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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Institute For Excellence In Writing (IEW)

A few years ago, I was one of those homeschoolers who had heard of Institute For Excellence in Writing, but really had no idea why it was said to be such a great writing program.  I had an opportunity to use and review their Teaching Writing With Structure and Style with their Student Writing Intensive C in 2013 and I don't think I can adequately explain what a tremendous difference it made in my homeschool. Since then I have used several IEW products and I was thrilled to have a chance to use and review one of their Deluxe Combinations  , Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package Level A  which includes the updated 2015 edition of Teaching Writing With Structure and Style.

The Deluxe Combo Package Level A ($299) includes the following:

Teaching Writing Structure and Style 2nd Edition with DVD, Workbook and Premium Subscription
Student Writing Intensive Level A DVDs and Student Notebook
Fix It! Grammar Books 1 (The Nose Tree)and 2 (Robin Hood)with physical teacher's manuals downloadable student ebooks
A Word Write Now
Portable Walls

Usually when I write a review, I do a description of the product and then my opinion after that.  This review is going to be a little different because my opinion is going to be all through the review.  One of reasons that IEW has the best writing program is because they provide absolutely everything the teacher and the student needs to succeed.  There is no guessing about how you should teach because all the necessary instruction and tools are given to you.  Additionally, there is no need to add anything in.  The students are given visuals, checklists, source texts, and specific instructions to be successful. This complete course will cover teaching your children to write with structure and style and also learn grammar in the practical manner of correcting and rewriting a story using the lesson they have been taught.

The first part of the program is the Teaching Writing With Structure and Style DVDs and Seminar Workbook.  This is the teacher portion of the program.  It is a 14 hour seminar that will teach you to teach your children to write effectively in a clear, concise manner using a system of structural models and stylistic techniques that can be adapted for elementary up to high school age students. You can watch the entire seminar all at once, or you can you view it one disc at a time in order throughout the school year.

The TWSS was updated this year and contains:


Introducing Structural Models, Note Making and Outlines, and Writing from Notes
Introducing Stylistic Techniques, Dress-Ups
Retelling Narrative Stories, Sentence Openers Summarizing a Reference, Decorations and Triples
Writing from Pictures
Summarizing Multiple References, Advanced Dress-Ups
Inventive Writing, Author Imitation
Formal Essay Models, Documentation and Citation
Formal Critiques and Writing about Literature
Demonstration Lessons Levels P (grades K–2) and A (grades 3–5)
Demonstration Lesson Level B (grades 6–8)
Demonstration Lesson Level C (grades 9–12)

Seminar and Practicum Notebook

This notebook has over 200 pages and guides you through the 9 structural models and 28 stylistic techniques with many different examples of all levels, clear instruction, student samples, recommended materials, teaching procedures, resources, and access to checklists and practicum assignments.  It also contains a new Writing About Literature section.

The Premium Subscription

This gives you streaming access to the seminar for a year (in addition to the DVDs), monthly access to webinar training August-May, MP3 Downloads for Andrew Pudewa's popular conference talks, and digital PDF downloads.

Andrew Pudewa is an amazing speaker and I truly enjoyed watching the seminar.  Since it was filmed while he is actually teaching it, you are able to view the interaction between the Mr. Pudewa and the class and see the process as they go through each structural model, stylistic techniques, sentence openers, and dress ups.  Teachers will learn step by step how to teach using this method and why it is effective.  Throughout the seminar you are given several opportunities to practice what you have learned. You will learn how to adapt not only to different ages, but also to different abilities and move at a pace that suits your individual students  The biggest plus about  TWSS is that the process makes sense.  It takes away the worry about what to write and allows children to focus on learning to write well while enabling them to be creative in their writing.  Your students will be able to take what they have learned in their writing class and use those skills to write any type of paper they come across throughout their educational career.

I really enjoyed the new streaming feature.  I was able to watch on my iPad while the children watched TV.  I love all of the extra content you have access to with the premium subscription.  I also was very glad to see the " Writing About Literature" section that was not in the earlier edition.

Now we are going to talk about the student resources.  The Student Writing Intensive Level A DVDs and Student Notebook are for students in the grade 3-5 age range, although it can be used with slightly older students.  You will now take what you learned in TWSS and teach it to your children using the SWI A DVDs and notebook.  There are 15 lessons in SWI A with lesson plans to complete the course in 30 weeks.  You can speed it up or slow it down depending on your child and their needs.  Each lesson tells you exactly what you will be watching on the DVD, how long the video is (not every lesson has a video), and what units from the TWSS are being covered in the lesson.  Handouts for the lesson are also included along with possible outlines and samples.

