yes – this is my handwriting instead of Miss J’s. It was a hard day but she walked me through what to do and I did the writing for her. She learned the diagramming information, regardless of who did the writing.

And almost always, this is tied into the skill of diagramming a sentence. Teach the idea; practice the idea; diagram a sentence with that included. This is the process and I feel like it is a strong model for continued growth and learning.

We chose this for Miss J and I feel like the material covered, and the way in which it is covered, will more than challenge her this coming year as we continue on with this program. Hewitt Homeschooling Resources seems to have an advanced program so definitely take a look at the samples when you are getting ready to order materials.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Click on the banner below to read the reviews of others who were reviewing materials from Hewitt Homeschooling Resources. These materials included:

Grade 1 Lightning Lit Set
Grade 2 Lightning Lit Set
Grade 3 Lightning Lit Set
Grade 4 Lightning Lit Set 
My First Report: Solar System, Grades 1-4
Chronicles of __ State History Notebook, Grades 3-8
Joy of Discovery w Learning Objectives Adult/Teacher
Gr 7 Lightning Lit Set  
Gr 8 Lightning Lit Set 
American Early-Mid 19th Century Gr 9-10
American Mid-Late 19th Century Gr 9-12
Speech  Gr 9-12.
British Early-Mid 19th Century Gr 10-12
British Mid-Late 19th Century Gr 10-12
British Medieval Gr 10-12
Shakespeare Comedies Gr 11-12
Shakespeare Tragedies Gr 11-12
British Christian Gr 11-12
American Christian Gr 11-12  

Lightning-Literature-My-First-Reports-State-History-Notebook-Joy-of-Discovery-Hewitt-Homeschooling-Resources-Reviews-2019

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Kids Email ~ a Crew review

Kids Email product

There are many ways to foster independence and we were happy to be a part of this review of a subscription to Kids Email Safe Email for Kids. This program  has allowed each of the girls to have their own email address while At Home Dad and I have control over the safety features of the system. A win-win for all of us.

Kids Email  is a company that has been around since 2009 and provides a safe email system for kids. Through their system, parents can monitor the incoming and outgoing messages but the child still has their own email. There are tons of safety features which the parent can turn on or off.

writing email

The safe email for kids has been a wonderful tool for our family but I really want to share the highlights of the program.

  • Parents choose which email addresses the child can send to and receive from. No spam or unsolicited emails can get through.
  • If an email is received from an unapproved address, it goes directly to the parent account and must be approved. A response is also returned to the sender, telling them that they have emailed a child and that the parent must approve their email before the child will see it. I really appreciate that it specifies that it is an account held by a minor and that it is being monitored. That potentially wards off a lot of unwanted things.
  • In setting up each email account, there are a number of settings. These include things like – can this email receive links for other places on the internet? Can this email receive videos? Can this email receive images? Can this email receive from anyone not on the contact list? Do you want to limit messages that have bad words in them? Can the child edit their approved contact list or who they can send to?
  • There are controls for time restrictions that include days of the week or hours of the day.
  • You can ground your child and they cannot use their email if the account has been “grounded.”
  • There is an activity log. This lists the date, time of login, and the emails that were sent. This could be helpful if you are using sending emails as a typing practice that you need to document.
  • If your teen wants a bit more of a grown-up feel and address, the kmail version will be right up their alley. The system maintains the same safety features yet their email address is a bit more grown-up.

There are a few other features but these are the highlights. The girls will share some of their favorite “features” in their section of the review. This includes tools that they discovered in using the program.

Many Homeschool Review Crew families thought it would be neat for our kids to get a chance to “meet” each other so we set up some pen-pals. My three giggly girls chose some pen-pals based on age and common interests. It has been lots of fun for them to communicate with and get to know some of the other Crew kids. Communicating with kids from across the US and even around the globe (one of the girls they email with most frequently is in the Philippines) has been fun for them and they seem to be enjoying it.

Another great thing we have enjoyed about Kids Email is that the girls can communicate with family on their own. They pop on and write an email about their day or something they thought their aunt, uncle, cousin, or grandparent might want to know or be interested in. It has been fun to see them exchange emails, read articles sent to them by their aunt and discuss the article with her, or find out about places family has visited through pictures they share.

screenshot of email sent

Miss E’s thoughts:

Email. I like that every message goes through my parents. I don’t know exactly why but this is a feature I really like about the program. It is fun to pick your own background and there are some really pretty ones. I chose the wolf and it is really pretty and awesome and cool. You get to change the font style and font color and font size. That is lots of fun!

