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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

WriteShop StoryBuilders Review


I remember going to a craft fair many years ago and in one of the booths there was a sign that said, "Yes, you could make this yourself...but will you?" That's the thing with crafts, someone made them, and if you are crafty yourself, you probably could too...but will you? Sometimes it's worth it to pay a little more to had it done already instead of "saving" yourself some money but never actually getting around to making whatever it was. Or worse, buying all the materials and then never doing it.
What does this have to do with my review of WriteShop StoryBuilders? Everything, because that's exactly how I view StoryBuilders-something I could do myself...but probably wouldn't, so it's probably worth it just to buy them and have them to use instead of having nothing but good intentions to do it myself someday, until my children are well past the point where the StoryBuilders would have been helpful and my children are still struggling with writing a good story because we never tried them.
StoryBuilders is a very simple, but ingenious product. Available as downloadable "e-books", they have different topics that they cover like animals, people, sports, and Christmas. For each topic, there are cards that you print out (they suggest you print them on card stock). These cards fall under four different categories; character, character trait, setting, and plot. You can print each of these categories on different colored paper with black ink text, or use the other option of printing on white paper with different colored text for each category. After cutting them apart, you separate them into piles, and then there are several different suggestions for using them from there. You can give one of each category to your child, or you can let them pick one they want from each category, or you can let them chose one from each category at random. Then there are different suggestions for writing activities to go with those cards. Things like timed writing, or round robin (where you pass the paper to the next person every few minutes), or let them narrate to you. It's kind of like backwards MadLibs-the StoryBuilders cards give you the nouns, adjectives, places, and situations, and you construct the imaginative story around it.
We got to try out the World of Animals and World of Sports, and by the way, the cards from the different "Worlds" can be combined for even more interesting stories. Here are some examples of the things found on the cards:
  • Characters: acrobat, rock climber, giraffe, octopus
  • Character Traits: feeble, mischievous, cautious, uncontrollable
  • Setting: narrow trail, vacant lot, the Arctic, spider web
  • Plot: everything goes wrong, miracle occurs, lands on the moon, has no manners
So you using the cards, you could write a story about an uncontrollable acrobat who lives on a spider web and one day he bounces so high that he lands on the moon. Or, you could write about a mischievous rock climber who goes to the Arctic to hone his climbing skills, but everything goes wrong. Get it? It's kind of fun once you try it. And you can always draw more cards to add other characters or plot twists.
The pros to this are that it actually makes writing fun. In fact, it doesn't seem like writing at all. But it really stretches your child to use their imagination, and that's a great thing for developing writing skills. It's also nice that the program is flexible and has many different suggestions for how to use it. It even comes with blank card templets so you can create your own. And since it's a downloadable e-book, there's no shipping cost and you get it instantly.
The one con to me would be that this would not be hard to create yourself. I'm fairly certain I've seen similar things suggested with some curriculums even. But, the question always is, "Would you?" Would you make them yourself?
If the answer is "no", then I'd say the bottom line is that they are worth checking out. I think the price is fairly reasonable. Each Story Builders book is $7.95, except the Christmas one, which is a mini book and is $3.95. They are available HERE.
If you want to see what other TOS Crew members had to say, go HERE.
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1 comment:

Tiffany said...

This sounds great. I have been thinking a lot about writing lately and how much we need to practice around here. Maybe I'll check these out.