Friday, May 13, 2011

Institute for Excellence in Writing New TOS Review

Student Writing Intensive A
PhotobucketInstitute for Excellence in Writing

Call us: 800.856.5815

Student Writing Intensive Level A   Notebook Binder with lesson materials and handouts and 4 DVD set $99
Structure and Style Overview  $10
Portable Wall     $7

I realize this is a very long review, but please bear with me.  There is a lot of valuable information tucked into this DVD case and 3 ring binder and I want to share as much information as I can to show you the value of the program. 

I lost my catchy opening and I can't remember what all it was so I will just get to the heart of the review: describing the product and what we thought of it.  This way I won't make it any longer than necessary.

Student Writing Intensive level A (SWI A) is set up to be a 30 week course, but it says it can be accomplished in 15 weeks by doubling up the days assignments. There are 15 lessons, each scheduled for 2 weeks. The student book and teacher guide/ outline are included in one binder.

IEW Comparative ChartThe teacher materials include a Scope and Sequence, breakdown of the DVD scenes, suggested course schedule, notes for each lesson with directions to integrate the written materials with the DVD and ideas for extra practice. There are also lists of words for the key word outlines. (I will explain these outlines in a couple paragraphs).

The student materials are handouts which feature the reading selection which the student will use to write from, pages for listing banned words for verbs and adjectives and space to write in better alternatives, a listing of adverbs, a list of prepositions, and a model for organizing key ideas.  The back page of the student handout of the text provides a checklist of concepts which should be included in the students work.

The DVD set includes 4 student DVD’s which provide the actually teaching of the program for the student.  It appears that the sessions are recording live during an actual class led by Andrew Pudewa.

Writing Instruction is approached from the view of reading good writing helps a student to produce good writing of their own.  Thus they are taught to find key words in a passage and use those key words, without looking at the original text, to reconstruct their own paragraph on the same topic.

Specific writing techniques are presented as ‘dress-ups.  Throughout the course these are concepts such as; who/which clauses, adverbs, strong verbs (verbs which make something exciting), adjectives, because clause, and adverbial clauses.

The first 6 sessions focus on Key word outlines and the first 5 dress ups mentioned.  According to the included schedule these lessons could take 12 weeks.  Lesson 7 begins using longer selections of several paragraphs.  Now the student will begin writing a story building on the previously learned.  They are introduced to a “Story Sequence Model” to assist in this larger task.  The questions employed here tend to answer the 5 W and H’s.  They remind me of the answers a newspaper reporter would be thinking of when writing a story. No longer are they taking notes or key words from each sentence, but answering the questions from the story sequence chart. This process is used through lesson 9.

Lesson 10 instructs the student to write their own original story using the techniques learned so far. The notes give suggestions of stories to use as models so they student doesn’t have to construct everything from scratch.  Some of the suggestions are well known fairy tales, a Bible story or historical story. A checklist is provided to help remember what to include.

Lessons 11 through 13 focus on Report writing. There is a copy of the whiteboard notes used in the DVD lesson included and the non-fiction text and writing checklist are provided as well. Lesson 13 has students find their own resource material.

Lessons 14 and 15 focus on creative writing.  The basis of this is ‘taking notes from your brain’ or what the student is thinking about. Then the student chooses a topic from these and uses the writing techniques learned to write a composition.

Structure and Style Overview is a condensed version of the longer teacher training program produced by IEW.  On the DVD you will learn the basic components of the writing method and implementation.  The reasoning behind this particular method is also explained.  Throughout the presentation ideas and suggestions for implementing and teaching the IEW method using the SWI are shared.  Many of these ideas can also be applied to our courses of study as well. Andrew Pudewa also leads this seminar.

 The Portable Wall is a tri-fold showing the useful concepts taught in this and further courses. It features examples of adverbs, synonyms for “said”, the dress-ups, strong verbs, and quick reference models of concepts.