I have enjoyed getting my birthday and Easter e-cards from my grandparents in my own email instead of having mom call me over after checking her email. My aunt has sent me a link to an article about an elephant at their zoo, talking about the elephant and where he was before. There was a video of the elephant and at the bottom it had a timeline of his life. It was neat getting that article sent directly to me.

I started emailing with a pen-pal. We have decided to read the same book and then we are going to talk about it over email when we both finish.

Miss L’s thoughts:

I know that a lot of kids have emails but I have never had one. This was my first one. I thought that it was a really fantastic program. I like the way that it gave kids freedom but that parents get to monitor each exchange that goes on. I think is something that makes the parents and the children happy. I like that you could do more than just sending text, such as adding pictures take on a phone, draw your own pictures, and send articles through links back and forth. I really like that because I think it will encourage the younger kids because most of the time kids under 10 are going to be looking for ways to exploit their creativeness. This is a program that fits for all ages. I really liked being able to set up pen-pals. I thought it was a really good way to be able to explore the program while letting kids send emails to people beyond their parents and siblings. It let me be able to communicate with more people and still make it interesting.

One of the pen-pals that I have been communicating with is really creative. We both like to read and write. We have been sending ideas back and forth for a book that she is writing. It is really fun to get to be a part of that and get to help her with it. Another of the pen-pals that I have been sending emails back and forth with really likes to draw and make art. I do, too, so we have sent pictures of our artwork to each other.  It is really fun to get to share with people who don’t really know me. It is fun to get to know them, too, especially when we are around the same age and enjoy some of the same things.

Miss J’s thoughts:

I like that I can communicate to my mom and my dad and all my family members. I like to draw and the drawing tool helps me to recreate stuff and change it. I like sending my drawings to people. I like that I can change my background.I like that they have a lot of different choice for the backgrounds.  I like that it tells me how many emails I have.  I enjoyed getting to make new online friends. I like being able to communicate with faraway relatives. I like being able to get and give pictures that I draw and ones that I don’t draw (taken with a phone camera).

My Thoughts:

I have enjoyed seeing the thrill that the girls get when a new email is received through Kids Email Safe Email for Kids. They will spend quite a bit of time typing up an email to send to someone (yay for writing and keyboarding skills!). Each day, they enjoy spending a few minutes at least checking. And when someone sends them something special – an idea or a picture or a gift card (yep – one girl was able to receive an e-gift card for her birthday) – it is just pure joy on their faces. They don’t know that it is a step towards independence but their dad and I do. And we are so happy to see how they are handling it. We are pleased with Kids Email .

Blessings,
At Home.

Check out the other reviews from the Homeschool Review Crew families that received this program.KIDS-Email-Homeschool-Reviews

 

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Reading Kingdom – online language arts instruction ~ a Crew review

Reading-Kingdom-fun-1000x1000

We were asked to take a look at Reading Kingdom  for this review and when we started, I was unsure about how it would benefit Miss J. She was reading well and could express herself well, though she didn’t care too much for writing. She enjoyed typing though. Giving Reading Kingdom a try brought out some interesting things for us.

Reading Kingdom  teaches Phonics Plus Five. In other words, it teaches all of the six main reading and writing skills needed to communicate in the English language. It is immersion based, meaning the skills are not taught by memorization but rather by continued use in context. The six skills are:

  • sequencing
  • writing
  • phonology
  • semantics
  • syntax
  • comprehension

These skills are really well explained in the PDF that is linked at the bottom of the page titled Why It Works. That page and the PDF will give you a really solid understanding of the program and how it is different from others on the market today.

typing activity

Using Reading Kingdom

The program itself is really quite easy to use, though a couple less clicks to get started would be nice. Once in the session, the child just follows the directions for each of the activities in the lesson. The directions are spoken so the child does not have to read to get going.

Miss J was working in level 4 of 5. I think she placed a bit low because the placement test threw her a couple of curve balls she wasn’t expecting. She did not capitalize her sentences in the placement. And there were several times that she clicked faster than the program registered so it counted some things wrong. All in all, though, she has benefited from her placement, even though it is low for her.

The activities have so many different benefits that it is hard to explain, honestly. Some of the activities have the student recognizing the sequencing placement of the letters of the word. Some are looking a placement in a sentence. Another might have the student spelling the word. Another has the student recognizing it next to a similarly spelled word. Activities might have the student typing or clicking to input. Capitalization, punctuation, and sentence structure are all a part of the activities students complete in a reading context, not just an exercise for the one thing.

word identification activity

Each lesson focuses on a particular word. Today’s lesson was rainbow. She has had cold, happen, saw, and small, to name just a few. When a word is focused on, the various ways to use the word are also covered (part of the semantics, syntax, and comprehension). With cold, for example, she also saw colder. With rainbow, she also saw and typed rainbows. With too, she had to identify it in context of a sentence that might have both too and to next to each other; she had to choose the correct one.

