Do you love to teach writing? How about grammar? While both are my personal favorite subjects (along with math), they prove very difficult for me to teach. The subjects just naturally “click” with me so both the student and myself get very frustrated when they don’t catch on as easily. I was recently given the opportunity to review a deluxe program from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW). The kit I received is their Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package Level B [FIX-1 & 2]
About the Product
This kit includes the following, which I will cover individually:
- Teaching Writing: Structure & Style DVD set
- Seminar Workbook
- Student Writing Intensive DVDs Level B, including the Structure & Style Overview
- Student Notebook with handouts and lessons
- Fix-It! Grammar, Books 1 and 2 with downloadable student e-books
- A Word Write Now
- Portable Walls
This deluxe kit is designed for grades 6-8 and is priced at $299. There is a placement test on the website that can help you decide on the right level. My 8th grader has always struggled with anything language related so I opted to start at the best place for grammar – the beginning. All of the student books can be copied to use with your immediate family so the price is definitely justified with everything that is included.
I will go ahead and warn you, this post has been edited and edited, and edited again so you are not reading a novel! I really should do a full post on each component to fully give it justice but this post will serve as an overview and then if I do additional posts, I will add a link to them here. I don’t want to lose your attention, but there is just soooo much to cover here!!
Teaching Writing: Structure & Style DVD set & Seminar Workbook – This portion of the kit is designed to be used by the instructor. There are three parts to this – the DVDs, the workbook and the Premium Subscription.
Twelve DVDs come in a binder. Nine of the DVDs cover Andrew Pudewa as he teaches a complete seminar on teaching writing. This is not like a teacher’s manual that would be something that you could skip and it not really matter. Trust me, it will make a *world of difference*. It’s like if you trying to get up a hill, if you use this course, it’s like riding a motorcycle up the hill rather than peddling a bicycle. You will still get to the top of the hill (hopefully) but you can make it sooo much easier on yourself. Remember, how I said I love writing and grammar? Well, Mr. Pudewa even shares the story of a woman that was an accomplished writer but yet could not break down the task to teach writing. After attending a seminar, she exclaimed that this method teaches what comes to her naturally. This is exactly what I thought too!! You do not have to be intimidated when it comes to teach excellent writing – this literally takes you step by step. He starts with the very first lesson, shows how to teach it and then you are given a chance to learn right along.
The Workbook has everything that you need to follow along with the DVDs. This comes in a handy 3 ring binder with dividers for each of the unit. There is also a divider for Writing About Literature, Stylistic Techniques and Appendices. For each unit, the goals are listed, any materials you might need and the teaching procedure – step by step. There’s even information for teaching multiple grades, ESL and special needs. There is a handy checklist for each lesson so you know what to look for to ensure that your student is applying the new skills they are learning.
The Premium Subscription will give you a passcode that allows you to access premium content on the website. This includes the Writing Source Packet (additional resource materials to be used with the units), information on how to listen the webinars (which is supposed to be updated July 2015) and recordings by Pudewa. There is so much offered here. Pudewa is one of my favorite conference speakers so I was very excited to have access to his talks. (I’m currently listening to Spelling and the Brain.)
Student Writing Intensive (Level B) and Student Notebook – This is the “meat” of the program. There are four DVDs for the student to watch that contains the lessons. (There’s also a DVD for the instructor to watch that gives an overview of the program but with the TWSS, it’s not really needed. It’s a very, very, brief summary of the seminar and in no way replaces it.) A 3 ring binder is included, along with complete instructions on how to set it up. As the student works through the lessons, the binder grows. There’s sections for models/sources checklists, outlines/compositions, structural models, style charts and “banned” words. The lessons cover everything you need to know about how to become a great writer. It starts off with note making and making outlines. I have to say here that sometimes I would skip over this in my own writing. However, when I went back to college, it was required to turn in an outline to have approved before I ever got to the task of writing a report. It makes so much difference!! This program will give your student (and you!!) what you need to become a successful writer. This is so important since many colleges look at essays now. The teacher’s notes and student handouts gives you everything you need. The teacher’s notes tell exactly where to watch on the DVD for the corresponding lesson, what handouts to give to the student and any reinforcement materials. We found the paragraphs used in the lessons interesting; however, there are suggestions for other sources you can use. Checklists are provided so the student can make sure they are doing everything correctly. My son and I both found them so helpful! It made my work so much easier when it came time to check over his work. All of these files I put in my own 3 ring binder.
