Tag Archives: creative 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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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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Creativity Encouraged

creativity-encouraged-thinking-tree-journals-review

We love to encourage the girls to be creative. Whether it is through crafts, arts, or other means, creativity strengthens the brain and allows personal expression and out of the box thinking. These are extremely important in healthy development and critical thinking ability.

Because we believe so strongly in encouraging creativity, I was thrilled when we received an unexpected review product in the mail – Thinking Tree Journals! I had hoped to receive one but nope. We were given six to review. I am going to talk about three of them today and the others will be in an additional post next week.

These journals are just a few of the many products created by Sarah Janisse Brown and her family through their company Thinking Tree Publishing. This homeschooling family has created these journals that can be easily adapted to fit whatever need your family has. Today, I’ll be discussing the Poetry Writing Journal, the Creative Writing Journal, and the Big Sister and Little Sister Coloring Book.

poetry-journal

Poetry Writing Journal

The official title of this one is Poetry Writing Journal- Color, Draw & Doodle: Do-It-Yourself Homeschooling. It is a soft back journal with laminated paper covers that are very study. It is approximately 9 x 12, so just bigger than a piece of notebook paper. It has white pages with black print. Each two-page spread has a page with an image to color or draw and a page with lines for writing poetry to go along with the image. There are 38 two-page spreads so quite a bit of opportunity for poetry creation and coloring/drawing.

poetry-example

Upon arrival at the house, this one was grabbed up by Miss L. She is 10 and absolutely adores poetry. Creating poetry is one of her very favorite things to do. She immediately sat down and wrote a poem based off of one of the images in the book. She has not colored it the image yet but the poem is just a joy to read. She has since created some others but here is her first one in the book.

creative-writing-journal

Creative Writing Journal

This journal is similar in physical aspects to the poetry journal. It is just bigger than a notebook page and has a soft cover. It includes over 40 two-page spreads for writing stories. One page is an image or a place to draw and doodle images and the other is a lined page for writing a story to accompany the image. The images can be colored and so make a nice combination of image and story. This encourages creativity by giving a prompt that is still somewhat specific but yet very open to interpretation.

creative-writing-sample

Miss E, age 12, grabbed this book upon opening the box of journals and immediately chose an image to spin her story off of. Her story was a joy to read and definitely reflects her personality. She wrote it and enjoyed sharing the story with the family. There are many more images to prompt stories or other writings from and I can’t wait to see what all will come of this style of writing prompts.

big-sister-little-sister

Big Sister and Little Sister – a Coloring Book for Two

This is one I really expected to be snapped up. The girls were really excited about it when they saw it but it has only been used once or twice since it arrived. Perhaps with all the excitement about the other journals, this one has been kind of buried. Yet, I think it will be lots of fun for the girls to enjoy together since Miss E and Miss J enjoy listening to audio books together.

coloring-pages

This coloring books is also approximately 9×12 and is a soft cover journal. The book has plenty of two-page spreads to keep the sisters coloring together for a while, even if they did one every single day. There are over 30 sets of coloring pages with dulpicate images on both sides of the spread. Some are labeled as big sister and little sister, while others are not. Some of them are printed on both the front and back of pages but there are a number of the image sets that are printed on one side of the page only so that the sisters can color with markers if they choose to without ruining another picture that was colored. I love that thoughtfulness of detail!

My thoughts:

I truly am thankful to have these journals. They came just a couple of days before At Home Dad has shoulder surgery so they provided an easy way to continue schooling when we needed to be busy and away from home a bit more. They could easily be taken to grandma’s house during those first few days of recovery and grandma could encourage school without having to push math or science.

Creative engagement of the brain strengthens it in so many ways and it definitely encourages stretching of thinking and ideas. Allowing the girls to think differently and to express it in a variety of ways is so helpful to them and their development. Thinking differently is a definite advantage and I believe that these Thinking Tree journals are another tool that encourages the giggly girls to think in whatever way they desire. Stronger thinkers are stronger people. Thank you, Thinking Tree, for allowing us to experience some of your wonderful tools for training strong thinkers.