The set up of each lesson is game like, without actually being a game. It is brightly colored and has sound effects (annoying to me but right up Miss J’s alley). In the upper right corner of the screen the student can see how many more parts the lesson has. There is also a way to pause the lesson or you can close it out before completely finishing it. The next time you log in, you come back to where you were.

controls, points, and parts of lesson

What Reading Kingdom  Recommends

Reading Kingdom recommends the student complete one lesson a day at least four days per week. If you need to move along a bit faster, they say it is okay to do two lesson a day but recommend not doing any more than that. We have stuck with the one lesson per day, though we have honestly struggled to do four days per week. I think we are showing an average of 3.3 days per week. Yep – that is how detailed you can get with the information available from Reading Kingdom. And there are more reports available.

Reports

I can download and save or print a report that shows me the progress of my class/student. For Miss J, it shows me which day she completed which lesson and her rating for it. The beginning of the report shows me how she did on each part of the assessment and how long it took her. If you have to track time on task, that is in the report as well.

report example

Another way you can see the progress is on the start page. There is a progress bar that is visible to show how much of the level is complete. There is another to show how much of the program is complete. Below that is a table with markers showing similar material.

screenshot of login progress bars

How We Like The Program

Overall, I think Reading Kingdom  is a program that has a lot of benefits to it. I like the integrated approach to the multiple skills and I like that it is not taxing or difficult for Miss J. It is a program she can be independent with, which, as a 9 year old, is a big deal. I do believe that in the long run, we will see that having worked through the levels of the program that it placed her in has been of benefit. But it isn’t as visible as some other programs may be. We may not be able to point to a particular thing and say “That is what Reading Kingdom did for her.” I do believe she is benefiting, though.

Miss J does not beg to do the lessons but she doesn’t complain about them, either. There are a couple of things she would change. The program repeats a lot and much of the work are things she knows. She thus feels she is doing things below her level or having to repeat things. What I am seeing, though, is her working well at words presented in context and being able to spell them easily at the end of the session. She is having to pay attention to what she is doing and her typing skills are definitely improving.

Another complaint that she has had is the speed of the program as it moves through a sentence reading or having her type. But guess what? Tonight I saw that there is a way to speed up the movement from word to word within a sentence. So I am changing that. (I saw it when I was taking a screenshot for this review. That is one of the issues with her being independent – it never donned on me that I could change that. She’ll be happy tomorrow!)

Would I recommend the program? I don’t know. Not because it isn’t good but because I am not sure it is for everyone. My oldest two did fantastic with sight words and moved into independent reading quickly and easily. They would not have done well with this program because it moves carefully through each word. They have never struggled with reading, spelling, context, or any of those skills. This would not have worked with them.

Miss J on the other hand has grown into her own reading enjoyment a bit more slowly and needs a bit more work on her spelling and writing. This is working with her on those skills. She gets context easily and understand much about grammar. But those are helping her with the other parts of this program. So it works for her.

If your student is at the beginning of their reading journey, this would be a fantastic program. If they are farther along and can already read some but are struggling, this might be good for them. I have not found an assessment of any type that you can take prior to signing up with the company but reach out to them if you have questions. I am sure they would be happy to help you make your decision.

Blessings,
At Home.

There were a number of families with students at different levels and needs, including some with ASD, who were reviewing Reading Kingdom . See what some of the other families had to say about Reading Kingdom and ASD Reading by clicking on the banner below.

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Paragraph Writing Program From The Crafty Classroom ~ a Crew review

types of paragraphs

Miss J loves to tell stories but writing them down is not her favorite thing. When we were offered the opportunity to use How to Write a Paragraph from The Crafty Classroom, I felt like it would be a very good thing for us to do. The product is cheerful (colorful if you can print in color) and fun looking, drawing us in right away.

How To Write A ParagraphThe Crafty Classroom is a resource for tons of ideas, printables, and crafts. Visit the site and you immediately see plenty to go exploring. Looking for Bible information? Perhaps the Bible ABC Curriculum Notebook will work for you. Geography needed? Check out USA Activity Bundle. Have a preschooler? Alphabet Curriculum Notebook might work but if you have one a tad bit older check out Learn to R.E.A.D. Curriculum Notebook and R.E.A.D. Review Pack. And these are just the things the Homeschool Review Crew is reviewing right now. There are tons more. (I have my list to check out!)

