Wednesday, January 28, 2009

WriteShop's StoryBuilders

At our January Support Group meeting we had a special speaker on “Writing with your children” She talked about the concept of making Writing FUN! Helping your children find their voice, not interrupting the flow, or bogging everything down with too many “Grammar details”, etc…

Well, one of the products I was sent to review was a fun writing tool, WriteShop’s StoryBuilders (Scroll down the linked page to see them). Although my review is not due for a week yet, I wanted to get it done and out to you, as TOS has one of the StoryBuilders modules available as a free download this week. These really are fun, and if you act fast, you can try one out for free!

OK, so what are StoryBuilders? Well, they are sets of cards centered around a “Theme” (Christmas, People, Animals, and Sports, currently). There are “Character” cards, “Action” cards, “Character Trait” cards, and “Setting” cards. I will mention, these are in downloadable “E-book” format, so you will be getting a pdf file, and printing up the cards yourself. There are two options for printing… with black ink, on 4 different paper colors (or card stock, if you like), or in colored ink on white paper or cardstock. We chose to print in black and white on 4 different paper colors.

There are a number of different ways that the StoryBuilders can be used, but our favorite exercise was to work on writing stories together. The way we did it was as follows. We each chose one card from each color stack, and began writing a story using the words or phrases on the cards as our “Framework”. After about 5-10 minutes we stopped, and passed our paper to the person on our right. Then we each chose a new set of cards from each color card stack, and had another 5-10 minutes to add on to the previous person’s story. Since there are only 3 of us (Myself and my two oldest children), we decided that we should continue to pass the papers, and pick new cards till they returned to the “Starter” of the story, so that they could “Finish” “THEIR” story. What fun! ☺ I’m going to type out one of our “stories” so that you can see what we ended up with, with 3 authors, and 4 different sets of characters/traits/settings/and actions. (I will “edit” so that it doesn’t have 8 year-old miss-spellings, or major punctuation errors… because we didn’t “proof-read” it, although that could be yet another learning activity….but I wouldn't do it every time, so as not to "kill the joy" of just getting used to writing creatively)

Raggedy Ann’s Christmas Eve Story
By J (8), R (11), and Mom

One cold winter day in New York City a ragged doll comes to life. Her name was Raggedy Ann. In the store, the store owner was very kind to her. You see, the store owner lives all alone, and he is very happy to have the doll for company.
Because Raggedy Ann was SO ragged, the store owner is very gentle with her. He decides to bring her home with him for the Christmas Holiday, and mend her clothes and give her new stuffing.
On Christmas Eve the store owner and Raggedy Ann sit by a crackling fire next to the fir tree decorated with paper chains, stars, and snowflakes.
“Thank you for my new stuffing” says Raggedy Ann.
“Oh, it was my pleasure! Thank YOU for joining me on this Christmas Eve!” replied the store owner.
Then Raggedy Ann and the store owner both sit back a gaze at the glowing fire and the pretty tree, lost in their thoughts of Christmas past.
“Did I ever tell you my Gingerbread Man story?” asked Raggedy Ann?
“No, I don’t believe you ever did.” replied the store owner.
“Do you want to hear it?” she asked.
“Why not?” he said.
“Well, then, this is how it goes.” And she told the following story.

“Well, one day when I was Marcella’s doll, she took me down to the kitchen to make gingerbread boys. Well, I made a gingerbread boy and I scorched my dress in the process. Well, Marcella was very impatient, and she opened the oven to take a peek, when out jumped my gingerbread boy and he rushed out of the kitchen and onto the lonely road. I decided I wouldn’t let my gingerbread boy get away that easy, so off I ran. Well, he led me a merry chase, but finally I found him. He was in a church singing joyful songs and learning about the true meaning of Christmas. I snuck up behind him with a butterfly net and caught him! And that is the end of my Gingerbread Story” said Raggedy Ann.
“That is a very nice story.” said the store owner, and gave Raggedy Ann a gingerbread man to munch.

The End

I thought that was a fairly good end product, and a really fun exercise to boot! What’s even better was that the kids thought it was fun! (Once the 8 year old figured out how it worked) I plan to use these again, on a semi regular basis. It will be interesting to see how their “Speedy” story writing skills develop!I also plan to use these as "poem builders", which should be fun as well!

Oh, I should add that each individual module can build on the others, or “mix and match” because none of the cards are repeated. This makes for some VERY creative writing opportunities, and lots of laughter and fun as well!

The list price is $9.95 per set, they are currently priced at $7.95 (And $3.95 for the “mini Christmas set” that we used) and you can get one set for free if you hurry to the SPECIALS page at The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.

Let me know what you think!



  1. I was reading your blog when my almost four-year-old granddaughter popped it and asked me what I was reading. I had just gotten to the Raggedy Ann story, so I asked her if she'd like me to read it to her. Of course, she said yes. And she loved the story as much as if I'd read a book to her. Very cute!

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