The next Thinking Tree post will include Travel Dreams Journal, Spelling Time, and Mom’s Fun-Schooling Handbook.

At Home.

 

Story Cubes Story Time

Miss J was given a new set of story cubes the other day and decided to use them this afternoon to create a new story. Here is her fun story:

story-cubes-titles

There was a little girl and she was using a map to find treasure in a cave. Her name was Ezil and she saw the treasure. It was a key. She was puzzled. Then she saw a door. But it was locked. Then she saw that there were two pictures that were the same on the door and on the key and unlocked the door. There was a new world with planes that were always full! And apples with notes in them! And canes that were made out of sugar cane! And clocks that were just on time to tick-tock! And it snowed there but it never did get cold! And the best thing of all is that there are NO LOCKS!

Hope you enjoyed reading about her new land! Story Cubes are a fantastic way to prompt some creative writing and allow tons of freedom for the student. This is not a post that is sponsored. It is a product we love. We have three or four sets of story cubes, as each set has different characters. If you don’t have any, I highly recommend them.

At Home.

This post is included in the Homeschool Review Crew Homeschool Collection for March 2019. Click the image below to see the entire collection for March.

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My New Cereal

 

my new cereal

My name is Miss L. I am 10 years old. This morning, for my creative writing, I chose to use the writing prompt that told me to make a breakfast cereal that gave the consumer super powers. this is what I wrote on the blank below it:

It would let you talk in all different kinds of languages-Polish, Portuguese, French, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, German, Bulgarian, Swedish, African, Cambodian, Irish, Mexican, Russian, Spanish, Icelandic, Indian, Turkish, Arabian, and even Native American. Everything you can think of-and more! It would taste deliciously fruity, like, really fruity, and not just artificially flavored, with a refreshing taste of mint. I’d come with a pink bowl and spoon to eat it with. And I’d call it Fruity Babble.

 

At Home.

Writers In Residence ~ a TOS review

For a few weeks now, Miss L has been working with Writers in Residence , a product from Apologia Educational Ministries for this review. It has been a fantastic fit!

Miss L is currently 9 years old and really enjoys writing, so I was not sure this would be a good fit for her. After all, writing programs tend to be directed at students who don’t like to write all that much or are struggling with it. This one? It is a good fit for all students, I think. Whether they like to write, love to write, or would rather it just all disappear for good. By drawing on the student’s personal memories, life, and imagination for writing material, this program pulls the student into the process of becoming a writer.Writers In Residence

When you purchase Writers In Residence Volume 1 Apprentice set, you will receive two books. One is the all-in-one student text and workbook. The second is the answer key. You do need both of these for this program to work its magic.

The student text and workbook is where the student does most of their work. The student reads and writes in this one book. The work on their writing assignments here, their grammar work, their editing work, everything! It came with a plastic spiral binding on it. It is huge! Miss L did not want me to take the pages off of the spiral to put them into smaller sections to work with but honestly, it would be a whole lot easier to work with. The book is about 3 inches thick! There is a ton of fantastic information and reading and exercises here.

welcome to WIRThe first 30ish pages of the student text are “how to use this book.” Read these. Period. It is such good information and it makes the program all pull together in your head. I learned a whole lot reading this section and highlight some parts that I found enlightening. Do this first. Then, dig into seeing what else is in the book.