But, on to what we worked with: How to Write a Paragraph. I have let Miss J (8 years old and entering 3rd) skip over a lot of her writing because the physical part was getting in the way of her actually being able to express what she wanted to say. When I saw the samples of the paragraph writing curriculum, I thought it looked really doable, something that would be thorough yet easy enough that she wouldn’t get too frustrated. It works gradually up to the whole paragraph thing and I really liked how it gently moved the student forward. This program is a 12 week, day-by-day curriculum that includes little prep. (I hate saying no prep because you do have to print it and know what you need poster-wise for that week.) It is very easy to follow.

writing

It arrived as a PDF, which was easy to download and save. I read the introductory materials and began printing the first week’s materials. The overall program is simple: there is a page of discussion ideas and activity suggestions for the teacher, a daily work page for the student four days a week, and a “poster” to print that has the week’s topic or theme. For example, in week one, I printed off the poster that reviews what a sentence needs, the teacher page and four work pages for Miss J. In week 3, the posters (there were two) were about types of paragraphs and the other printed pages were about that.

Each day, I would start by reviewing the posters from previous lessons. Then we would do the activity from the teacher’s page for that day. It might be writing example sentences or having the student find what was wrong with an example. It is always interactive with the student. Next we worked on that day’s work page. There is a little box in the top left corner reminding the student of important things to remember about her writing and a list of directions in the top right corner for completing the page.  This generally took only about 15 minutes (unless she took a long time with her drawings). Quick and easy.

By the time the student gets to week 5, it is time to begin writing complete paragraphs. The program walks the student through brainstorming on the topic and has gentle reminders to create a topic sentence and good supporting sentences. The posters help the student remember what kind of paragraph they are working on and how to write a good paragraph. There is also an editing checklist for older students who are ready to begin editing and writing final drafts of their work.

weekly schedule

part of the week 1 visual schedule – I like this.

The PDF contained a visual schedule of each week, showing exactly what to print for each week. (I think week 3 should have shown both pages of the types of paragraphs, though. I had to make a quick computer run once we got started because I had not looked ahead to make sure I had it all and had only printed the first poster.) This visual schedule was easy to use, which makes this program appealing to the teacher who has limited prep time. All I needed was the printed pages and I was ready to go. If I wanted to be on top of it, I could print the whole file all at once and then not have to worry about whether I had printed everything I needed for that week’s lessons.

opinion paragraphI am pleased to continue on with this curriculum as we are beginning to build more complex sentences and complete paragraphs. I like that Miss J is writing, reviewing the things she needs to write well, and getting more skilled at putting her thoughts on paper. Miss J likes that there are a variety of activities – we have written on the white board, drawn pictures, cut and pasted, colored, and more – while she is working on something she isn’t crazy about. She doesn’t balk at doing this program because she knows it is not going to be too hard and she can take baby steps to get it done. Win-win.

At Home.

Read more reviews from the Homeschool Review Crew about the other products we are reviewing, as well as other families who have been using How to Write a Paragraph.

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Tell a Fairy Tale – Middle School Monday

Recently, our library hosted a contest for Tell a Fairy Tale Day. The actual day was Feb 26 this year. The older two giggly girls decided to enter a fairy tale into a contest that was held. We utilized that as  writing lessons for part of that week. This was a fun and simple way to engage the girls in some creative writing. The instructions were simple: write your own fairy tale in the space provided and turn it in. They were encouraged to add an image to go along with tale.

I enjoyed their fairy tales and both of them were awarded honorable mentions. I thought I would share their entries, since they were pretty short.

Miss L, age 10

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there lived a king and queen, whom were named King William and Queen Adalaide. Together, they ruled wisely, and were fair and just in every needed advisement. They were rich in all but one thing, which was a child, which they wanted very much. Then one day, the Queen had a healthy, pretty little girl, and the whole kingdom erupted into celebration that stayed on for a week. The princess had skin like porcelain, hair like the midnight sky, eyes like sapphires, and lips like rubies. And only grew fairer every passing day. But then came the day she turned sixteen, which was the age the crown was handed down to the heir. Before the princess could become Queen, she needed to have a husband. So she set off on a quest to find a prince but none she visited seemed right. Finally, she came to a little island called Lilitia. There she met a girl named Lewana, who was looking for her brother who had run away from home. The two girls quickly become best friends and decided to quest together. The next day, the two friends came upon a large town and agreed to hail one another if they found what either was looking for. And so they set off. Soon the princess came upon a large inn, with many inside. One man in particular caught her eye and they fell in love on first sight. He said he was a prince, and the princess summoned Lewana. Lewana took one look at the prince and ran to embrace him because the prince was also Lewana’s brother. They all went back to the princess’s castle and lived happily every after.

