Friday, July 5, 2013

Review: Institute for Excellence in Writing

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I'll admit that I have a love of all things IEW and I might have a slight homeschool crush on Andrew Pudewa himself. I always go to his workshops at OCHEC and leave inspired to be a better homeschool mom.  When he came to talk to our local CC groups last year, I made Big Daddy join us....and he then understood the crush. It's all good. The Institute for Excellence in Writing is well known in the homeschool world for it's exceptional language arts material, so I was thrilled to get to review some of their products for you. I'm reviewing both  Teaching with Structure and Style Set (TWSS) and Student Writing Intensive Level A (SWI).

 photo Structurestyleset_zps12b6d638.jpgWhen the products arrived in the mail, I was so excited to dive in. The TWSS is the backbone of all the IEW writing curriculum and packed full of valuable information for teaching your kids. It is broken into 10 DVDs that includes 10 hours of Andrew Pudewa modeling how to teach all 9 models of writing taught in IEW. There is also a 2 hour "tricks and tips" DVD that is more of a refresher course and covers everything more quickly. Then there are 3 more DVDs full of student work, so you get an idea of how you can scale the program for each level you are teaching. A lot An abundance of information for you money!

I watched the videos alone, after getting the notebook set up. I had planned to watch it with a friend, and the timing just hasn't worked out yet. We are still planning to watch them together week, I hope! I actually would like all of our CC Essentials families to view them with us before we start the fall semester since this will help them so much in teaching at home during the year (We use IEW's History Based Writing books as our source text in Essentials). The videos were so helpful for understanding the program. Seeing the big picture is a huge benefit in understand how to better teach our kids to write well.

Instead of teaching to think so they can write, this program teaches kids how to to write so they can think. This is backwards for so many people but make complete sense after watching the videos. Mr. Pudewa takes the thinking out of writing, and tells you exactly what to write and how to do it. He breaks it down into bite size pieces and makes it so you can be successful in anything you write. And it works! I've seen how well this worked for Captain C so am excited to use it for the other two too.

There are 9 units in the program that can be used to teach the structure of writing to students in grades 2-10
  • Unit 1 - Note Making and Outlines (so important to start here and not skip ahead as this is used through all the other units!)
  • Unit 2 - Summarizing from Notes
  • Unit 3 - Summarizing Narrative Stories (or rather "some-a-rizing" stories...telling SOME, not the SUM of what you know. lol)
  • Unit 4 - Summarizing References and Writing Reports
  • Unit 5 - Writing from Pictures (Captain C's favorite unit!)
  • Unit 6 - Writing Reports from Multiple Sources
  • Unit 7 - Creative Writing with Structure (Terrific T's fave)
  • Unit 8 - Essays
  • Unit 9 - Critiques
 Once the kids (and adults) learn HOW to write well, then they can begin writing about what they choose and do it well. Mixed in with each of the above structures are the various style techniques that make the writing pretty magnificent.. Using the "dress-ups and decorations" he teaches, students can make sure they get their point across exactly as they mean it. It is so important to be able to community effectively in life. These DVDs should be in everyone's homeschool arsenal!

 photo levela_zpsa4e5c6a2.jpgWe also received SWI level A DVD set. This is for grades 3-5 and I decided to teach it to both P (just finished 2nd) and T (just finished 4th) together. We got the notebook set up and started in on the first lesson/DVD. There are a full year of lesson plans included and tell you exactly what to do each day. The lesson plans are divided into 5 days a week of assignments. Since it is summer, we only did this three days a week and doubled up where needed or when it gave two extra stories to use for practice, we just did one. It let us still get a feel for it without burning the kids out.

T has done All Things Fun and Fascinating before so was familiar with the method of IEW, but P had never done it at all and T has never watched the videos. The first thing we did was get notebook paper added to our binders and PENS (Mr. Pudewa doesn't want them being neat and using pencils and worrying about erasing and getting it perfect - he won the kids over right there!) and sit in the living room to watch together.  After watching the segment for the first day (lesson plans tell how many minutes to watch each day - some days don't have any video to watch), we started in on the work. T could do it much more quickly, because he knew what he was doing here. This was perfect so he could "lead" P through the process and be practicing without realizing it as he teaches her.  We continued on through the first 6 weeks (3 lessons) and they are both doing well. I can't wait for them to keep learning.

I love that Mr. Pudewa says, "This is writing, there's no right or wrong. It's not math." haha! My kids get so frustrated with math having to always be "right," but with writing, they can relax a little. And I can relax a little with them.  As long as the kids are doing what they are asked, it is ok if it is long or short, as long as you have added in all the things asked. It is ok if it is about dogs or pigs, as long as they have completed the assignment given. The content isn't important in this learning phase. This program can be used with any content, so it is easy to scale it to all the different skill levels. The kids enjoyed the random topics in the SWI A lessons...writing a story on Rolie Polies (Pillbugs) was fun.

Pricing: TWSS is $169 and includes the Seminar Workbook.
SWI A is $109 - there are other levels too - SWI B is for grades 6-8 and SWI C is for grades 9-12.
Or buy both the TWSS and a SWI level together for $249 and save $29. 
I plan to re-watch each DVD during the school year before I teach the lessons so I can remember what I wanted to say. There is SO much information in here that is so great, but it was so much to watch it all together that I'll never remember everything. This is definitely not a "watch one time and be done with it" DVD set.  We will be watching these often. I'm so thankful to have this in our home and know we will all be better exceptional writers for having received it.
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  1. I love the mask! How can he see through that thing? :)

    1. I KNOW! He will even ride his bike wearing it though so I'm assuming he can see something. ;)

  2. Cute! We call pillbugs Piggly Wigglies, of course we had to change the name!

  3. LOL to your "slight crush" :-) We have enjoyed IEW, also. I'm excited to give N4 a full year of it this coming school year. I think it made such a difference in my middle two. The concepts just make sense.


I would love to hear your thoughts!!