Wednesday, February 4, 2009

WriteShop Storybuilders

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the next several months. I feel truly blessed to be participating in this review group and I'm looking forward to trying out the products and giving you my honest opinion.

I can still remember it so clearly. I was in third grade and sitting quietly at my desk. My teacher excitedly announced that she had finished reading all of the class stories and that there was one that was so good that she wanted to share it with class. My heart started to beat. I had worked hard on my story and thought it was good, but could it really be the best in the class? When she began reading my story that day I knew in my heart what I wanted and what I still want to this day. I wanted to be a writer.

I have been hesitant to encourage the kids to write stories yet. After all, G8 and A6 still grimace at the mention of spelling and copywork. I was concerned that they wouldn't enjoy writing stories because they really don't enjoy the physical act of writing yet. Even still, when I began looking through the Storybuilders Series from WriteShop, I felt confident that this was something the kids would have fun with it.

There are currently 4 different Storybuilders ebooks from WriteShop:

World of People Storybuilders
World of Animals Storybuilders
World of Sports Storybuilders
Storybuilders Christmas Mini-Builder

I received both the World of People and the Christmas Mini-Builder to review. Each Storybuilder ebook includes instructions, ideas for use, and two decks of 192 printable cards (the Christmas mini-Builder has 96). The cards are divided into four categories: Character Cards, Character Trait Cards, Setting Cards, and Plot Cards. You can use the black print cards and print the different categories on different color cardstock. Or you can use white cardstock and print the color-coded deck.

The ebook suggests different ways to use the cards such as letting your child blindly pick from each of the four categories or let him search through and choose. It is suggested to play a Round Robin game with the cards which I think would be especially fun during a long car ride. There's also suggestions for Daily Timed Writing that would be helpful for those students who think writing is a chore.

I introduced the Storybuilders to the kids in December when we were working on our advent studies and making Christmas notebooks. We used the Storybuilders Christmas Mini-Builder and I let them pick out a card from each deck randomly. The deck included Character Cards like: St. Nick, Candy maker, and store owner. Character Trait Cards included: cheerful, worried, and angry. Setting Cards included icy castle, enchanted forest, and snowy field. And the plot cards included "snowed in", "tries to stop Christmas", and "unexpected visitor". G8, A6, E5, and H3 all excitedly took turns drawing cards. They had as much fun finding out which cards all of them would draw as they did writing the stories. I let G8 and A6 write their stories on their own and I let E5 and H3 narrate their stories to me as I wrote them in their journals. There's really nothing that beats the imagination of children and I loved hearing the stories they came up with.

I've used the World of People Storybuilders several times as well with the oldest two. Last Friday I let them search through the cards and pick their own instead of randomly drawing them and was pleasantly surprised with G8's story. This is what he wrote:

The Lost Hunter
by G8

Once there was a hunter. He is very imaginative. One day he found a tree house. There was a gadget. He pressed a button. Whizzzz. He was in the jungle. He heard a sound. It was a lion! He took out his gun a shot it. He missed! But he was happy. It was his dog! He was home!

The end.

I thought the sound effects and elements of surprise were quite clever! You can read more stories that my children wrote using the Storybuilders cards at their blog, Crew 6.

You can purchase the Storybuilder ebooks from WriteShop or TOS for $7.95 each. (The Christmas Mini-Builder is only $3.95.) That's almost pocket change even for us one-income, budget conscience homeschool moms, so I consider that a great value!

For more reviews of this product visit the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog.

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