Institute for Excellence in Writing: TWSS and SWI-B {TOS review}

Writing is important to me and a subject in our school that is given a lot of attention. If you are looking for a company that offers an extremely comprehensive program for any age of student from the beginning reader (Primary Arts of Language – PAL) and writer to the high school student (all writing), then you really should be able to find a curriculum that is offered by the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW). When it comes to IEW, it is totally impossible for me to write an unbiased review. Okay, there is my honesty upfront before you read this review. I am an IEW and an Andrew Pudewa fan and have been one for two years.

This time around, we had the opportunity to review the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style DVD Seminar Workbook (TWSS) and Student Writing Intensive Level B (SWI-B). A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to review Student Writing Intensive Level A. It was that product that sold me on the company.

When we first reviewed Student Writing Intensive Level A, it was without TWSS. Although you can just use SWI and whatever level you have chosen, TWSS enhances the entire teaching and writing experience for not only the teacher, but also the student, because the teacher learns how to better present the material to his student. Andrew believes that by doing the work, the teacher/parent will be more “qualified and confident” in teaching the same to the student. That is a plus for a teacher who might find teaching writing difficult or challenging.

The TWSS package comes with the following:

10 DVDs: Six DVDs with instruction on the nine structural models and multiple stylistic techniques (10 hours total viewing time—may be watched all at once, or viewed one disc at a time throughout the school year); Tips & Tricks for Teaching Through the Nine Units, a two hour supplemental DVD refresher course; Three DVDs of sample student workshops at three different grade levels to help you with that first lesson; and The TWSS Seminar Workbook, which serves as the syllabus for the seminar and contains charts, word lists, sample lesson plans and more.

The SWI-B is geared towards students in the sixth through eighth grades. The SWI curriculum is available for students in third through twelfth grades. You may see what topics are covered in each level of SWI. Some of the topics covered in SWI-B are note making and summarizing; summarizing narrative stories; summarizing a reference; research reports and creative writing. Regardless of the grade structure for each level, you may use the curriculum according to the needs of your student.

The SWI-B package comes with the following:

• Structure & Style Overview DVD for parents and teachers
• Four instructional DVDs for the student
• Three-ring binder with dividers
• Student packet containing scope & sequence, teacher’s notes, and student handouts for one student (about 100 pages in all)

Just as in SWI-A, the main concept of the writing program is for the student to use key words found in a paragraph or body of work and rewrite the story in his own words without copying the original writing. Depending upon the age and ability of the student, they will already know or learn ways through the writing intensive lessons to add more content using “dress-ups,” giving attention to sentence and paragraph structures, etc. while following a checklist of the information that should be used in his writing. Students are also presented with a list of banned words, which are words that should be avoided in ones writing. Some banned words are a lot, big, came, come, get, got, mean, pretty and ugly. Students are encouraged to use alternatives.

Even though I have experience as a writer and consider myself quite skilled in the area, I still enjoyed working through TWSS.

Since we have experience using SWI, I let River set-up his DVD lessons and begin watching them on his own. After a few minutes, I joined him and we watched the lessons together. I like Pudewa’s sense of humor and he made me laugh periodically. River wasn’t as amused as was I, but I think deep down, he was laughing with me too. I believe he tolerates Pudewa, because he knows how much I like him and, because he is learning something from the lesson we cover.

River (and Lily who is using Level A) likes the pace of the lessons and enjoys having another teacher, even if his jokes sometimes may make them want to roll their eyes, in our classroom.

Pudewa makes writing fun through his presentation of the material. His passion for teaching writing to students really comes through in his presentation and I think the curriculum is quite indicative of the quality of instruction the student receives. Pudewa takes what could be an overwhelming and stuffy topic to teach and presents it in a fun manner.

We paced ourselves to work through the lessons on a two week schedule. The work was manageable that way and I believe that it made for an easier learning experience. There is absolutely no pressure for the student as he works through the lessons. That is also evident when he watches the DVDs. The same is for the parent/teacher when working through TWSS.

Another plus with me is the planned schedule that is included with the curriculum. It is even so detailed that you are provided with a list of the DVD breakdowns by the minute. Although you may work through the material at your own pace, there is a very detailed outline of a two-week schedule for each lesson to be completed. There are enough lessons to cover over a 30-week period or you may double up or do more depending upon the ability of your student. Because writing is such an important subject, I would suggest you use the 30-week schedule to ensure your student builds a proper foundation as a writer.

One thing that originally kept me away from IEW was the price of the curriculum. Also, the website was very intimidating, because IEW has so much to offer. Although it can be on the more expensive end, you truly receive what you pay for – quality and an excellent writing program. Also, don’t allow the amount of information you see on the website deter from learning more about the offerings from the company.

Student Writing Intensive Level B is available as a physical copy for $109 (see an introduction video by Pudewa). The Teaching Writing: Structure and Style DVD Seminar with Seminar Workbook is available for $169 (see a sample lesson taught by Pudewa). You may even purchase the combo packet for $299, which gives you everything you need to teach your middle school student how to write.

You can read more reviews of this item by fellow crew members on The Homeschool Crew Blog.

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