Friday, July 5, 2013

Institute for Excellence in Writing-TWSS & SWI-B Review

Last year I began hearing about the Institute for Excellence in Writing.  I am not sure why I had not heard of them before in all of my many years of homeschooling, but I am so glad that I did.  I was so excited for the opportunity to be able to review Teaching Writing Structure and Style (TWSS) along with the Student Writing Intensive-B (SWI), especially after reviewing Primary Arts of Language last year. (love PAL so much!!!)

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I have struggled throughout my entire homeschooling career with teaching writing. I cannot even tell you the number of writing curricula I have purchased and attempted to teach writing with.  This is the best writing curriculum I have ever used. Andrew Pudewa is an absolute genius as far as I am concerned.  He teaches writing in such a way that it is actually fun and much easier than anything I've seen before.  I will not say it is easy though, because honestly, writing is work.

On to the actual review of what you get and how it works.  TWSS is a teacher seminar on DVD complete with a 3 ring binder of lessons to go along with it.  The seminar is an actual recording of Andrew Pudewa teaching the course to a live audience and includes interaction with the audience as he is teaching.  Though intended for the teacher, we all enjoy watching these.  Mr. Pudewa is engaging and entertaining (think hilarious) while being informative and relevant.

TWSS comes with a set of 10 DVDs and the seminar workbook, which is a tabbed 3-ring binder. (see sample) The sample will show you the complete outline of the course including a 9 session viewing schedule (on 6 DVDs )and practicum exercises. It is suggested that you take 2 hours per session, about 10 of which are viewing time with the remaining time for the practicum exercises. The other 4 DVD's include Tips & Tricks for Teaching and 3 workshop session at each of the three levels; A, B and C.   Remember, this is for YOU, the teacher and not something for the kids to watch instead (although some of my kids have enjoyed watching this along with me.)

There are 9 units:

Units I: Notemaking and Key Word Outlines
Unit II: Summarizing from Notes
Units III: Summarizing Narrative Stories
Units IV: Reports-Summarizing a Reference
Unit V: Writing from Pictures
Unit VI: Library Research Reports
Unit VII: Creative Writing
Unit VIII: Essay
Unit IX: Critiques

I love this course.  The most difficult thing about it for me is being able to have it quiet enough in the house for me to watch it!  I feel so much better equipped to teach writing AND I love having the DVD's to be able to go back and watch them again and again which to me is an advantage over going to an actual seminar where you might forget some/much of what is said.  Having watched the entire course and gone through it pretty quickly for the purpose of this review, I can tell you that I plan to go through it all over again at a slower pace for the remainder of the summer and into the fall.

The summer is the perfect time to order Teaching Writing Structure and Style to begin preparing for the fall.

In addition to TWSS I also received the Student Writing Intensive level B, which I have been using with my 10 year old and 13 year old several times per week.  The SWI comes in 3 levels.  Level A is for grades 2-4, B is for grades 5-7 and C is for grades 8-10 or above.  The beauty of this program is that the B level is adaptable for all of the grades so that you do not have to purchase multiple levels if you have students in varying grade categories.  With level B, you can download a free schedule and worksheets for your level A students (which we did) and for your C level students you can move at a faster pace.

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SWI-B is a video course with a 3 ring binder workbook.  There are 4 DVDs and a DVD overview of TWSS in the video portion of the program.  The videos feature Mr. Pudewa teaching actual students in a seminar.  As mentioned above, he is very funny and this makes the kids want to watch and I think that is half the battle.

Students are first taught to make keyword outlines.  This is a really neat technique that allows students to write their own paper from another piece of writing.  One thing that is important to note is to be careful not to get "stuck" here like we did. This is not recommended and I won't make this mistake again.  I have learned to keep moving along in the program.  After learning keyword outlines, dress-ups are introduced.  Dress-ups are things like adverbs, who/which clauses, strong verbs etc.  As students learn new techniques they are required to use them in subsequent assignments building as they go. 

Each writing assignment has a composition checklist with a place for assigning due dates (outline, rough draft, final draft), a list of requirements (double-spaced, name on the paper etc.) and a section that lists the required dress-ups with a place to check it off so students can check their work before handing it in. I think this is another wonderful aspect of this program.  The students know exactly what is expected of them at the start of the assignment.

Once you have completed the TWSS you might want to check out the theme based writing lessons available. There are history , geography and a whole slew of others. (Some of which I am extremely excited about like Narnia and Bible based writing lessons.)  I am also very interested in some of the literature and poetry titles. It's like being in a candy store. I want it all! :)

I cannot recommend this curriculum highly enough.  I hope you'll take the time to investigate it for yourself.  Also, on July 9 there will be a free webinar for people who have never experienced IEW or new IEW users that are not very familiar with the program. You also can see the entire summer webinar schedule.

Purchase Teaching Writing Structure and Style for $169.  Student Writing Intensive-B for $109

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See what others are saying about Teaching Writing Structure and Style and Student Writing Intensive (A, B and C) along with Teaching the Classics on The Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.


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