Thursday, May 12, 2011

Institute For Excellence In Writing

If you ask anyone in the homeschool community to list the top writing curricula available for homeschool families, IEW will be included in that list.  I've heard of Institute for Excellence in Writing for years -- almost as long as I've been homeschooling.   (You can read about the long history of IEW and Andrew Pudewa here.)  In every discussion of how to teach writing, IEW was recommended by another happy parent or co-op teacher.  I was definitely intrigued by what I heard, but the cost made me cautious.   I wanted to be sure it was going to be perfect for our family before investing in it.

As members of the TOS Homeschool Crew, we were very blessed to receive the IEW Teaching Writing/Student Writing Intensive Combo Pack (Level B) to review.  This bundle includes the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style parent's guide, as well as the Student Writing Intensive Level B class.


Product Descriptions

Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (TWSS) $169 -- This ten hour seminar is designed to teach the parent HOW to teach writing to their students.  It includes 9 DVDs of Andrew Pudewa teaching other parents.  The accompanying notebook includes appropriate hand-outs to accompany the lectures and to refer back to as you teach your students to write.  The TWSS works with each level of the Student Writing Intensive, so you only have to buy it once.


Student Writing Intensive (SWI Level B) $99 -- This course is a structured, focused program that helps students develop writing skills.  Students start with provided paragraphs, which they take notes on by completing key-word outlines, and then re-write in their own words.  New skills are added as they proceed through the course:  dressing up their writing, what words not to use,  who/which clauses, etc.   The 15 lessons  are intended to be taught over 30 weeks.  This course includes a notebook with teacher's pages and student handouts, as well as 4 DVDs of student lectures by Andrew Pudewa.  There are three levels of the Student Writing Intensive:  level A is for grades 3-5, level B is for grades 6-8, and level C is for grades 9-12 .  You can view Andrew Pudewa's introduction to SWI or  a sample of SWI Level B online.

The above products are also sold together in a  TWSS/SWI Combination Package for $239, which saves $29 over buying each component individually.

We also received a  Portable Wall ($7), which is a handy resource full of reminders from Andrew Pudewa's lectures.  This tri-fold cardstock folder can be placed in your writing notebook as a quick reference of dress-ups, sentence openers, decorations, adverbs, prepositions, strong verbs, and more.  It even includes an at-a-glance summary of all 9 units of the SWI.


How does it all come together?

The cover of each IEW notebook includes the subtitle:  "An effective method for teaching writing skills."  Andrew Pudewa states in his Teaching Writing: Structure and Style lectures that this is a "skills-based program, not a product-based program".  The focus is on learning writing skills, with LOTS of practice.


Ideally, the parent should watch the TWSS DVD on HOW to teach writing before beginning the SWI course.  If you don't have time to watch the entire 10 hour seminar, you can watch the portion that pertains to the first few units of the SWI.   There is also a helpful Quick Start Guide to help a parent know how to get started easily.


Next, the student and parent should view the student SWI DVD for the first lesson, with the necessary worksheets provided in the curriculum.  During the lesson, there will be assignments for the student to complete while the DVD is paused.  Afterward, the parent should assign continued work (ideas provided in the parent sheets) to help the student really master the concept being taught.  This process will vary in time-commitment.  Each lesson could cover one week, or 2+ weeks, while the student practices the skills being taught.  However it is designed to be taught at the pace of two weeks per lesson.


When a student has completed an entire level of the Student Writing Intensive, they move on to the Student Intensive Continuation Course for that level.  They can then do the Continuation courses for the upcoming levels, without repeating the SWI again.  For instance, if a student completes  SWI level B,  they would next take the Intensive Continuation Course B, then they should take the Elegant Essays course, and finally the Intensive Continuation Course C.


There is a helpful IEW-Families yahoo group where parents can receive ongoing encouragement and support.  This yahoo group has IEW staff members as well as other homeschool families  available to share ideas and information.


What did we think about it?

We followed the suggestion to use Level B if we were new to IEW, since I intended to use this with multiple ages.  However, we found that my high school daughter was more advanced in her writing than I had given her credit for.  She was able to move very quickly through the units, so I didn't try combining students  who would be working at different paces.  Instead, I allowed her to move through the first 6 lessons very quickly, and then we slowed the pace down.


Initially, she was bothered by the fact that all the students attending the recorded lectures were younger than her, and also felt the provided content was beneath her.  We sought content from other sources for her to re-write, more at her reading level.  While IEW is very adaptable in this way, I wish I had used level C with my high school daughter instead.


After we adjusted to Mr. Pudewa's unique lecture style, both my daughter and myself began to enjoy his lectures.  He uses humor well to teach the lessons, and engages students in the learning process through discussion.  Even though we viewed the DVDs from home, my daughter and I did talk to the TV, joining in the discussion.


I really like the systematic method that Andrew Pudewa uses to teach writing skills to students.  My daughter, however, grew tired of re-writing others' material, and longed to write something of her own.  We adapted it by moving quickly through the lessons, and adding in our own assignments to help her satisfy her own needs to create and express her personality more.


My daughter didn't like that she was dependent on me for her lesson.  I had the lesson plan, I knew where to start on the DVD, and I had the worksheets.  If we had used this at the prescribed pace, she'd also need me to give her additional assignments.  Usually, we use materials that allow her to work more independently. This was her greatest complaint about the program.


Though the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style DVDs are GREAT for helping a parent learn how to teach writing, I know I would not have been able to apply the methods very well on my own.  The Student Writing Intensive, especially its lecture DVDs, really made a difference for us.  Though I found myself not referring to the TWSS very often, I felt more secure knowing it was available, if needed.  If you absolutely had to chose only one portion, I'd suggest buying the SWI.  For me, having the student lectures and handouts to follow was most useful.  Without its structure, I know I'd likely slack off on teaching writing from the TWSS.


This is an expensive program, but it WORKS and it's reusable for future children;  you'd just need to purchase a new notebook and handouts packet.  I definitely recommend the Institute For Excellence In Writing for mothers who aren't sure how to teach writing, or for students who are terrified of writing!


The nitty-gritty IEW details.

You can purchase the materials we reviewed directly from Institute for Excellence in Writing.

If you would like more information about IEW,  just ask around.  I am SURE you will find another homeschool family who has used it.  You can also see what other Crew members had to say in their IEW reviews, or visit the IEW Help Page to access FAQ's, Where to Start Information, and helpful articles.


This item was provided free for our review as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew.  We received no other compensation, and this review is our honest opinion.  Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog to read more reviews on this product by other Homeschool Crew members.

Trusting In Him,

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