Grammar doesn’t create content. But it can create beauty.” (p. xxvi)

Overemphasizing correct spelling often results in students using only words they can confidently spell. This creates a boring and stilted writing style that is far below what the child is capable of thinking, imagining, and talking about. In the process, the child’s voice is lost, not captured.” (p. xxiii)

Thinking as a writer and building the skills of a good writer are the goals of Writers In Residence. The whole book is designed to help the students begin seeing everything around them, all that they have experienced, as something to tuck away for later use. Beginning to think as a writer, to use words differently, to structure sentences differently – all these are worked on in this book.

working on WIRWriters In Residence contains five units. Each unit focuses on a different type of authentic writing style. These are:
1 – When I Was Young (I Remember): uses Cynthia Rylant’s When I Was Young In The Mountains as a literature example
2 – Very Truly Yours (I Imagine): uses Patricia MacLachlan’s Sarah, Plain and Tall as a literature example
3 – My Family Hall of Fame (I Investigate): uses Roald Dahl’s Boy: Tales of Childhood as a literature example
4 – My Favorite Author (I Think): has an expert writer example but I cannot locate the authorship of it
5 – The History of Me (I Remember): uses excepts from Beverly Cleary’s A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir, Sid Fleischman’s The Abracadabra Kid, and an essay by Mary Pope Osborne titled “All-Ball”.
6 – Zap! Pow! Kazam! (I Imagine): the expert model was written specifically for WIR and does not give an author

I really appreciate the focus here on quality literature from well-known authors as examples for what is being taught. In addition to these, there is an interview prior to each unit with a Christian author. These include Bill Myers, Amy Green, Irene Howat, Jason Lethcoe, Amy Parker and Phil Vischer. (We have gotten some new reading material by looking up these authors at the library. We didn’t know any of them before this!) This authenticity and focus is so helpful in encouraging young writers.Author Interview reading

Each unit works through a set pattern. There are four modules in each unit and within each module there are a number of activities. These are well-designated and the instructions for each are clearly written, as well as clear indication of when there are corresponding answers to be found in the answer key. Within each unit, there are repeated elements that help keep the students focused. These elements are:

  • Introduction to the unit
  • rubric for the final product of the unit
  • writer’s questions for each module of the unitWriter's Toolbox activity
  • sneak peek of what will be learned for each module of the unit
  • the writing assignment specific to each module (these build on each other to create the final product of the whole unit)
  • expert model for the module
  • student samples
  • writer’s toolbox with specific strategies expert writers use
  • graphic organizers for working through the mini-assignments
  • The Sandbox – an assignment that helps students experiment with various writing strategies
  • vocabulary to help build a stronger usage of words
  • word sleuth encourages students to add to their word collection the words that they don’t know
  • module checklist is a specific rubric to help the evaluate the student’s work within the module
  • writer’s workshop is a module in each unit that focuses on sentence structure
  • review your progress sections encourage self-evaluation and sharing of the student’s work

While each unit has the goal of creating a completed piece of high-quality writing, there are mini-assignments throughout (see the list above) that work to teach the student strategies that good writers use. To accomplish this, student might work on grammar, spelling, vocabulary, brainstorming, or editing in the course of the mini-assignments throughout any given model. These all come together with the main piece of work being edited in small, bite-sized pieces. These bits are so small, the student doesn’t even necessarily realize how much change is occurring in their piece as they work on it. Sometimes, these mini-assignments do not have anything to do with the piece for the unit. Sometimes, they are breaks from that writing. It all works together seamlessly.

WIR workThere is a schedule in the front of the student text to help you plan out the work for this program. We are not following it because, honestly, Miss L likes to work on this and is moving a bit faster than the pacing in the book. I have found it to be easy as pie to just work at the pace the student is setting.

Writers in Residence quickly became a favorite part of the school day for Miss L. She works hard at the assignments and enjoys writing. She seems to be enjoying learning how to be a better writer and seeing the instruction add to her abilities. Her first piece of writing that she finalized using WIR was published on the blog a couple of weeks ago. Please go read When I Was Younger to see how the first unit piece came out for her.

There is much to really like about Writers in Residence . If you are looking for a writing program, I highly recommend checking out Apologia Educational Ministries and read more review from the Review Crew by clicking on the banner below.

At Home.

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