Home Education · Odds and Ends

Review of Institute for Excellence in Writing~Student Writing Intensive Level A

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I have had many friends use the writing programs of Institute for Excellence in Writing in their own home schools.  My oldest daughter even took a Great Books course that used IEW to teach writing.  But as for myself, I had never had the opportunity to do so, until I was chosen by the Schoolhouse Review Crew to review the Teaching Writing:Structure and Style, Level A which is recommended for grades 3 through 5.  But there three levels in all:

Level A (Grades 3-5)
Level B (Grades 6-8)
Level C (Grades 9-12).

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I received two products from
 Institute For Excellence in Writing to review:
TWSS (Teaching Writing: Structure and Style) retail price is  $169.00 *see above
and  SWI (Student Writing Intensive) Level A retail price is $109.00 *see below
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You begin with the TWSS (Teaching Writing Structure Style).  This is a seminar type curriculum for the teacher / parent that teaches you the skills necessary  to implement the writing program.  There are 10 DVD’s, 6 of which are for teacher and training, another one called “Tips & Tricks,”  and 3 that are student workshops for the different student levels: Elementary, Intermediate and high school.  The student DVD’s are called Student Writing Workshops (SWW).  It was quite a bit for a home school mom to get through, as I barely have enough time in the day for anything extra.  The information was, however, very informative, explaining the how and why of the program, and full of a plethora of teaching tips too.  I had to get through this quickly, as I was leaving on a 3 week road trip soon with the kids and knew all DVD watching would be done on the road in the form of 8 and 10 year old boy movie choices.  Didn’t think I could get them to watch these on our vacation over such titles as “Escape From Planet Earth.”
Here are the DVD’s by subject:
Disc One – Overview of Structure and Style
Disc Two – Stylistic Techniques: “Dress-Up”
Disc Three – Stylistic Techniques: Sentence Openers
Disc Four – Stylistic Techniques: Advanced Dress-Ups, Decorations, and Triples
Disc Five – Writing Reports / Creative Writing
Disc Six – Essays / Critiques, Conclusion
Disc Seven – Tips & Tricks for teaching
Disc Eight – Student Writing Workshop Elementary Level
Disc Nine –  Student Writing Workshop Intermediate Level
Disc Ten – Student Writing Workshop High School Level
TWSS (Teaching Writing Structure Style) even gives writing exercises for the teacher, in order so that there is a real sense of what will be expected by the student.  There is a workbook included with the DVD’s that allows you to read as you watch and not have to take extensive notes (I just added notes in the margins as I watched).  The goal is to help you understand how to give student’s structured guidelines and specific requirements to develop there writing competency, extensive modeling as a means of leading to independent student writing, writing concepts that are repeated and build upon each other and a lot pf writing practice.
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So, my almost 10 year old son and I set out on our journey.  Previously, I had fairly easily taught my 2 daughters to write in a clear and concise manner.  But my first born son has been…well, just a little bit more challenging.  He is the quintessential “boy, hater of writing” type.  He gets hand cramps when he writes.  He wiggles like a flopping fish when asked to write.  Basically, he will do anything (except clean out the chicken coop, to get out of writing.  Luckily, the program allows you to tailor the pace to your individual student’s needs.  The goal is to do 1 lesson a week at 4 days per week.  It has always been necessary for me to keep my son’s writing lessons very short, so as to avoid discouragement.  This held true.
The SWI Level A student workbook set includes a binder with the materials needed:lesson plans, charts of important material, checklists and the writing samples.  We just had to organize it with the tabs they provided and get some notebook paper for writing.  The set also contains 5 DVD’s:
Disc One – Outlines, Summary, Dress-Up
Disc Two – Story Summary, Dress-Up
Disc Three – Reference Summary, Paragraph Structure
Disc Four – Creative Writing
Disc Five – Structure and Style Overview
We would watch a lesson taught by the creator of this program, Andrew Pudewa (click to read more about this gentleman), as outlined by the portion of each DVD that we needed for that lesson and use the suggested articles and also reinforcements.  I counted 15 lessons in all, but each lesson has 1 to 3 activities within.
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 Some days, with my reluctant writer, we could only get through a portion of the daily activity, saving the rest of it for our next session.  My son was also very sick during this time, so we had to take a few weeks off.  We finished up with a “Student Writing Intensive” the weekend of July 4th through 7th though, where he did more than 1 activity a day.  One of the ways I had to tweak this for him was to allow him to write the title and then dictate to me his outline from the words he had underlined in the article.  I also used unlined paper so that his reward at the end was a chance to draw what we had read and narrated.  He loves drawing and this was the incentive I needed to keep him on task.
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He likes reading, so he would read the article out loud to me and then underline important words in the article to put in his “Key Word Outline.”  Mr. Pudewa explains that it is okay to allow students to write concisely short sentences, as long as they are fulfilling the requirements for the assignment.  He also suggests doing some of your own research on the material presented, so that allowed for my son to have a more meaningful relationship with his writing.
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By the end of the journey my son used the skills taught that were repetitive enough to become habit and then increasingly difficult in the tasks required to underline the important words in a sentence, produce a Key Word Outline, write a rough draft and include “which” in his composition in order to be able to combine 2 sentences, use an “ly” word and then take his edited version and type it out.  Ta Da!   My reluctant writer had written a composition.   He did not relish the redundancy, but remembered what he was being asked to do each step of the way.  That in itself is success.  He accomplished this through the use of Teaching Writing:Structure and Style, Level A by the Institute for Excellence in Writing!
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If you are interested in other opinions, click the button below for more reviews of the writing program published by the  Institute for Excellence in Writing or visit their website yourself www.excellenceinwriting.com!
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Having an Excellent Sunday Afternoon Reviewing for You,
~Kerry
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