How We Used Student Writing Intensive

My 10 year old daughter has been working through SWI.  We have watched the teaching videos together and discussed them as needed. We have both enjoyed the instruction provided by Mr. Pudewa.  He is an engaging instructor making writing an enjoyable pursuit, at least in terms of watching the DVD. My daughter is not sure if the writing process is enjoyable. He talks to the students at their level and uses examples from their everyday lives.  Several times she commented she would like to take his writing class in person. 

She has become fairly proficient at making key word outlines from the provided text. Yet she is still struggling with some of the techniques and dress ups.  It seems they are not as easy to put into a piece of writing as it appears in the DVD class. We have both struggled with trying to figure out how to add a who/which clause at times. I appreciate having the written checklist for her to refer to as she is writing.  It takes the pressure of having to remember all that needs to be included away. However, having this on the reverse of the text makes it too easy to just turn the paper over to look at the original text.

We are just finishing up the first 6 lessons with short passages from which to take notes and write.  We have used some of our own passages in addition to what is provided in the course. I felt my daughter needed additional practice with some of these concepts and did not want to rush her through before she had a firm foundation.

I appreciate the Structure and Style DVD as it has helped to demystify the writing instruction process. In the session Andrew Pudewa  brings up several common concerns a parent might have in helping their child such as how to grade a composition and ideas to explain concepts to a student when they are having difficulty understanding what is being expected of them. This presentation takes some of the angst out of teaching writing. Some of the ideas discussed in the parent/teacher DVD are also addressed in the student instruction as well but addressed to the different audiences.  As an example he discusses the difference between writing a story and a report in both programs.

After watching the Structure and Style Overview DVD and studying the teacher handouts I feel somewhat more confident in teaching my daughter to write.   I believe it is a program that requires a fair amount of teacher preparation; not so much in gathering materials, but in time to become familiar with the layout and approach employed.  It is not something which the teacher can just pop in the DVD player and hand the child papers and say “Go to it.”  For us it also required a fair amount of teacher involvement during the writing process.  This is actually a method of writing, not just putting paper in front of the student and telling them to write. As I don’t really remember how I learned to write (not forming the shapes of words) it has been challenging for me to guide my daughter in her efforts.

After we watched the DVD together we would discuss what was presented and review key ideas. One thing I came up with was to liken “strong verbs” to bright colors in a painting or room, something which adds excitement or draws attention.

I love the key word method as a way to help a budding writer keep important information in their writing and avoid plagiarism.  This method encourages keeping the original idea of the research they have done but make it their own and put into their own ‘voice’.  It is a concrete way to explain ‘putting information into your own words’. 

The portable wall is wonderful way of keeping useful information handy while writing.  I like the convenience of not having to flip pages back and forth to find the information which is sought.  It is also provides a handy divider so siblings don’t have to look at each other when working.  ;)

I really like the methodology and approach employed by IEW.  I will continue to use SWI A and subsequent programs as my children's writing course.  I have looked through the catalog several times and love the variety they have available.  My only problem is confusion over where to go from here and what extras would be most beneficial to add to correlate with our other studies and my children's interests.

Additionally I plan to start my 7 year old with this SWI A program in the fall.  I will probably modify it for him by using other  shorter passages to outline and rewrite.  He is a good reader so the reading aspect should not present a problem.  I may also need to use a dictation type method with him in the beginning. I feel some of the struggle my daughter is experiencing is because I waited too long to spend much time on the writing process and I do not want to make the same mistake with him. We'll see how he does with it.

Institute for Excellence in Writing offers print and DVD resources in the areas of reading/ phonics, spelling, literature and grammar.  The writing instructional materials cover all ages/ grades and integrate other subjects into writing as well. A number of parent/teacher resources are also available. The catalog is a wealth of information on education in these areas as well as providing product information. The lower right side of IEW's homepage has  link where you can view or download a copy.  Several online groups are also available via IEW’s website.  Also at the website you will find helpful information to guide in the process selecting which resources will best fir your needs.

Read what other crew members had to say at the crew blog.


Disclaimer: I received a copy of the notebook, DVD’s and wall to use to write this review.  I have not been compensated in any other manner.  All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

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