Tuesday, June 9, 2015

{Review} IEW ~ Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, Student Writing Intensive Level B


Our daughter, who is now officially an eighth grader, has spent the last several years waffling between academic interests. Towards the end of seventh grade she decided her passion was writing, but that left me, her scientifically minded mother, at a complete loss as to how to teach her. With absolute perfect timing we were offered the chance to review Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, Student Writing Intensive Level B from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW).

For the purpose of this review we received the newly updated Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (TWSS) set that contains the seminar and practicum workbook along with the entire 12 DVD seminar. Also included was a year Premium Subscription which provides access to streaming video of the entire TWSS teacher training course, student demonstration lessons at four levels, and monthly webinar training, as well as audio MP3 downloads of Andrew Pudewa's popular conferences talks, and various PDF downloads.  We additionally received the Student Writing Intensive Level B (SWI), which is intended for students working at the 6th - 8th grade level. The SWI contains 5 DVDs of lessons and parent overview information, a three ring binder with dividers (we LOVED this), and a student pack with the scope & sequence, teacher's notes, and student handouts.  Whew!

Unexpected Homeschool: Review of IEW TWSS and SWI B. Finally the writing program for us!

The big powerhouse behind the IEW system is the teacher seminar, Teaching Writing: Structure and Style. For the nitty gritty details of the IEW method, check out this introductory piece on their website.  However, for me the importance of the TWSS teacher training cannot be understated. It fully explains the structural models to the teacher with samples and practice, then gives a practical way to implement the process.  

How does the TWSS do all this? It starts with brand new video lessons featuring the always engaging Andrew Pudewa. The kit also includes a tabbed three-ring teacher workbook that documents all the main bullet points from the video lessons. Each of the nine structural units are clearly marked in the binder with goals for the unit, recommended materials to use with students (if you are not using the optional Student Writing Intensive) and teaching procedures. Then to make it just a little bit more useful, there are tips on how to adjust the model for each grade level, which makes this course applicable for instructors of all age students. You learn once, but can apply it to all the students.

In addition the TWSS workbook units provide adjustments and suggestions for special needs students, as well as answers to commonly asked questions and extra information on each of the units. Since we learn best by doing, practicums for the teachers occur frequently throughout the seminar, which is probably the number one reason I was able to stick with this set.

Unexpected Homeschool: Review of IEW TWSS and SWI B. Finally the writing program for us!
TWSS DVDs, SWI notebook, Premium subscription, and Amber enjoying her lesson.
That still isn't everything. After the nine structural models in the workbook comes the frequently referenced section on stylistic techniques. This section provides much needed guidance and order to teaching the stylistic techniques. Again, grade level and special needs adjustment suggestions are provided.  Lastly, the TWSS appendix has all the articles discussed during the teacher seminar.   

While the TWSS is most definitely a full course for the teacher, it doesn't require a huge time investment before use. You definitely may choose to complete the full seminar right up front, but it's also possible to work in smaller pieces to stay a week or two ahead of your student.

Even though the TWSS provides everything you need to teach the Style and Structure method, life is so much easier with the Student Writing Intensives. They include video lessons with Andrew Pudewa specifically for the student, a lesson plan and notes for the teacher, and the all important student source text handouts with check lists. The source text alone is worth the cost, but I'm not going to kid anyone and pretend that I'm anywhere near as prepared to teach writing as Andrew Pudewa. Those videos are invaluable to us.

Unexpected Homeschool: Review of IEW TWSS and SWI B. Finally the writing program for us!
TWSS on the iPad and Amber working on various lessons
I'd been eying the IEW products for years, but always shied away because of the very thing I knew I needed - the teacher seminar.  Instead of IEW, I continued to pursue product upon product with minimal teacher involvement and minimal results in Amber. With Amber's recent decision to pursue writing, my hand was forced and I had to step up to admit my need as an instructor.

Right off the bat, I made use of my one year Premium Subscription to watch the TWSS seminar streaming to my iPad instead of being tied to a computer. The lessons were methodical, easy to understand, and even humorous at times. I had no difficulty staying at least one lesson ahead of Amber, which meant I was actually one to three weeks ahead of her since it takes a roughly two weeks for a student to complete each lesson. But don't worry, the instructor seminar is only a couple of hours per lesson. 

For the first time since we started homeschooling, I finally feel prepared and confident enough to follow through with a writing program. Usually I started out great by presenting the content and giving writing assignments, yet when Amber turned in the work I floundered with correcting her writing and providing feedback. 

Unexpected Homeschool: Review of IEW TWSS and SWI B. Finally the writing program for us!
Laughing during lessons, and positive results!
I did have some reservations that IEW would fall by the wayside after a few weeks just as so many other programs have. One thing I did to help ensure the success of the IEW program was to utilize the special needs suggestions provided in the TWSS seminar workbook. Amber is an intelligent child who is robbed of much of her cognitive power on her dysautonomia symptomatic days. Still, because of the suggestions in the TWSS and the incremental approach of IEW, there were very few days we had to forego our writing work. 

The video lessons in the Student Writing Intensive were definitely a positive feature for us as well. Depending on the day, Amber can't always comprehend written words while she can usually still understand spoken instructions. Since we could pause the video lessons, I also had the opportunity to put my new training into action by providing Amber with additional explanations and reinforcements on her most difficult days. Amber so loved the humor of Andrew Pudewa too. She often wondered why the students in the video were not cracking up like her. But while the videos have enough humor interspersed to keep Amber's attention from wandering, it's not all jokes and funny statements.  

Still, all of the positive features mean nothing if the curriculum is not successful in teaching writing. The proof for me came after just two weeks. Amber is finally able to chose more useful keywords in her outlines, not to mention creating outlines instead of copying whole paragraphs. It's only taken four years for her to progress to this point. She also is able to turn those outlines into new, interesting and cohesive sentences.

Unexpected Homeschool: Review of IEW TWSS and SWI B. Finally the writing program for us!
More progress!
In our opinion the Institute for Excellence in Writing product Teaching Writing: Structure and Style along with the Student Writing Intensive Level B are the perfect fit for our homeschool, despite my original fears over the instructor time commitment.  IEW is definitely helping Amber improve her writing, but more so has given me the ability to both instruct and guide her through all the writing levels. We highly recommend this curriculum for all types of learners, including those like Amber who need to learn a little differently than average.  


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There are so many wonderful IEW products being reviewed by the TOS Review Crew this week. It was simply impossible for each of us to cover everything in a single review. I highly recommend taking a few minutes to check out some of the other reviews for more details on differing age groups and needs.  

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