Using Games and Manipulatives to make Writing Fun, Engaging, and Less Intimidating {with WriteShop Junior}

Something I absolutely love about working on writing within our homeschool is the quality time in gives me with my children.  There’s just something special about digging into your child’s mind and pulling out the amazing ideas that are already there.  
I’ve got two boys, age 11 and 8, and one girl, age 9.  My daughter (Audrey) is working through WriteShop Junior Book D with me right now and she’s really enjoying the journey.  There are quite a few elements that really work for her with regard to WriteShop, and I’d like to chat about them in a couple upcoming posts.  (I’ve had lots of requests for reviews of WriteShop, so here we go…!)
For this post, I’d love to talk about my experiences with games and manipulatives in the writing and language arts process.  I have found this easy-going, light-hearted and fun approach to work WONDERS for our children.
The funny thing?  It isn’t what I gravitate towards.  If it were up to me, I wouldn’t really choose this style of learning or presenting information.  BUT, I have seen how effective and fun it is for the children, so I tune in and do my best to implement games and hands-on learning into our language arts studies.
I first realized how much the kids would learn from games through our use of All About Reading Level 1 and Level 2.  That program is FULL of manipulatives, games, and interesting little activities to enforce reading and phonetic concepts.  (By the way, I LOVE All About Reading and have full reviews of Level 1 and Level 2, just click on the links!)
In many ways, WriteShop reminds my of All About Reading.  It is thorough, open-and-go, scripted (for those who want to use it), engaging, colorful, high quality, and gives you everything you need to present the concepts to your kiddos and have some fun doing it too.

“Come on, I’ve got a game for us to play…”

I can’t express how many times I’ve pulled my kiddos in with this opening line. 
I mean, really – isn’t it much more appealing to be asked to ‘come play a game’ than to ‘come do work’?  I think so.  And sure, most kids are wise to the idea that the games and activities are really part of ‘school’ but they will happily engage if the activities are actually interesting and at least somewhat fun.
WriteShop has a pretty good chunk of time devoted to hands-on games and activities, all of which we’ve enjoyed.  These are created to go specifically with each chapter or writing project.  They help pull out vocabulary, emotion, narratives, and encourage kids in a less intimidating way than some other methods.
It’s just so much easier to engage in a full activity to learn and practice new skills and concepts.  For those of us seeking a gentle, memorable learning experience for our kids, I highly encourage implementing this type of stuff in your homeschool.  Not only will the children have more fun, they will actually retain more of what they hear/do as well.

Some examples of WriteShop Activities and Games

Alright, so, if you’re anything like me when considering a curriculum, you just want to know what exactly is included – I mean, give me the details.  Right?  Okay, here it goes… here are some of the games and activities we’ve done so far.
WriteShop comes with quite the packages (which I will cover next week in my full review).  There is the Teacher’s Guide, the Student Worksheet Pack, the Fold-and-Go Grammar Packs, and I also got the Time Save Packs.  *whew!* 

Invitation Mix-Match

This activity completely engaged my daughter.  Basically, there are three different letters written and your child must correctly match up the parts of a letter to the correct one.  (Um, make sense?)  First, we discussed the different components of a letter of invitation.  These are:  Date, Salutation, Body, Closing, and Signature.
The three letters are cut up and mixed together, cut into pieces based on what part of the letter they are.  Now it’s the child’s job to match up the proper dates, salutations, closings, and signatures to the bodies that makes sense.  Great for tactile, visual learning.

After this activity, children work on their own letter of invitation.  My daughter did an invitation to Chicken Appreciation Day, because, well hens are largely under-appreciated in this world, you know.  *chuckle*  Love her.

Punctuation Pointer Cards 

These are fun!  So, there are several short sentences or statements on little white cards.  They include things like:
Turn left.
Grandma is here!
Be careful!
There are copies of each sentence with a different form of punctuation given for each.  For example, there will be:
Our job is to practice reading them as they are expressed, based on the punctuation.  We also practice the names of the difference punctuation marks.  Lots of fun to do together with goofy voices, silly expressions, and tons of enthusiasm.

Funny Situations Sentence Starters and Character Cards

This is a series of cards with two categories: Situations and Characters.  You take turns drawing cards together and making up silly situations and stories based upon what you draw.  For example:

“A funny thing happened when…”  (situation)

“two raccoons…” (characters)


“The baby giggled every time…” (situation)

“a group of monkeys…” (characters)

and so on.  Super fun, very engaging.  Love these little games and activities!

Another really fun activity – True Stories.  This was fun for both of us.  We spin the wheel, which will direct us to think about a personal experience using the prompts. “Last year, I…”, “Last week, I…”,  “Yesterday, I…” or “One time, I…”.  Once you choose an experience, you draw a card. The card will give you a sensory prompt that asks the question, “What did you… taste/smell/see/touch/hear, etc.”  Very interesting and engaging to work though.

How I chose to store our Student Worksheets and Time Save Packs/Activities.

So, don’t underestimate the power of games and fun manipulatives in your homeschool.  And especially with writing.  We’ve been really enjoying our work with WriteShop Junior and I trust this post was helpful/inspiring to some of you!

Blessings.  My full review of WriteShop is coming next week!

WriteShop: Teaching writing has never been easier!

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