Over the past few years, I have become quite familiar with the writing curriculum available from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW). My older children have taken IEW classes through our homeschool co-op, and we have also used some of their themed writing books. Sassy has been begging to get to do IEW with the big girls, and now I believe she is finally ready to begin more formal writing instruction. Words can not express how excited I was to have the opportunity to review the Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package Level A with her.
For this review, we received:
- Teaching Writing: Structure and Style DVD set and Seminar Notebook
- Student Writing Intensive, Level A DVD set and Student Notebook
- Fix-It! Grammar Books 1 and 2
- A Word Write Now
- Portable Walls
Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (TWSS) DVD set and Seminar Notebook
This is a recently updated set of 12 DVDs that feature Andrew Pudewa's seminar for teachers and parents on how to teach the IEW system of writing. In addition, there is a 3-ring binder notebook that includes the seminar handouts, as well as access to on-line blackline masters. With a premium subscription, you receive one year access to additional video streaming of the TWSS course, monthly webinar training, audio MP3 downloads of Andrew Pudewa's conference talks, and additional PDF downloads.
I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Pudewa speak at a homeschool conference several years ago, so I knew that these DVDs would not only be full of practical application for teaching writing, but they would also be entertaining. Like I said above, these DVDs are intended for the teacher/parent. I watched these when my small people were doing other things.
One of the things I needed to hear was that I can't help my child too much. I'm always afraid of doing too much helping and not letting them be more independent. Mr. Pudewa explained how there is no such thing as too much help in writing, that my small person will let me know when they are ready to do it on their own, and it made so much sense. While Sassy is ready for 3rd grade work, she is only 7, so it was a great reminder that she may need more help than my others did in 3rd grade.
Student Writing Intensive (SWI), Level A DVD set and Student Notebook
This is a set of 4 instructional DVDs and the Structure and Style Overview DVD. The instructional DVDs feature Mr. Pudewa teaching the writing course. Sassy loves watching this (as do my older ones who kept coming in to watch with us) because you feel like you're actually in class with Mr. Pudewa and he has such a natural way of interacting with and engaging students. The DVDs teach the lesson, and then the student is given their assignment to work on independently.
Along with the DVD set is a set of Teacher's Notes and Student Handouts that are 3-hole punched. This includes
- Instructions for setting up the Student Notebook
- Scope and sequence for the SWI Level A
- Scene breakdown for the DVDs
- Suggested course schedule to spread SWI Level A over 30 weeks
- Notes for teaching each lesson, including source texts and reinforcement exercises
The Student Notebook is a very sturdy 3-ring binder with tabbed dividers. The instructions for setting up the Student Notebook are incredibly helpful and make putting it together a breeze.
Fix-It! Grammar, Books 1 and 2
These are 2 spiral-bound teacher's manuals for the first 2 levels of Fix-It! Grammar. They also include access for downloading the student books, as well as 2 e-audio files. The concept behind Fix-It! Grammar is that students learn grammar by editing real-life sentences. In Book 1, they use the fairy tale The Nose Tree, editing a couple of sentences a day and re-writing them into the correct paragraph structure. They learn how to label and mark the sentences using editing marks. Book 2 uses Robin Hood as the base for the students to learn.
I fell in love with Fix-It! Grammar. First, this only takes a few minutes each day; usually Sassy and I could do that day's assignment in 15 minutes. Second, it makes so much more sense to have children learn grammar in the course of writing as opposed to learning a series of grammar rules and not understanding how to actually apply them in writing. I love Fix-It! Grammar so much that I am planning on switching all of the girls to it for our grammar curriculum this year.
A Word Write Now
This spiral-bound book has to be the most useful thesaurus that I have ever seen. It's organized into sections for character traits, descriptive words, and movement and the senses. Not only does it help you find a more descriptive word than your original, but it can help you figure out a word even if you don't have an original word but just a concept. For example, if you want to describe someone who is honorable, you go to the page with words for honor and find nouns, noun characters, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs. You also will find a definition, quotes about honor, and excerpts from classical literature. Plus there are blank lines to add any additional words you might come across or think of.
This tri-fold folder contains writing models and word lists. Basically, it contains all those handy wall charts that would be on the walls of a classroom but in a foldable, portable form. Need a synonym for "said"? It's on the Portable Walls. Need help remembering the structure for the story sequence model? It's on the Portable Walls. I might need to buy a couple more of these because I can see all of my small people wanting to use this when they're writing.
A Few Final Thoughts
At first glance, IEW can seem overwhelming. It's an entirely different way of teaching writing than you might be familiar with. Thankfully, by watching the TWSS DVDs, it's very simple to understand how to use with your small person. Mr. Pudewa makes learning to write fun through the SWI DVDs. The additional helps of A Word Write Now and the Portable Walls provide everything someone would need to feel success when writing. I mentioned earlier that I love, love, LOVE Fix-It! Grammar, so much so that we will be abandoning the grammar curriculum we've used for the past few years and using this for all of the girls.
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