Institute for Excellence in Writing :: A TOS Review

 I am going to begin by saying that Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) is an awesome writing program. We had the privilege to reviewDeluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package Level A [FIX-1 &2]   plus A Word Write Now and Portable Walls. This was the first time that we used a curriculum for writing instruction, and I am so glad that we did.  This program is more than just a writing program.  There are so many components that IEW have placed in this program to ensure that our children really learn to write.

Since there are so many pieces that make this great curriculum, I am going to segment this post and share with you things that I appreciated most about each component.

Teaching Writing: Structure and Style

This component of the program is written for the educator or facilitator.  It includes the Seminar and Practicum Workbook and a DVD seminar which includes twelve DVDs.

TWSS is a valuable resource.  When I began the DVD I had no idea what to expect, but it was a pleasant surprise that I found myself refreshed after only watching a short snippet.  This seminar not only showcases the methods for implementing the Student Writing Intensive courses, but it also provides motivation for the educator.

Since the girls and I are still in Unit Two of the program, I have only watched the first two unit DVDs of TWSS.  In order to have success with the program, I would highly recommend watching the DVDS if you purchase the deluxe kit.  My number one reason for suggesting that the DVDs are actually watched versus being stashed until later is the fact that we all have a few bad teaching habits simply because we are human.  One of my bad teaching habits is expecting my girls to know remember everything that they've learned.  I know that this isn't reality.  I appreciated the fact that Mr. Andrew Pudewa shared during the seminar that this is a writing program, and not a spelling test.  He calls for the teacher/parent to being the walking spelling machine for the student versus having the student focusing on if they are able to spell a word correctly on their own.  I am usually a walking spelling machine for the girls, but I was able to apply many of his messages to other areas of teaching and life.  He really reminded me about offering a little more grace in our learning environment and home.

Student Writing Intensive Level A

Student Writing Intensive is the student portion of the program.  Since we haven't had a lot of experience with DVD instruction, I wasn't sure what to expect.  Again, I was pleasantly surprised.  The girls were drawn into Mr. Pudewa's teaching style. He was engaging and even offers a bit of comic relief which we all know does wonders in any learning environment.  Not only does the student component has the DVD course, but it also includes a notebook with dividers, the necessary writing helps, and a variety of texts that students use to help learn the IEW method and write their compositions.  I am using this program with both girls so I purchased a generic binder and dividers, and printed off additional sheets to build my youngest daughter's binder. With the premium subscription that is included with the deluxe package,  IEW includes PDFs and links that made creating another binder a cinch.  It was awesome to not have to worry about waiting for an additional notebook for both girls to participate.

If you aren't familiar with the IEW method, it truly is a no nonsense approach to learning one of the most important skills.  It calls for students to use text in the form of stories or articles as a resource to write their compositions.  This allows the student to focus on the skill of writing versus trying to piece together information from their limited knowledge.  It takes away the frustration of not knowing what to write about that many students have; I know that was a regular issue for me.

I must tell you that the DVDs are not for the students to watch solo.  I would not call this program parent intensive, but it does require that the parents or teachers be involved in my opinion.  After my daughters would watch the DVD lesson, they are usually ready to write.  The beauty of this program is that it also includes enough materials that I am able to reach both of my daughters on their level. They do not have to write from the same resource because IEW has made sure to provide a range of materials.

Fix-It Grammar

Fix-It Grammar is not a requirement for the writing program, but it is a wonderful resource.  My girls enjoyed the simple, daily grammar lessons that Fix-It Grammar provides.  We are working through The Nose Tree Book which is book one of the program.  The teacher guide is a physical, spiral-bound book.  The student pages are a download which allows you to print enough for your learning environment and use with future children.

The program is set up in the form of a story.  Each week we worked on one sentence each of the first four days of the week.  The program has the students focus a few parts of grammar at a time.  This builds the students' skills of recognizing and understanding the different parts of speech.

We completed the daily exercises together.  They truly only took about ten minutes each day.  The girls would mark the parts of speech that we were focusing on for the week, and that would be it.  On Friday, they would write out the four sentences on notebook paper with the corrections.  Each week's sentences built on the last week's so essentially they are reading and writing a story versus random sentences that have no relation to one another.

We also received book two which we will complete after we finish book one.

Additional Resources

What more could IEW include in this already full package of curriculum?  Well, they also included

A Word Write Now

which is a thematic thesaurus.  This thesaurus is segmented by character traits, descriptive words, and movement and the senses.  It makes it easy to not use the same words over and over again.  I am looking forward to delving more into this resource as the girls continue to build their writing muscle.  I will probably use this for my writing also.  It is very easy to use the same flat words often. This resource also includes transition words, prepositions, genres, and more which strengthens writing, but also help builds knowledge in literature.

Another resource is the

Portable Walls

which is a tri-fold folder that is a collection of models and checklists for the writing program.  There are notes for Units 1-9 that provide a quick review of the methods that were taught during seminar. There are numerous word lists also included on the wall as a quick reference.

Wrapping It Up

Overall, we really are enjoying IEW.  I am thankful that the program makes it possible to include all students without making numerous purchases.  The downloads are more than I expected.  It makes it possible to delve into the program and stay the course without worrying about if I will run out of text before the girls fully grasp the concept.  Another plus about this program is that we can also use our other subjects as our writing sources.  We aren't required to use only the text that IEW provides, but Mr. Pudewa recommends applying the skills to content areas too.

I am eagerly anticipating what we will all learn in the remaining units.  I am not sure the length of time it will take us to complete the Deluxe A package, but I can see it taking us a few years to complete it.  The recommended grade levels for Level A are 3-5.

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