Monday, May 8, 2017

{Review} High School Essay Intensive - IEW

My 15 year old daughter had just finished her most recent Institute for Excellence in Writing course back in early April when we received for review the new edition of their High School Essay Intensive. You probably have never seen a high school student as happy to be given additional writing work towards the end of the school year as Amber was with this video course.

Review of High School Essay Intensive from the Institute for Excellence in Writing

First, let me provide you with the specifics of the course.
The High School Essay Intensive is a video course led by Andrew Pudewa, the director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing. It is taught directly to the student and there is no teacher's guide for this course. In our IEW box we received:
  • The 5 DVD set (6.5 hours of instruction)
  • A copy of the student handouts
  • Portable Walls for the Essayist

Along with the physical DVDs our set also included the ability to stream the video course from the IEW website, which is invaluable to our family since we love to school in various places that do not always have access to a DVD player.

The High School Essay Intensive is divided into five parts (each on a separate DVD) to cover various aspects and types of essay writing. If you have seen the older edition, it was updated in 2016 and now includes the new ACT® essay and the redesigned SAT® essay.
  • Part 1A: General Strategies for Essay Writing: Length and Structure
  • Part 1B: General Strategies for Essay Writing: Invention and Style
  • Part 2: Understanding and Preparing for the New ACT® Essay
  • Part 3: Understanding and Preparing for the Redesigned SAT® Essay
  • Part 4: Strategies for the Personal Essay

Review of High School Essay Intensive from the Institute for Excellence in Writing
Note taking!
The student handouts provide a detailed outline of the course, although the students are expected to fill in the specifics by taking notes during the video presentation. Essay assignments, including source text for the SAT® essay, are also part of the student handouts. The last page lists the nine step essay assignment that will culminate the course.

Portable Walls for the Essayist is a helpful, cardstock weight, tri-fold folder that can be used to block others while you work or as storage for the papers associated this course. All six faces of the Portable Walls for the Essayist have valuable information for your young writer:
  • Types of Essays
  • Essay Models
  • Essay Writing Process
  • Essay Writing Strategies
  • Specific Models
  • Transitional Words and Phrases

Review of High School Essay Intensive from the Institute for Excellence in Writing

I would like to note that this course is not designed to teach your student the basic mechanics of sentence or paragraph writing. The purpose is to help them with their essay composition skills.

Now back to my high school student's reaction. Why in the world would she be so giddy about essay writing?


Amber loves to write and intends to major in English. Despite all of her experience with various IEW courses, she felt her essay writing was still sub-par for someone with her aspirations. Don't misunderstand, her writing has grown leaps and bounds while using the IEW Student Writing Intensive levels. However, she felt there were some weaknesses in her writing and wanted a chance to work specifically on those areas.

Since the course was recorded with a group of students over the span of a single day, there are no straightforward breaks for those of us who want to go through the course in one or two hour increments per day. Our first day of use I assigned Amber a set length of video to watch and take notes from in her student handout. When she reached the end of that section, I was informed "This course is rather fun. May I continue?"  Absolutely, child. Please do. Actually, that was her reaction most days. She always happily went farther than I requested. There are not many topics that will elicit that reaction from Amber.

Review of High School Essay Intensive from the Institute for Excellence in Writing
Always note taking

I listened in to most of the video course with Amber, even if I was not exactly in the same room. Although it is taught directly to the student, I wanted to be vaguely prepared if she had any questions. If you are an experienced IEW Style and Structure parent, then you will be familiar with portions of the first two sections. It is not necessary for the parent to have IEW Style and Structure experience for this course to be of benefit, yet it will be easier for you to edit your student's work if you watch the course or have Style and Structure experience.

Amber completed the course, at least the portions I assigned, during the review period by working on it several days a week. She did stop the video playback quite a bit so that she could take detailed notes as suggested by Andrew Pudewa in the first few minutes of the video. I did allow Amber to skip one of the writing assignments in Part 1B because it was the same type of writing as she has been doing in her regular IEW courses for years. She preferred to get on with the new information.

Review of High School Essay Intensive from the Institute for Excellence in Writing
Outlining and writing her final essay

We had decided in advance that Amber would not complete the ACT® or SAT® portions of the High School Essay Intensive at this time. Amber does not expect to need to take either of the tests for her college admittance, so we chose to spend more time on the personal essay section which she will need. I believe this was a good choice; she did not suffer at all for skipping the two middle sections on the test essays and kept her positive momentum going with personal essays.

What did we think?

  • Although some of the information in the General Strategies for Essay Writing sections (Parts 1A and 1B) had been introduced in Amber's other Institute for Excellence in Writing courses, we appreciated how it was presented in the High School Essay Intensive. Still, the majority of the information was new to Amber.
  • The heart of the course is in Parts 1A and 1B, so I would never recommend skipping those sections. However, the remainder of the course could be adapted for a student who does not need specific type of essay experience. This was a huge bonus in our mind.
  • Amber feels her essay writing is stronger now and she has a better understanding of the different essay styles. I see definite improvement in her writing style and independence. I did not get a single question on how to structure her final project essay. I allowed Amber to use the basic essay as her final assignment, but after seeing how well she did with it I decided to have her edit it into the expanded essay and perhaps afterwards will try the super essay.

The High School Essay Intensive from the Institute for Excellence in Writing was exactly what my high school student needed to firm up her essay skills and give her the confidence to keep practicing those personal essays.




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Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew also had a chance to use the High School Essay Intensive. Please follow the link in the graphic below to read their experiences with this program.

High School Essay Intensive {Institute for Excellence in Writing Reviews}



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