I have to admit to you that I do not use any writing curriculum with my children in the elementary years. It just becomes an exercise in frustration as children who hate using a pencil and can barely read and spell are asked to put thoughts on paper and write significant amounts. My oldest two probably learned writing in elementary years. My youngest four have been reluctant readers and just weren’t ready. I’m not saying we don’t do any pre-writing activities, but we don’t try to tackle essays and formal writing. This past year, I was asked to review Jump In: A Workbook for Reluctant and Eager Writers by Sharon Watson for my eleven-year-old. Its his first experience with formal writing, and I wanted his first experience to be fun, engaging, and not too much too fast.
Jump In starts with short answer questions, checkboxes and brainstorming activities — all covering basic pre-writing skills. Then Jump In eases into opinions and persuasion writing – both fairly easy because well, we are opinionated! After that lessons cover the basics of exposition: biography, book reports, newspaper articles, how-to, and compare and contrast. By the end, students are learning descriptive writing, storytelling, and poetry. I’m very happy with the pace and love how Sharon teaches each concept engagingly. If a writing curriculum could be a living book, Jump In: A Workbook for Reluctant and Eager Writers would be one.
The second lesson — on opinion writing — does an awesome job of teaching the basic five paragraph essay. Students are expected to put together actual essays in this curriculum — they just get lots and lots of help with pre-writing exercises that teach important concepts BEFORE each assignment. As a writer, I am well aware that if I do all of my pre-writing exercises first (lists, outlines, brainstorms, planning, etc.) the writing itself is EASY. That’s the beauty of this curriculum. Even though it is easing your child into writing, he is learning the various techniques and skills of good writing as he goes.
I love how students can work through this book completely on their own. With five children still at home, this is important to me. Students working through Jump In will have a suggested schedule for completing their writing assignments and everything they need to get the work done is in the book. Better still, it is written directly to the student in a personal way; I’ve found my kids love and respond well to this approach.
For me, the highlight of my week is reading what my children have written and giving them feedback because reading what they write gives me glimpses into their hearts that I might not otherwise have. With Jump In – the most important thing you can do for your student is read what they have written and just make sure they understand the concepts being taught as they go but mostly give them positive feedback and encouragement to embrace this thing called writing. There is a teacher’s guide with Jump In if you prefer more guidance as the teacher. I like to say “Tell me what you did in Jump In today.” and go from there.
My Bottom Line: I recommend Jump In: A Workbook for Reluctant and Eager Writers for middle grades students as young as ten and throughout Junior High.