Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) is perhaps the most well-known writing curriculum among homeschoolers. At least it seems to be among the people I know, both locally and on-line. I’ve been hearing people rave about it for years. So although I’ve been curious about IEW for a while, I had never actually tried it. In fact, I’d never even had a chance to take an extended look at it. So I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to review IEW’s Student Writing Intensive (SWI) Level B with the Homeschool Crew.
What do you get?
SWI Level B, designed for students in grades 6-8, includes 4 DVD’s, a student binder with dividers, and about 100 pages of teacher’s notes, handouts, and checklists. The teacher’s notes include detailed instructions for using the program, beginning with the Easy Start Instructions and the Student Notebook Set-up. These are followed by a Scope and Sequence Chart and a chart detailing every segment of the 4 DVD’s. Also included is a suggested course schedule, which breaks down the 15 lessons into daily sessions spanning 30 weeks. There are Teacher’s Notes for each lesson that include how much of the DVD to watch, key details from the video, and the writing assignments for that lesson. The corresponding student pages follow the Teacher’s Notes.
How does it work?
The lessons begin with teaching students how to write a key word outline. The DVD’s are live recordings of Andrew Pudewa teaching the material to a classroom of students, so you are able to watch this process from beginning to end. Key word outlines include important words from every sentence of a source document. The student uses this outline to rewrite the information from the source document using his own words.
The concept of “dress-ups” is also introduced in the first lesson. “Dress-ups” is a term Andrew Pudewa uses to describe ways to add variety to writing. They are additions such as who/which clauses, “ly” adverbs, strong verbs, and because clauses.
Pudewa also makes use of banned words lists. Banned words are words that are overused and not particularly descriptive. The students on the DVD brainstorm and make lists of different words to use in place of specific banned words. The student watching from home has a sheet in his notebook to record these replacement words and can then use them in his own writing.
The students are given writing assignments to practice using the skills taught on the video. Some of these are the same assignments that the students in the video are given, but there is also additional source material included in the handouts for extra writing practice.
Building on the foundation of the key word outline practiced in Lessons 1-6, Andrew Pudewa moves on to teach Story Writing, Report Writing, and Creative Writing in Lessons 7-15. Grammar concepts are discussed throughout the course in relation to writing. Editing skills are also practiced throughout.
We also received a really nice supplement called a Portable Wall. This folder has graphic reminders of the writing process as well as helpful lists of strong verbs, adverbs, and good synonyms for said.
How do we like the program?
For the purposes of this review, I had my 7th son begin SWI. He doesn’t fall into either of the two stereo-typical extremes of young writers. He could be termed a reluctant writer, but not using the term in the usual sense. He could also be described as a natural writer, because what he writes is typically very good. But he doesn’t like to write. So he is reluctant to start writing, but given clear guidelines, he usually writes quite well. But with his strong reluctance (i.e. grumbling and complaining), I have failed to give him enough writing assignments. I have not used a writing curriculum before and have struggled to come up with meaningful assignments for him on my own. I am finding that even though I have great intentions, I need structured programs that are planned out for me. I am becoming less of a teacher and more of a learning facilitator.
My son and I both enjoy watching these videos. Andrew Pudewa does an excellent job of instructing the students and is also quite funny. The assignments are very clear. They also have been relatively short, which is a plus for my son whose chief writing goal is brevity. I find the program easy to implement. We have not completed all 15 lessons, but I intend to continue with SWI next school year. I also plan to start my daughter, who will be in 6th grade at the beginning of next year, using the program as well.
Who should use Student Writing Intensive?
As I mentioned, SWI Level B is designed for students in grades 6-8. There are 2 other levels available (A and C). You can choose the one that fits the target age of your student, or if you’re teaching multiple ages, you can select B since it is in the middle. I am thoroughly impressed with this curriculum. Both systematic and thorough, it is great for the homeschooler who wants to teach writing, but doesn’t know how to teach it.
Where to purchase?
SWI can be purchased directly from the Institute for Excellence in Writing website for $109.00. The Portable Wall can be purchased on the website for $7.00. The company really stands behind their products and offers “an unconditional, no time limit, 100% refund guarantee on everything we sell.”
Linked to: The Homeschool Curriculum Review Roundup.
Disclosure: I received this product for free to review. I was not compensated for this review and all opinions expressed are my own.