Five years ago I attended a small homeschool conference in Spokane, Washington as a vendor representative, this led to a chance meeting that would leave a lasting impression. I met Andrew Pudewa and talked with him about writing and teaching writing. Moving forward to 2013 and working with the Schoolhouse review crew, I was over joyed to see IEW appear on our vendor list and was even more excited when we were chosen to review these two products.
Are you ready to learn as the teacher? Teaching Writing the Structure and Style is a 10 DVD set (6 DVDs are the teacher's course work, 1 DVD of tips and tricks , and 3 DVD of Student Sample workshops 1 for each level A,B, and C) along with the binder full of source material, seminar materials, chart, and tools for teaching the program to your students.
The day it arrived I watched the first 2 DVDs that afternoon and evening and started the activities in the binder. My husband even watched bits and pieces with me, finally deciding that he wanted to watch the student version with the boys instead. The series retails for $169.00 and is more than worth the investment. I love the videos and the way Mr. P (as my boys have started calling him) breaks down each of the steps. There is still a lot of flexibility with the program, I know that some areas are going to take longer for the boys and some things they are going to get right out of the gate.
I love getting the history of the program, it made me think of a Chemistry class I took in high School. We didn't learn a lot of chemistry but since it was an advanced class the instructor felt we needed to learn things that would get us through college and beyond (testing techniques, note taking techniques, and how to mark in a textbook for study purposes), oddly enough I still have that chemistry book (the school district was going to throw them out at the end of the year and our teacher managed to swing us keeping them).
Understanding the tricks to teaching our students and even a group of students the foundations for thinking was a huge break through for me. It isn't about writing a research paper where we hand them an idea , give them a few books to reference, and send them on their way; it is about teaching them to think and understand the why of the assignment.
Teaching our children to think, will lead them to much greater things then if we are to teach them how to rewrite what has already be rewritten.
The boys loved the fact that Mommy had to spend some serious time working through TWSS before I could introduce them to the program. They think it is fun to watch Mommy learn something new. As I worked through the DVDs my goal was not only to do the work but to also make notes for myself as the teacher to use as we worked through the program with the boys. Knowing that I would be presenting the program to not only the 2 little boys but also my husband meant I would need to have a strong grasp of all the aspects,so with post it notes in hand and my pencil I made a variety of notes to myself as I worked through the various units.
Units 1 and 2 introduced me to a new way of note taking as well as retelling from notes rather than having the source still with me.
Unit 3 really gave me a way to look at creative writing differently and story telling in a simpler way.
Unit 4 reminded me of all the copious notes I use to take and how I struggled to sort through them when it came time to use them, I am grateful for this system to teach the boys how to take notes without overwhelming themselves later.
Unit 5 I have to say at first I wasn't sure about unit 5, but as I worked through it and thought on it more, I gained more understanding of writing from pictures. I also love the handling of the "verbs of being" . Teaching children at a young age how to use concrete verbs sets the foundation early on. Relearning this concept in college is not the way to do it.
Unit 6 Since my boys are younger I only spent a brief amount of time on this and will be revisiting it as we continue on our writing journey. Unit 6 is a continuation of unit 4.
Unit 7 This unit inspired me to change how I will be teaching creative writing in the fall to our co-op class of 3rd graders. I love the list of ideas for Creative Writing Assignments in this unit.
Unit 8 Essay writing, definitely a topic I never thought I would revisit after college, but here I am getting ready to teach my boys how to write an essay, yikes! Thankfully I can depend on IEW and TWSS to help me through the process.
Unit 9 Critiques like reviews of products and books is something I feel pretty solid in but am still grateful for the lists and technique.
I love the tips section of the binder, page after page of helpful little bits to add to the whole experience teaching the boys. Finally the binder ends with an Appendix, where I found great tips for lesson planning and expectations for covering all 9 units and not getting stuck on units 1 and 2, I will most likely make a copy of the Lesson Plan page to include in the boys' planners or at least Mom's planner for August through December.
Teaching the student with Student Writing Intensive
Now that Mom managed to learn the Structure and Style method, shall we introduce it to the boys?
Student Writing Intensive level A is a 5 DVD bundle with binder full of reproducibles and dividers. The DVD box holds the 4 student DVDs plus an Overview of Structure and Style DVD. The overview DVD is just that an overview of the methods taught in Structure and Style. Level A is appropriate for grades 3-5 or children writing and reading at around those levels and retails for $109.00. The SWII program comes with Teacher's Notes for each lesson that include the time stamp for various lessons on the DVDs. The time stamp notes helped immensely as we never left the DVDs in the player and sometimes watched the DVDs on the computer rather than the TV.
Since I plan on having our youngest go back through the program again next year, I had Cameron put the tabs and copies of certain pages into a separate binder. The 5 tabs in the binder make it easy for the student to find materials needed: Models/ Sources and Checklists, Outlines and Compositions, Structural Models, Style Charts, and finally "Banned" Words. Not all of the accompanying pages fit under those categories so I store them in the striped binder. The Teacher's notes and the student handouts store nicely out of the way of a child who frustrates easily when it comes to writing. When Nathan starts the program I think I will use the SWII notebook and move the extras to my TWSS binder as there is still plenty of room in it.
Watching the DVD lessons with Cameron , actually Nathan and Daddy watched too was a relaxed fun way to get through each lesson, a note to self though: We need a functioning remote for the DVD player so pausing and replaying is easier.
As we worked our way through units 1 and 2 and Cameron improved with those tasks, we decided to change things up a bit to inspire him as we worked through unit 3. Cameron loves Star Wars and has several easy readers and graded readers related to Star Wars. We used the various stories to have him summarize the stories, after 3 or 4 stories we decided to skip ahead a bit and have him write his own Star Wars story using the structure and style techniques he had learned. I had him write the Story Sequence including the Setting, the Plot, and the Climax. I added a word list for him to create so he would already have his -ly words. He included several "Who/Which" clauses as well. Thankfully he enjoyed the rabbit trail project. The program inspired him so much he has actually asked to continue using IEW products for writing including Following Narnia. Nathan is eager to start the program more seriously so he can try out the Rocket, Radar, and Robots book. I hope I don't overwhelm them but I really want to add the history series to our history shelf .
Institute for Excellence in Writing even inspired my husband to relearn writing technique, trying his hand as retelling a story from a key word outline. He got right in the thick of it with the boys and followed all the rules, skipping lines, using a pen, drawing a single line through words he wanted to change, and writing quickly but neatly. Some days it is a good thing having three students.
You can find out more about these and other programs by visiting IEW on the web,, on Facebook, and Twitter
The Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed these 2 products as well as Teaching the Classics. The various reviews can be read by clicking the button below.