Fix-It Grammar – With Level B, we were provided with The Nose Tree and Robin Hood Teacher Manuals. This is the first two levels of the Fix-It Grammar program respectively. The manual are spiral bound comes with a digital copy of the student book. I just printed off the first few lessons of the student manual and used my binding machine. The student book is also available in spiral bound if you prefer to purchase it. This is such an easy way to learn grammar! One. Sentence. A. Day. Seriously. Even my grammar despising kid can’t complain about one sentence! And yet….he is learning. So, I can’t complain either. I would be thrilled to diagram sentences all day but I’m just weird like that. I tried teaching grammar using diagramming. It wasn’t well received. By the end of the book, a complete story has been copied and so much has been learned. (Last year, the Crew reviewed Fix-It Grammar so you can read more details about this program. I didn’t review it then but after reading many of the reviews, it was probably my biggest regret.)
Whew!! Are you still reading? I’m more than halfway done….
A Word Write Now – I will admit that when I first opened my kit, this was the first thing that got me really excited. As in so excited, that I called my 21 year old daughter and told her she should move back home because I just received a writing curriculum that I knew she could appreciate!! I hesitate to even compare it to a thesaurus because it’s so much more. There’s a two page spread for many words that you would use in writing. On the first page, the definition is given along with some great quotes. (They had me there!!) But then there are excerpts from classical literature. And then it gets really, really good. You are given a ton of words that are better choices – in noun, adjective, adverb, and verb forms. And that’s just the first section.
Section B covers words to describe appearance, color, size and several others. Section C covers movement and the senses. And then there’s the Appendix with even more goodies. I especially love that definitions *and examples* of literary devices were included in this book. How many times do we forget what those mean?
And last, but not least…
Portable Walls – I remember my classrooms were covered in helpful posters when I went to school. But as a mom, I do not want those helpful posters scattered throughout my home. I don’t have a dedicated schoolroom and I’d rather have a pretty picture to look at while I’m eating at the table than a list of prepositions. And I love grammar. Well, the answer, is portable walls. All of the helpful little posters are colorfully printed out on this durable tri-fold. They are even labelled for which unit they correspond. Much more practical than printing them all out and trying to keep up with them.
In the Trenches
I will admit when I first received my package, I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of materials that were included. Then, I took a deep breath and slowly unpacked it. There’s a blue piece of paper that grabbed my attention first. Thankfully! It gave a checklist of everything to do from signing up for the Premium content, to putting the binders together. And it recommended watching the DVD for the instructors first. After I watched up to the second unit, I just jumped in. I cannot stress enough how much everything is laid out to make it easy to teach. Yes, this is a teacher involved curriculum. Although, I think older students could do it mostly on their own. But writing is also one of those subjects that I think is important enough to be very involved with; after all, if you have something to say, say it well.
All of the components have a suggested schedule which we followed for the most part. There were some days that we had to skip due to doctor appointments or the week my boys went to stay with my parents. I would watch the DVD that covered the unit before we started. The student lessons told exactly what was to be done. We found that the writing course and the grammar course complimented each other very well. Most days, I sat beside him and we worked through the lessons together. Of course, I do not feel that an instructor needs to be that involved but since I love writing anyway, I really enjoy being more available. When I was busier, he just did his work and then I would go over the checklist with him to check his work. He would always do the checklist first so there were no surprises.
After homeschooling for many years (since 1993), there are a few programs that I have found that I highly recommend. There are very few that makes such a huge impact on me that I can still get excited teaching. Now that I’ve tried IEW, I can say I know what all of the fuss has been about!! (And yes, I know I just ended that last sentence with a preposition – I’m just checking to see if you caught it 😉 ) I love this program. I want to make my three graduates all come back home and re-teach them writing using this method. Do I dare say this approach is pain-free? I believe it is and my son hasn’t begged to skip lessons like he usually does with other subjects. We plan on using this throughout the rest of this summer and next fall, I will introduce the grammar portion to my youngest.
Did you know that there is a forum on IEW’s website? You can ask questions, be informed of upcoming webinars, be alerted to writing contests and so much!