There are 3 basics that most think of with regards to home education: reading, writing, and arithmetic. The Institute for Excellence in Writing is the leader in homeschool writing instruction and curriculum. (That is my own observation, no one had to tell me that!)
When I was asked to review both Teaching Writing with Structure and Style Set (TWSS) and Student Writing Intensive Level A Set (SWI), I couldn’t have been more pleased. The former is a seminar just for me as the teacher, and the latter is to help guide my student to write with structure and style. Excellent!
When I tore into my package with these writing materials, I was like a kid on Christmas for sure! Setting up the binders and immediately starting the DVDs engrossed me for the 3 days following! If you’ll remember, I have used IEW before in helping to teach my son to read with the Primary Arts of Language (PAL) system, so I knew how well IEW’s programs do work and didn’t want to waste any time at all.
Teaching Writing: Structure and Style is an instructional set of 10 DVDs and a Seminar Workbook, teaching 9 units. This set retails for $169 and is a complete course for educators all about teaching writing skills to children in grades 2-10. It is meant to be used by the educator, but there are sample units, student workshops, and lesson plans that you could use to craft lessons for your students right away if you really wanted to.
The DVDs include Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (1-6), Tips and Tricks, and Student Workshops (broken up into Elementary Level grades 2-4, Intermediate grades 5-7, and High School grapes 8-10+). The Seminar Workbook is a binder set up with 10 different tabbed sections, including Key Word Outlines, Stylistic Techniques, Narrative, Reports, Writing from Pictures, Creative Writing, Essay, Critiques, TIPS Handouts, and an Appendix.
Everything IEW sells to teach writing is based on these foundational principles and methods, so it is a very important product to help teachers understand the material. Not only that, but it provides a terrific education to the teacher on how to be a better writer! I found myself learning tips and techniques that I can’t remember having ever been taught in the past.
Another aspect to this set that I love is that there are adjustments mentioned for each grade level. While the basic principles and concepts are the same throughout the age and grade levels, certain tweaks can be made to solidify them specifically for these groups of students. In fact, there are even tips on how to use these techniques to teach first graders.
This seminar is very hands-on. Not only do you get the benefit of listening to Andrew Pudewa, but you dive in and practice what is being taught! I took more than a spiral notebook’s worth of notes, in addition to doing the exercises for the course. It was great to learn these skills in a systematic and practical way. The Institute for Excellence in Writing isn’t messing around with their company name! If you follow the technique in this set, you and your students truly will become excellent writers.
I will be going through my notes and re-watching these DVDs many times throughout the next few years. My oldest is just going into 3rd grade now, so she and her 3 brothers coming up behind her will be able to benefit from my new knowledge for many school years.
Even if you do not purchase anything else from Institute for Excellence in Writing, this course will give you a very strong background and ability in teaching students to write. You’ll have the tools and skills necessary to move forward on your own. I know several homeschooling mothers that are wonderful at crafting and constructing their own curriculum, so I could see this being their jumping point into some amazing lessons for their students.
I, on the other hand, am not so great at that! I prefer to purchase pre-written curriculum. I’m so thankful that IEW has a whole host of amazing products that use this system to teach students to because amazing writers! We started my daughter out with the next product we were blessed to review, Student Writing Intensive Level A.
The Student Writing Intensive Level A is for students in grades 3-5, though I could certainly see someone using it for an older student that needs a solid foundation in writing. It includes 5 DVDs, 1 which addresses structure and style for parents, and 4 that are actual DVDs of a seminar specifically made to teach the students directly! In addition to these DVDs of writing classes, the set also includes a Teacher’s Notes and Students Handouts packet (which I put into its own binder), as well as a binder for the student with tabs and handouts. The retails price for this set is $109.
We had never done a true writing course, and certainly nothing this intense, so we chose to space it out. While the course is written to cover 30 weeks at 5 days a week (or 15 weeks if you escalate the work to get your child moving right along quickly), we spaced it out to 4 days a week. This was easy to do, because in the Teacher’s Notes, there is a suggested course schedule so I knew the steps I needed to be taking for each lesson (There are 15 lessons total). There was also a Scene Breakdown sheet so I could tell what we needed to watch on each disc for each day. I loved that feature!
The video workshops were engaging and age-appropriate. We enjoyed watching them together each school day that they were recommended and then diving into the work. Having actual children in the workshop audience on the DVD was helpful, because my student was able to learn from her peers and the instructor.
This program makes teaching easy for many reasons. First, the concepts are taught on the discs for me. Also, the Teacher’s Notes break down the concepts that are taught, they give complete lesson plans and reinforcement exercises, and there are plenty of handouts with directions for each lesson so that it becomes concrete before moving on.
I love that we chose to space it out a bit, because it’s given us time to really practice. The lessons and techniques have been helping my daughter to become more purposeful with her writing. Prior to these lessons, she did mostly copywork and journaling. Obviously copywork is simply copying from someone else, and journaling has no rules. Through the lessons we’ve completed so far, I can even tell an improvement in her journal entries as she explores a little more depth and meaning in expressive herself through the written word.
Another aspect of this program that was interesting to me was that there were time management helps. For example, for the lessons, the student is provided a Composition Checklist. I love this because it reminds me of the grading rubrics that were often discussed in my college early education courses. Essentially, the student is given due dates and a checklist of things to remember before handing in their assignment. This is great for a student that is already an independent learner and worker. It’s also great for the student struggling in that area and can help them to gain confidence simply through working through the steps.
These programs are both laid out very well for the organized OCD educators, and for the hopelessly disorganized of us out there. It is very easy to follow along once you get the hang of the structure of the program, and if you get stuck, there are handy tools to get you back on track within the guides and handouts.
These programs would be perfect to purchase now (before the school year officially begins) to get the hang of everything. This is particularly true if you’ll be purchasing Teaching Writing: Structure and Style with Andrew Pudewa. This will give you time to think about everything, take notes, and come up with a system for your homeschool classroom and give your learner the best chance at success.
Don’t get discouraged. The program is solid, and if you have to go at a different pace than is listed, that’s okay! The Student Writing Intensive is designed to last 15-30 weeks, but you could even have a student complete it in just 4 days if necessary. There are many ways to make this work into your lifestyle, provided you are willing to put forth the effort to complete the full program.
I’m excited to be able to teach a solid writing foundation to my daughter now, before she picks up any bad writing habits. However, if you are needing to back track and provide a foundation for your student, it works well in that capacity as well! If you’re not sure if this level or these products are right for you, check out Where to Start: Writing for placement recommendations straight from The Institute for Excellence in Writing.
Finally, I love that these programs don’t require you to have a ton of extra supplies on hand. A whiteboard and some dry erase markers, as well as a few empty lined notebooks and some loose leaf paper and a few writing utensils is really it! You could use a chalkboard with chalk instead of the whiteboard, or even just use paper. Again, it’s flexible as long as you just take the time and effort to jump in and do the work!
For the best value, you can purchase the Teaching Writing/Student Writing Value Package Level A to receive both products that I received for the value price of just $249.