Miss E, age 12

Once upon a time, just past the sparkling waterfall and the shining rainbow was a city of pixies. They were led by a single brave pixie named Joyce. Joyce was a curious pixie and one day she wandered out of the forest and into a house where a little girl sat reading a book outside.

Joyce flew up to the girl and said, “Hi! My name is Joyce. What is yours?”

The girl dropped her book in surprise. “C-C-Crystal. Are you a fairy?”

Joyce frowned. “Why do people always think that? No. I am a pixie. Do you need a friend?”

Crystal’s mouth dropped open. “How did you know? I do need a friend. It is just me and my mom here.”

“My mom and I,” Joyce corrected. “Why don’t you come to my city? Humans used to visit us. Not anymore though. But we have a human-sized house.”

“Oh, Oh, Thank you so much!” Crystal yelled, jumping up and down. She and her mom went to live with the pixies and they all lived happily ever after!

Such a fun way to incorporate creativity and writing into our week! I love it when things come out so simply and the girls are able to participate in community activities like this. Did your library have a Tell a Fairy Tale Day? Do they often do fun activities to get involved with? I highly recommend friending a librarian and making visiting a library part of your regular homeschooling activities if it is at all possible. Our librarians are fantastic and definitely add so much to our unit studies.

At Home.

Creative Freewriting Adventure ~ a Crew review

Creative Freewriting Adventure review

Two of the three giggly girls are tremendous writers and seem to really enjoy finding creative outlets for their writing. This continuous search for various writing outlets was one of the reason we were interested in the Creative Freewriting Adventure from Home School Adventure Co. We also received a copy of the Creative Freewriting Adventure Coloring Book Edition.

Creative Freewriting Adventure Coloring Book EditionCreative Freewriting Adenture

 Stacy Ferrell is the author of this writing supplement. She has written various curriculums published through Home School Adventure Co, including Philosophy Adventure, Walking with the Waodani, Celebrating Manhood: a rite of passage guide, and I’d Rather Be Your Mommy.

Creative Freewriting Adventure was developed as a supplemental writing program to complement various other programs published by the company, including The Wise Woman with Analysis Journal, Philosophy Adventure, and Mere Christianity Critical Analysis Journal. The idea was to give the students some opportunities for fun, creative writing in the midst of a longer-term, more intensive writing project.writing about Thales

This program contains 10 exercises, some of which actually have two writing activities. Each exercise begins with some background information, a descriptive scene (titled Your Journey), and Your Assignment. The exercises include the philosophers Thales, Pythagoras, Xenophanes, and Democritus. There are four exercises on The Wise Woman. The final two exercises are centered a bit more on themes from Mere Christianity.

After the student has read the information and Your Journey, the Your Assignment part takes them into the writing. These are a series of questions designed to jog the student’s memory, give them ideas and help them find ways to increase the descriptiveness of their writing. Then, a timer is set for 15 minutes and the writing begins. At 15 minutes, the exercise is over. If the girls were on a roll, I never stopped them at 15 minutes. They wanted to finish the story that was running in their heads, so I let them.

This quick but creative process is what I thought would appeal greatly to my girls. I was mistaken here. While some of the prompts worked really well (Thales falling in a well and the one with talking animals), others were complete dead ends for the girls. We tried several of them more than once with a break in between. It was just a no-go.

I believe that these did not work as well for the girls because they like to write and they write often. They are so creative that they felt boxed in by the prompts and they felt like  many of the exercises ended the story rather than giving them an opening for continuing the story.

The background information was where we got the most joy from these lessons. Miss E has been studying Ancient Greece and the first four exercises include some information on some of the Greek philosophers. This was pretty fascinating for her (and me). It was also writing about talking animalsfun for us to revisit some of the story of The Wise Woman, which we reviewed a couple of years ago.

We received PDF downloads of both the Creative Freewriting Adventure and the Creative Freewriting Adventure Coloring Book Edition. There is very little difference between the two. They both include the same written information and printable pages for doing the creative writing assignment on. The coloring book edition also includes a coloring page for each of the exercises.

If you have an older student who needs some ideas for writing, some prompts, or some questions to help them get more creative and descriptive in their writing, this might be a good supplement for you to look at.

At Home.

 

Homeschool Review Crew families have been using the Creative Freewriting Adventure, Walking with the Waodani, Celebrating Manhood, and I’d Rather Be Your Mommy. Click the banner below to read more reviews.

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