Friday, May 13, 2011

Institute for Excellence in Writing

A blank piece of paper in front of a child can be a scary thing. They don't even know how to organize information for their report or begin to write a creative story. The Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) will hold your child's hand and gently lead them through the writing process. If parents are willing to go through the lessons with their children and encourage their child along the way, I believe every child can grow and develop their writing skills with this program.

In the past, I've read a lot about the Institute for Excellence in Writing, and from friends who had the pleasure of hearing Andrew Pudewa speak at their local homeschool conferences, but I had no personal experience with this product until I received it to review for The Old Schoolhouse Crew. I received Teaching Writing: Structure and Style and the Student Writing Intensive, Level A (recommended for grades 3-5).

We have been using these products in our home since November with my 2nd grade daughter and 3rd grade son. Since my children are on the younger end of this curriculum's recommended age range, we have taken things very slowly. Actually, that's what you are encouraged to do in this program. Watch the lessons on the DVD, practice, review, and practice some more.

What is Teaching Writing: Structure and Style?
This is a 10 hour seminar, put on six DVDs to help you learn how to effectively teach your children to write. In the overview section of the notebook you will learn this resource is "A complete syllabus for teaching writing skills to children in grades 2-10...Structure is rigid; style is fluid. Style is a 'sprinkling system' to help bring writing to life. It allows for creative experimentation; structure develops organizational skills. In the process of mastering the guidelines and requirements of this syllabus, students will acquire writing skills to last a lifetime" (emphasis mine). You will learn how to teach essay writing (to be used with subjects like Science and History), and Creative Writing (to be used in your Language Arts curriculum). I wrote in my notes after watching Andrew Pudewa's first video: "Writing must become a part of all subjects, not A subject. We must read, talk, and write. This is how we learn, not by multiple choice tests. Multiple choice tests show what the child does not know, but writing essays show what the child DOES know." For me, I view the notebook and DVDs included with Teaching Writing: Structure and Style as an invaluable teaching resource. I finally feel like I have a tool in my hands to help teach my children solid writing skills. This is a resource I will use for years to come.

Take a Look at the Structural Models:
1. Note Making and Keyword Outlines
2. Summarizing from Notes
3. Summarizing Narrative Stories
4. Summarizing from a Reference
5. Writing from Pictures
6. Library Research Reports
7. Creative Writing with Structure
8. Formal Essay
9. Formal Critique

Stylistic Techniques taught throughout the syllabus:
1. Dress-ups
2. Sentence Openers
3. Decorations
4. Sentence Styles

What is the Student Writing Intensive?
As I previously mentioned, our family has been using level A, which is recommended for grades 3-5. In this level, children will learn how to make key word outlines, write paragraphs based upon their key word outlines, dress-up their writing by using the who/which clause, adverbs, and strong verbs, because some words (like said and go are banned words). There are also lessons on writing stories and reports. I want to make clear that Mr. Andrew Pudewa is the teacher for these lessons, because you will all cozy up together on the couch and watch the DVDs together. My children find him funny and entertaining. My son wishes the lessons were a little shorter, but I like that he gets to work on the habit of focus and attentiveness while watching the DVDs.

Our family has been using it with our two oldest children (2nd and 3rd grades). There are 15 lessons, and it is recommended to take approximately two weeks per lesson at level A. We have covered lessons 1-5 so far, and have used what we've learned across all subject areas. This has been a good pace for my younger children. They clearly understand how to make key word outlines, and are using more dress-ups such as the who/which clause, and strong verbs.

How we used IEW in other subject areas?
IEW isn't a writing program where you do your assignment, close your book, and you're all done. Your children will learn how to write effectively and it will help them across all subject areas. For instance, when your child has a history or science report to do, they will use everything they learned in their IEW lessons to complete a polished report, or complete a creative writing assignment. I am going to give you an example of a mini report my 3rd grade son wrote back in January on the New York colony. He began by reading a paragraph in our history book about the New York colony. After reading each sentence in the paragraph he stopped and wrote down 2-3 keywords. You will see his keyword outline, and the paragraph he wrote using his outline below.

T's Key Word Outline:
1. founded, Dutch, Holland
2. settled, Hudson River
3. traded, native, furs
4. furs, valuable
5. sold, Europe, rich
6. founded, NYC, 1626
7. paid, Native Americans, $24
8. 40 years, English, took

Below is T's report he wrote, using the key word outline he put together.

New York Colony
The Dutch founded the New York colony. They settled along the Hudson River. They traded goods with the Native Americans to get valuable furs. They sold the furs to rich people in Europe. They founded New York City in 1626, and paid the Native Americans $24.00 for the land. 40 years later the English took over the New York colony.
As you can see, there are not any dress-ups (who/which clauses or strong verbs) in this report. This was his first experience applying what he learned in his IEW lessons to a "real life" assignment. We're taking baby steps here. Today, T still has to be reminded to use the dress-ups, but those reminders are always right in front of him (on the assignment sheets), and when he has added the number of dress-ups I have requested, he checks them off his list (a technique I learned from IEW).

Here's an example of his report using a dress-up he learned during his IEW lessons.

The Dutch founded the New York colony and settled along the Hudson River. They traded goods with the Native Americans to get valuable furs, which they sold to rich people in Europe. They founded New York City in 1626, and paid the Native Americans $24.00 for the land. 40 years later the English took over the New York colony.

IEW is good for both natural and reluctant writers. It has helped my son to have a structure (a map) to help him navigate through the writing process. It has helped my daughter to strengthen both her structure and style. I am finishing up my undergraduate degree, and find myself doing a lot of writing, and I have benefited from the IEW lessons as well. This is a program we will continue to use in our family, and I recommend it highly and without any reservations. I believe parents and teachers often put unrealistic expectations on children when it comes to writing. We put a blank piece of paper in front of them and demand, "Write a report on crocodiles and hand it in to me by the end of the day!" We walk away thinking they should just spew forth the information and complete the assignment without any difficulty. I would encourage you to not set your child up for failure, but rather, set them up for success. Take them by the hand and use the wonderful resources offered by the Institute for Excellence Writing!

Pricing and Ordering Information:
Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (DVD and notebook): $169.00
Student Writing Intensive, Level A (DVD and notebook): $99.00
Combo Pack (with both Teaching Writing and Student Writing Intensive): $239.00

To read more Crew reviews on this IEW product and others, please click over to the blog.

*I received this product free for review purposes only. All opinions are my own*

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