Sunday, July 7, 2013

TOS: Institute For Excellence in Writing

A few years ago, I linked up to a free webinar hosted by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. The speaker was Andrew Pudewa (of Institute of Excellence in Writing fame). The webinar was called Nature Deficit Disorder: Causes, Consequences, and Cures. All I remember is that I sat on my couch with my mouth hanging open. “This guy speaks my language! Is it possible my son teleports to his house on the weekends? It sounds as if he knows Josiah personally.”  Actually, the talk wasn’t even about his writing program at all, but I became a fan of IEW (Institute For Excellence in Writing) fan. I subscribed to the free newsletters and read articles available on the IEW website but our budget was such that I felt couldn’t justify spending so much money for just a writing curriculum (famous last words). 

At our area homeschool convention this past spring I sat in every workshop Andrew Pudewa gave. You say “stalker,” I say, “smart girl.” I laughed. I cried (because I laughed so hard) and I scribbled furiously away in my purple notebook that I dug out just for the occasion….which was unnecessary because Mr. Pudewa provided us with beautifully done handouts.  Moreover, my friend and I were those ladies laughing hysterically off to the side and smacking each other every time we heard Mr. Pudewa say something that could have happened at our house. Which wound up being quite a lot. 

You can just about guess what my reaction was when I saw that a review for IEW appeared on our TOS calendar. “Yes! Pick Me! Absolutely! 100% Yes!” There might have been bribery involved.  Never fear. Our fearless leaders of the TOS Crew are above being bribed. They did however give me the chance to review the “Mother of all Writing Programs” IEW’s Teaching Writing with Style and Structure and Student Writing Intensive Level A.

If you stalk my blog long enough you know that I love to write. I have even been paid to write on occasion. This does not mean, however, that I write well or can effectively teach others to write. Some people need a plan. My plan consists of letting whatever comes into my brain fly out onto the page. This sometimes works. There is a good deal of the time that it doesn’t and I can tell you from experience that knowing how to write and speak effectively is so important.

What I Received 

Teaching Writing: Structure and Style – 6 DVDS with 10 hours of total viewing time
Tips and Tricks (a 2 hour supplemental DVD)
Student Workshops (3 sample workshops for ages Elementary, Intermediate, and High school)
Teaching Writing with Structure and Style Workbook – 3 ring binder containing the syllabus. It also contains charts, word lists, sample plans and so much more. 

Student Writing Intensive Level A (190.00) (A Video Seminar for Elementary School Students)
• Structure & Style Overview DVD for parents and teachers
• Four instructional DVDs for the student
• A Student Packet along with a 3 ring binder

How It Works

Teaching Writing with Structure and Style (TWSS) is a systematic approach to teaching writing. It is was created by Andrew Pudewa and is based on the Blended Sound-Sight Program of Learning by Mrs. Anna Ingham and upon the book Blended Structure and Style in Composition by James B. Webster.  TWSS was designed to aid teachers in instructing student writers grades 2-10. 

I would recommend that before you even have your kiddo put pen to his or her paper you need to sit down and at least watch the first DVD. When you see this technique of taking notes and keyword outlines it will change your life. You can read more about how Mr. Pudewa developed the program here.  

The TWSS DVDS are from a live seminar given by Andrew Pudewa. It is like sitting in one of his workshops. It’s better than sitting in one of his workshops! I was able to lounge in my stretchy pants, sip on an iced coffee, holler when necessary about clearing various swim or biking equipment from in front of the door….The pause button on the DVD player was important. 

The Units are as follows:
Unit 1: Note Making Outlines
Unit 2: Summarizing from Notes
Unit 3: Summarizing Narrative Stories
Unit 4/6: Summarizing Reference and Library
Unit 5: Writing From Pictures
Unit 7: Creative Writing
Unit 8: Essay Writing
Unit 9: Critiques

The Seminar and Practicum Workbook is filled with notes, examples, helps and more that correspond with the DVD course.  There are so many goodies in this workbook. Each Unit is divided into sections. Goals, Recommended Materials, A Teaching Procedure for those who need to see it in print, a section on adjusting for each grade level, answers to common questions and ideas for creating Reminder Posters. 
In fact, in the very first DVD Andrew Pudewa gave me specific permission to get out my poster making supplies and (and in my mind) all of my scrapbooking materials to create posters to help my visual boy remember key points. The Kindergarten teacher in me said, “Yes, sir!” 

Here is the first poster I made using the reminder poster ideas from the first Unit. It’s not great, but I’m all about decorating. 

I hung it in our dining room. I thought the mustaches were a nice touch. We consider it an homage to  Andrew Pudewa. 

Student Writing Intensive Level A (SWI-A) is for students grades 3-5.  It is a foundational course intended to take 15-30 weeks. The DVD seminar was filmed in front of a live group of students. Josiah enjoyed the interactive feel of the video. You do not need The Teaching Writing with Structure and Style Seminar materials to use this curriculum. I think it is very beneficial, but there are plenty of resources in the Student Writing Intensive for the parent or teacher. The teaching notes even include Disc times for each particular topic covered on the DVD. You can view a sample of SWI-A here.

Levels B & C are available, as well. 

How We Used It

 It took me a while to get through the TWSS DVDs.  That is the beauty of this product. I can use it at my leisure. I can even rewatch the seminars as oft as I wish. In fact, I would heartily recommend anyone to watch a Unit before teaching the Unit, even if you’ve watched them before.  These DVDs are meant to be watched in order. Each concept builds upon another.  

I love that I own these DVDs forever. I can provide myself with a mini-writing workshop every time I personally need a refresher course.  Just a note. I was particularly thrilled to see an index in the back of the Teaching Writing with Structure and Style Workbook. I love being able to find whatever topic I need at the moment without having to dig through endless piles of paper. I’m sure no one else is like this. “Now, where did I see that list?” 

I sat Josiah down with The Student Writing Intensive Level A (SWI – A) in front of our little DVD player. I was able to stop and start instruction as needed.  We have been using the Note Making Outline method (thanks to the Homeschool Convention Workshop) for a while now. Josiah loved to see it in action.

The very first lesson was to make notes on a paragraph about Sea Snakes.

How cool are sea snakes? No. They do not live in Missouri.

 Even though it wasn't in the plan, I had Josiah write a summary using his notes. I allowed him to use the keyboard. He hasn't mastered typing yet, but he feels like he's pretty hot stuff.

I can’t even begin to tell you how terrific this program is. 

As I must keep this Review to a reasonable length, I’ll give you a list of a more pluses things I want to leave you with. 

~While I mentioned that it is not necessary to own the TWSS Package before you can teach the Student Writing Intensives, I would be a poor friend indeed if I did not extol the virtues owning of TWSS.  I think it is a wise investment for any teacher. You can purchase both TWSS and SWI-A together at a discounted price of $249.00

~Speaking of teaching. Teachers in a traditional school setting have used these materials with great success. They are not specifically for homeschool students. 

~I like the structure of TWSS. Your student does not have to be a naturally gifted writer. It teaches by a set a check lists and reminders. The Note Making Outline Unit alone will assist other areas of curricula. Imagine how it can improve your student’s science or history reading and/or note taking skills!

~The workbooks are nicely organized. They were neatly designed and the graphic organizers were extremely helpful. 

~This is definitely a product worth saving your pennies for. 
There are so many terrific helps and articles on the IEW website. Go check it out!

The TOS Crew reviewed these products, in addition to Student Writing Intensive Level B & C, plus Teaching With the Classics. You can check out their reviews here


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