Writer’s Workshop is a writing program for your whole family, from emergent writers right up to Mom and Dad. This is a sample exercise about quadramas. Try it with all your kids.

Reports & Essays Cover

This Writer’s Workshop exercise is from Writer’s Workshop Reports and Essays. In Reports and Essays, you’ll learn to write everything from a one-paragraph summary to a five-paragraph essay. Book reports, animal reports, and lots of exercises that build non-fiction writing skills and stamina are all part of the unit. You’ll take one report all of the way through the writing process to publication. Join us for a family-style writing program in Writer’s Workshop. You can learn more about how to create a Writer’s Workshop in your homeschool in the Writer’s Workshop Guidebook.

Quadramas are versatile writing projects because you can make them based on any book you’ve read, any famous person, place, or event, or any other topic you’re learning about. Once your kids have crafted one or two, it’s a project they can do all on their own.

Step 1 Mini-Lesson

Start each Writer’s Workshop lesson off with a 5-10 minute mini-lesson with all of your kids. The sidebars of each Writer’s Workshop unit are lined with mini-lesson ideas to choose from. Mini-lessons focus on grammar, writing skills, and genre skills. For this lesson, you could learn about using voice when you’re writing essays and reports.

Voice is one of the six traits of writing. Voice is the way the author comes through personally in their writing. When you’re writing a story it seems easy to include your authentic voice, but incorporating yourself into an essay feels harder. In most non-fiction writing, rather than trying to sound like yourself, you are trying to sound like an expert, an authority on your subject. After all, you want your reader to trust you and your message. Creating an organized, accurate message will give a voice of authority to your writing.

Analyze these sentences from an animal report about panda bears.

I think panda bears eat bamboo because they live in forests in China that have bamboo in them. They might eat other things too sometimes.

Is that the voice of authority? Do you trust the writer? What words or phrases make you feel this way? How could you change those sentences to improve the expert voice? You might have to do a bit of research about panda bears before you can become a voice of authority. Rewrite the sentences with a voice of authority.

Once the mini-lesson is over, it’s time to work on an exercise.

Step 2 Exercise: Quadrama

Spend most of your Writer’s Workshop time on the exercise, which should last as long or as short as you need it to, day to day. Each day you can just open your Writer’s Notebook and pick up where you left off the day before.

To make a quadrama you’ll need four pieces of card stock, scissors, glue, and colored pencils or other writing utensils. We used white card stock so it would be easier to see the pictures and writing on our quadramas.

Start by folding a corner of a sheet of card stock over so it perfectly meets up with the opposite edge. You are making a square. Make your crease nice and crisp.

Cut along the overlapped edge and discard all except the square (or turn the stripe into a cool bookmark!). Then open the square piece and fold it again, this time using the other two corners so you will have a criss-cross crease, dividing your square into 4 parts. Again, make your crease nice and crisp. Repeat that with each sheet so you have four square pieces, each with criss-cross creases.

Apply glue to the bottom of one flap and stick the other one down to it, creating one side of your pyramid.

{NOTE: You may want to draw all of the pictures and write the words before actually gluing it all together.  It’s much easier to draw and write when you can lay it out flat on the table.  Make sure to note which sides will show and only draw on those.  When you’re done, glue it all together.}

Now you’ll just do that very same thing 3 more times.  Then glue the backs of each section together to create your quadrama. Here’s what a finished quadrama looks like.

My daughter created this quadrama based on Mary Pope Osborne’s Mummies in the Morning. On each side, she included pictures of the important scenes within the story. On the bottom, she glued her written report. You can also incorporate writing and captions right on the sections of your quadrama. Older kids can be expected to write more information than younger ones.
On your quadrama, you can color scenes from a book, make a section for different characters, or use each section to record something you’re learning about in any subject.  Life cycles of animals fit well on quadramas.  If you are studying a country you could use each section for climate, foods, holidays, and entertainment.  The possibilities are endless.  Then attach the report portion to the bottom side for more information.

While you’re working on reports and essays, quadramas help report writing to become more meaningful and hands-on. This exercise doesn’t fit into a section of your Writer’s Notebook, so display it on a shelf or table somewhere to enjoy, then take a picture of it to add to the “Writing” section of your Writer’s Notebook. This is the place for writing that you’ve put effort into and want to share with others.

Step 3: Writing Project

Most exercises stay in your Writer’s Notebook to be used as a reference, for inspiration, or be tossed at a later date, but about once a month, one piece of writing should be taken clear through the writing process. This is your writing project.

If I were to guide my child through taking this exercise through the writing process I would have her revise her quadrama to include more information and make sure the information is organized and in order. In the above example, Isabel gave her review of the book, but she could have included more textual examples of things she enjoyed and shared an insight into characters that she especially liked. I would encourage her to add those details. Then we would sit down and edit her work together, checking for any spelling, punctuation, or grammar mistakes. Then she would publish it, or share it with an audience. We often share our work on Fridays, so I would give her time to show off her quadrama and read her book review out loud before displaying it on our shelf.

You can learn details about the writing process and how to mentor writers in the Writer’s Workshop Guidebook.

Step 4: Evaluating Writing

Every piece of writing that makes it to publication needs to be shared before an audience and then evaluated. The audience should cheer for the writer and ask curious and positive questions about the writing when appropriate. Evaluations should be designed to help the writer grow, not just to create a grade. Every Writer’s Workshop unit comes with specific helps for the mentor, including a rubric that is specific to the genre being taught. General writing evaluation criteria and strategies are taught to the parent in the Writer’s Workshop Guidebook.

What You’ll Find in Every Writer’s Workshop Unit


You’ll find printables in every Writer’s Workshop unit. They are tools for helping kids learn the writing process, skills, and ways to write in specific genres. They make lessons in a family- school setting a little more manageable for parents too.

Ideas Banks

In each unit, kids will be doing a variety of writing exercises as well as one project. They will learn to take their project through the writing process, incorporating what they’ve learned during the exercises. Each unit has a big idea bank for kids to choose from so they can find something meaningful that they get to choose personally to write about within each genre.


Every unit also includes a rubric to help parents or mentors know how to give feedback that will help writers grow. Rubrics are tools writers can use to self-check and mentors can use to know what to look for in each writing genre. We never just slap a grade on writing. Every bit of feedback is a tool to improve and grow.

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Learn more about Writer’s Workshop and how it can help you create writers (not just grammar workbook filler-outers!). We invite you to check out the Writer’s Workshop Curriculum Guide. Then see how Layers of Learning can change your whole homeschool into a happy, hands-on family school with the Writer’s Workshop Guidebook. We believe learning is about exploring! If you like exploring, you’ll love the rest of the Layers of Learning program too – history, geography, science, and art, all taught with your whole family exploring together.

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