Friday, July 5, 2013

Institute for Excellence in Writing: Teaching Writing: Structure and Style Set and Student Writing Intensive Level A Set {A Review}

 We just finished an 8 week review of Teaching Writing: Structure and Style Set (TWSS) ($169) and Student Writing Intensive Level A Set (SWI) ($109) recommended for grades 3-5 from the Institute for Excellence in Writing. Let me say, I had heard about this program ahead of time from another homeschool mom, so I was expecting big things.

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TWSS is designed for parents/teachers and teaches how to teach the writing techniques presented in SWI by giving the viewer  assignments similar to student assignments and instruction guidance. It includes 10 DVDs with instruction, tips and tricks, sample student workshops, and the seminar workbook with syllabus, charts, word lists, and sample lesson plans. 

I would recommend watching the DVDs from TWSS in sections just before your child watches his/her section. And taking notes is a good way to help remember the points you want to stress with your child.

SWI includes four instructional student DVDs, a binder for writing, and a student packet.

These videos are recorded live in a class/seminar setting.

By clicking on the links above, you can find excerpts from the DVDs, pdf samples, guides, and workbook samples.

The program is set up with the teacher introducing one concept at a time, modeling, and giving numerous examples. The goal is a continuation from complete dependence into independence (This is a popular educational theory of Vygotsky, which I support whole-heartedly.). 

The types of writing taught include making word outlines, picture prompt writings, stylistic techniques, narratives, reports, creative writing, essays, and critiques.

How we used it
First of all, I took some time trying to understand the materials, what to do with them, and how we would make them work in our schedule with our needs. I found A-7 in the appendix and the tips handouts from TWSS helpful. I also found pages 3-95 in SWI to be an excellent guide. There are adjustments that you can make for grades 1 and 2, grades 3 and 4, and grades 5 and up.

It is a skills based program that focuses on technique so you can let your children work on a new concept for awhile until it is easy and then build on something new.

I made a schedule for us using the sample lesson plans and suggestions for implementation from A-18 in TWSS. We set our weeks up like this:

Week 1: Notes, verbal review, and written summary. Add -ly.
Week 2: Independent note taking. Add which.
Week 3: Independent note taking. Because.
Week 4: Independent note taking. Banned words list.
Week 5: Introduce story model. Strong verb and quality adjective.
Week 6: Reinforce story sequence model. Adverb Clause.

We liked to have Ceesa do a rough draft. Then I would type it, so revisions were painless.

We would watch the videos together and pause the DVD so she could write what they were working on or if there was an important point that I wanted to plug in. Then we would continue working on the new concepts throughout the week in other assignments similar to what she did with the DVD.

For future work, we are going to follow the suggestions on page 16 of the IEW catalog. It shows a transition between programs and recommended grade levels.

What I like
There really is so much to like in this program.

One thing I appreciate is being taught how to teach the program. I like how it is laid out with an initial lesson taught by Mr. Pudewa, but I really like that since I've been taught what is going on and why, I know how to support Ceesa throughout the process.

The public speaking and speech planning tips were very helpful and were timely for us as Ceesa was planning a presentation for her exams.

You can use the resources that you have on hand to complete the writing assignments. So you are not adding a tremendous load to your schedule. Say we are studying creationism. Ceesa can use a passage from a text she is reading to do the assignments.

There were spelling tips (auditory--oral--written) which I thought were great, especially since spelling is not popular around here.

The rules laid out for the teacher gave me focus. I could clearly see where we would need to work.

What Ceesa had to say...
"Scrubbing the floor teacher...ha, ha...he's funny." She thinks Mr. Pudewa is a great teacher and enjoys his style of presenting the material.


"I love writing this way. Can we do this all summer?" This part made me smile. We don't "do" school over the summer and I wanted to be very careful about what I expected her to do, so I was so glad to hear her say she liked it and wanted to keep working on it on her break.

What Ceesa liked
She really loved the option of writing creative stories in place of the fiction stories provided. She changed Aesop's story of the boy and the nuts to a girl in a candy store with lemon drops.

What Ceesa Learned...
Ceesa wrote lots and lots of key word outlines and paragraphs. She wrote three speeches that I was able to help her with using tips from TWSS. She acquired a deeper understanding of parts of speech and how to use them. And maybe most importantly, she has a confidence when writing that I didn't notice before.

Who would use this and why?
There are 3 levels in this program. We used A and I would recommend it for those with children in third to fifth grade that want a firm foundation for writing.

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Wishing you homeschool blessings,

Click here to read more reviews from Schoolhouse Review Crew.

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Phyllis said...

I think we are going to get this (at the appropriate level) for my boys this year.

Bethany said...

We really do like it. I bet your boys will like it too. Katie might even like to watch it. :)

Phyllis said...

Katie graduated already, but I wonder if Sam would like it, too.

Bethany said...

I remembered that she had, but it is fun and I have noticed how she likes to work with you guys. :)

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