Monday, July 01, 2013

Review: Institute for Excellence in Writing

A recurring theme here is the fact I don't consider myself to be a good writing teacher.  I can write, but it's just so hard for me to teach it.  Institute for Excellence in Writing sent me two products to review, and I had high hopes they might transform me into a great writing teacher.

Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (TWSS) and Student Writing Intensive Level B Set (SWI) were the two products sent.  TWSS is the teacher training portion, while SWI allows your student to experience Andrew Pudewa's teaching.

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Teaching Writing:  Structure and Style (TWSS)

TWSS ($169) includes 10 DVDs and a Seminar Workbook.  The Seminar Workbook is a nice, heavy duty binder, and it serves as a syllabus for the course.  There are 10 tabs, and included are outlines for the DVDs, practice pages so you can practice what you're learning to teach, examples from students, suggestions for teaching, charts, and more.

Six of the included DVDs teach through the 9 main units of the program, as well as the stylistic techniques, one DVD contains Tips & Tricks for teaching through these units, and the remaining three DVDs are sample student writing workshops (elementary, intermediate, and high school level).  The 9 units of TWSS are:
  • Units 1-2:  Notemaking & Summarizing from Notes
  • Unit 3:  Summarizing Narrative Stories
  • Unit 4:  Summarizing References & Writing Reports
  • Unit 5:  Writing from Pictures
  • Unit 6:  Writing Reports from Multiple Sources
  • Unit 7:  Creative Writing with Structure
  • Unit 8:  Essays:  Basic, Extended, and Super
  • Unit 9:  Critiques, Conclusion

I held a teaching writing workshop for me using the TWSS disks.  I spent a lot of time wishing I'd watched these back when Luke was in early elementary.  I found Andrew Pudewa to be an engaging teacher, and I was pleased with the amount I learned.  There are 10 hours of teaching, and you can watch all 10 hours at once, or you can watch each unit as you're ready to teach it.

As you watch the DVDs, you are instructed to pause at certain points to work through exercises yourself.  You can't teach what you don't know, and this forced me to really practice and engage.  This program really breaks teaching writing down into easy steps (more than once I smacked my forehead and wondered why I hadn't thought of a point made), and it made me more confident as a teacher.  I like that I can use what I've learned with all the different ages that I'm schooling.  I plan to watch these again throughout the year as we reach new units, and will hold another teaching writing workshop for myself next summer and work through all the DVDs again.  I imagine this will be a resource I pull of my shelf again and again.

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Student Writing Intensive:  Level B (SWI-B)

SWI-B ($109) is for students in grades 6-8, though it can be adjusted up or down if you're teaching multiple grades.  This program also comes with a heavy duty binder, along with dividers, and a packet of papers that includes teaching notes, scope & sequence, course schedule, student worksheets, and charts.  Each student doing the program will need a student binder, but permission is given to copy for use within a family (if you don't want to do this, you can purchase an additional binder & packet).  In addition to the binder, DVDs are included.  There are four DVDs that teach directly to the student, along with a Structure and Style Overview for the teacher.

I've been working through SWI-B with all 5 boys (grades 2, 4, 6, 8, & 9).  There are 3 levels of SWI (A, B, and C), and B is recommended if you're working with an age range.  There are even Level A reinforcement paragraphs available for download to use along with SWI-B.

There is a suggested 30 week course schedule included, which makes implementation extremely easy.  You'll want to be flexible with this, though, and spend as much or little time as needed on the specific skill set that you're working on.  The basic plan, though, is that you and your students watch the teaching DVD, and then work through the skill on your own.  Since there isn't a teaching DVD for every lesson, it's very important that you've watched the TWSS DVD that teaches you how to teach the skill, so you can work through it with your children.

Everyone starts out learning to write key word outlines from a simple paragraph or story and then rewriting the paragraph from the key word outline.  Lessons progress from here, until the student is writing multiple paragraphs by the end of the course.  I've just finished reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and was struck by the fact that he learned to write using this method.

In addition to the structure content, a style component is also taught.  Students are taught to vary their sentences, by adding adverbs, clauses, and other "dress-ups".  There is a checklist for each composition that directs the student in how many and what type of "dress-ups" should be used.  

My boys love Andrew Pudewa, and would've watched him teach every day if they could.  He's a very entertaining and engaging teacher, and he made writing fun.  My boys laughed out loud several times due to Mr. Pudewa's sense of humor.  All of the boys have learned to write paragraphs from key word outlines, though my 2nd grader needs some help (however, I learned in TWSS that this is perfectly okay!).  They've learned to double space their rough drafts, they've learned that editing is okay and to be expected, and they've learned how to spice up their writing by adding some required "dress-ups".

I have had 8 weeks with this program to review it, and I've seen a lot of improvement in my boys' writing.  I really regret not purchasing this earlier on in our homeschooling journey.  I feel like I've learned so much and gained so much confidence from working through these programs.  If you're looking for a program that teaches you how to teach writing, and holds your hand while you get your teaching feet under you, check out the TWSS/SWI combo from Institute for Excellence in Writing.

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For more reviews of Institute for Excellence in Writing (TWSS, SWI A, B, & C, and Teaching the Classics) , visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

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