I used Student Writing Intensive Level A with my 9 year old, 3 grade son.  We both LOVE it!  I have used SWI A with my older boys, so I have had experience in using it before.  Anthony loved his teacher.  He was excited to watch the DVD lessons and looked forward to watching the next one.  He even would come into the room when I was watching the TWSS DVDS hoping I was turning on one of his lessons.  When he made his birthday wish list, he skipped lines so he wouldn't end up "in deep yogurt." We love the process. I think providing the children with the source texts is wonderful because it takes away the worry over what they are supposed to write about and the checklists tell them exactly what needs to be included.   There is something so satisfying about checking things off on a list! The dress ups are taught gradually allowing it to be easy for the child before moving on and plenty of source texts are included if the child needs more practice.  The selections that are included are interesting to children.  Anthony is not a strong reader and writer, but he still can be successful with SWI A because he can dictate his key word outline and composition to me for me to write for him and as he becomes a stronger reader and writer he can work towards his independence.

IEW provides the students with great learning tools to help them in the writing process.  The Portable Walls are one of those tools.  It can be placed right on the desk or table in front of the student while they are working.  Portable Walls  gives the student the list of dress-ups, sentence openers, decorations, and triple extensions.  It also has a list of "-ly" adverbs and imposters, prepositions, strong verbs, and synonyms for "said." The back side gives things for the student to remember from each unit.  The Portable Wall is  just what the student needs to achieve success and is great for the teacher who does not have a lot of wall space.

A Word Write Now is another one of those tools.  It is a spiral bound, 100 page, full color thesaurus  organized by character qualities and behavior traits.  There are 4 different sections in A Word Write Now.  Section A, Character Traits has 23 traits.  Each page has the definition, thoughts on the word, excerpts from classical literature, and words for complaining listed by parts of speech.  There also is a place for the student to add in their own words and a quote at the bottom. Section B, Words to Describe has words for appearance, color, size, time, temperature, texture, and shape.  Section C, Words For Movement and the Senses, has word lists for feet, hands, hearing, smelling, speaking, and thinking.  Section D is an appendix with a list of common literary devices, transition words not related to time, prepositions, and categories of literary genres.

A Word Write Now is easy to use, easy to read, and colorful.  Children will be able to easily find a variety of words to spice up their writing and their vocabulary, as well as add in more words that they find. I really like the excerpts from classical literature and the quotes that are included.

The last component of the Deluxe Combo Package Level A is Fix It! Grammar Books 1 (The Nose Tree) and 2 (Robin Hood.)  The package comes with both spiral bound teacher's manuals and instructions for downloading the student e books.  In Fix It! Grammar, students find and correct errors in passages and copy them over correctly.  When they finish the book they will have an entire story copied over correctly.  At the beginning of each week's lesson there is a learn it section for the teacher to go over with the student, and then they spend the rest of the week correcting the passage. There are four passages to correct each week and then copy over.  Fix It! Grammar takes around 15 minutes per day.  In the back of the book there are grammar cards to print out to help the student remember the concept that was taught in that lesson.  The book also contains a grammar glossary with definitions and rules and IEW's stylistic techniques.

We reviewed Fix It! Grammar last year (my review), and I loved it!  There is not a lot of teacher prep involved, it only takes minutes a day to complete, and I really like the philosophy of teaching the children grammar so their own writing improves rather then spending a lot of time and effort learning sentence diagramming and terms without knowing how to ever use those things.  For this part of the review I had Anthony (3rd grade) and Christian (2nd grade) work on Book 1, The Nose Tree and Nick (7th grade) and Alex (5th grade) work on Book 2 Robin Hood.  The older boys had just finished Book One right before we started this review.  Christian, Anthony, and I worked on each sentence together, while Nick and Alex read the learn it section and fix the passages on their own.  All of my boys prefer completing all of the passages in one day rather than spreading them out through the week.  I have never had a single complaint from any of the boys and they really like seeing how the story develops as we go along.  We will continue working our way through the set of 6 Fix It! Grammar books.

Another thing I really wanted to mention about IEW that is especially helpful for families with more than one child.  They have a generous copyright on their products that allows you to use the products with multiple children.  Since it is such a quality product, I know I will be using it with multiple children and that will save me money in the long run.

IEW has been a huge hit in this house for the teacher and the students.  Their method works, is easy to implement, and produces good results that will be beneficial for your children throughout their educational career and beyond.  The Crew reviewed all 3 of the Deluxe Combos,TWSS with the Bible Heroes Student and Teacher Books, and Primary Arts of Language Reading and Writing. To see what my Crew Mates had to say, head over to the Crew Blog and check out the other reviews!

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