Institute For Excellence in Writing-SWI

Over the years, I have found that teaching writing to my girls to not to be too terribly difficult. I myself enjoy writing so I was left scratching my head when it came time for my son to write reports and stories and he found it challenging. I have tried many different programs that left both of us frustrated. I had heard of Institute For Excellence in Writing (IEW) but never really looked into much. That is until I recently had the chance to review Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (TWSS) as well as Student Writing Intensive: Level B (SWI).

Let me preface this saying that this is a HUGE program and I am only scratching the surface with this review. Even in doing my research prior to receiving this curriculum, I still was amazed all that this program covers once I had it in my hands.

Teaching Writing: Structure and Style is actually a program for the teacher/parent so they know HOW to teach this program. This is the foundation to this curriculum. What you receive is 12 DVD's with over 14 hours of instruction from the IEW director, Andrew Pudewa. The first 9 DVD's cover the entire 9 unit course and the last 3 DVD's are video clips of Andrew in action teaching all the levels (K-12th grade). The DVD's come in a nice leather case with the seminars recently revised and updated. These discs cover:

  • Introducing Structural Models
  • Introducing Stylistic Techniques
  • Retelling Narrative Stories
  • Summarizing a Reference
  • Writing from Pictures
  • Summarizing Mulitple References
  • Inventive Writing
  • Formal Essay Models
  • Formal Critiques and Writing About Literature
as well as 3 other discs giving demonstration lessons for grades K-12 and taking notes from a live lecture. You also get a premium one year subscription which allows you to stream the seminar videos, some PDF downloads, audio recordings, as well as monthly webinar training.

The other part that accompanies the DVD's is a Seminar and Practicum Workbook which is a 234 page binder that covers the 9 units that are taught to the student. Also in these units you'll find teaching tips, answers to frequently asked questions, student samples for each level as well as other info in the back of the binder. The binder comes with tabs to divide all the units up making it easy to locate what you need.

The other piece of curriculum we received was The Student Writing Intensive: Level B. This includes 5 DVD's in a hard case, 4 of them with the student lessons and one disc being the parent overview.The discs include:

  • Disc 1-Outlines, Summary, Dress-Uo
  • Disc 2-Story Summary, Dress-Up
  • Disc 3- Reference Summary, Paragraph Structures, Sentence Openers
  • Disc -Creative Writing, Sentence Openers

 There is also a student binder that includes 5 tab dividers for their work and handouts to be stored:

  • Models/Sources Checklist
  • Outlines/Compositions
  • Structural Models
  • Style Charts
  • "Banned Words"

The other piece we received was a manila envelope that had the teachers notes and student handouts included. The syllabus and course schedule at the beginning tell you exactly what your student does each day. I LOVED this part otherwise I think I truly would've felt overwhelmed trying to teach this. It also tells you how much of the video lessons to watch and where to stop it at to begin the writing exercise. Also, if you have a special needs learner, there are a lot of notes on how to help adapt this program for them. I put this entire section into my own binder to keep it organized.

How Does It Work?

The program is meant to be covered in either 15 or 30 weeks. We chose to do the 30 week schedule which is what I read that many do. You cover 1 unit roughly ever 4 weeks and you watch the DVD lesson every 2 weeks (each lesson takes 2 weeks to complete) . While the course schedule tells you to do what work to do each day, they do encourage to adjust the schedule to best fit your student.

Before starting the student lesson, the teacher needs to watch the seminar on the TWSS DVD. You can either watch the entire seminar in one sitting or break it up into parts, watching the section that pertains to the lesson your student will soon be covering. This is what I did and by doing it this way, I was staying 2 or so weeks ahead of the lesson my son was working on.

When you first start a lesson, there is a video to watch. They encourage the parent to sit down and watch it with their child so they know exactly how and what was taught to be able to better help them.

From there, we just followed the syllabus and the schedule listed in the teachers manual. In the teachers manual, at the beginning of each lesson, it tells you what they will be working on such as making a keyword outline (which they also provide a list of what these words could be so if you as a teacher aren't sure, there is something to reference.) There are a lot of helpful notes in this section with even references of web links to give further help. After the teachers note, the student handout papers are there and you give them to the student when the schedule says to.


How We Used It

Let me tell ya, when I opened up the box of curriculum I was overwhelmed by all I saw. I was thankful for the paper laying on top that was a quick start guide. It told you what package to open and what pieces to put in what binder and the order it needed to go in. I did notice that they have an online forum so if we needed support, we could easily go here to ask questions.

Once I had everything in place, I watched part of the TWSS DVD to prepare myself on how to teach my son. Just as a note, you could use this program with just the TWSS portion but I love having curriculum already put together so I don't have to do that so I couldn't imagine not having the Student Writing Intensive on hand as well.

One of my tips is that I used sticky tabs to post on the syllabus page and one on the current lesson page, making it easy to quick go to!

At the beginning of each lesson, my son and I sat down together to watch the lesson and I gave him the handouts as directed. From the very first lesson, my son was encouraged. See, IEW starts out by giving the student a written paragraph and teaches them how to pick out key words called a keyword outline (KWO). They pick out 3 words from each sentence and write them down either using the word or a symbol to represent a word. 3  of the words or symbols are written per line then they eventually rewrite the paragraph in their own words. Other curriculum's we had used would give a subject and expect the student to write about it and that is where my son struggled. He said it made sense on how to write a keyword outline by using something already written out. He spends 2 weeks practicing each lesson by writing several different pieces which helps him with mastery.

There is also a composition checklist that goes along with each written piece he is to complete. This reminds him to make sure his writing includes the things he just learned about in each lesson, to make sure it's double spaced, etc.

The lessons continue to teach more writing skills such as using adverb dress-ups, words they shouldn't use such as "said, thought and went" and using more creative words in place of those, reinforce who-which clauses, writing titles and so much more.

I do think we FINALLY found the writing program that clicks for my son and is something he WANTS to do! This curriculum will also help teach him the skills that he can take over into his other subjects and how to write reports and papers.

I keep the entire curriculum in a tote making it easy to grab when it's time to do writing!

I anticipated this program working well for him so in addition to the products I received to review, I also purchased A Word Write Now which is a thematic thesaurus. I know part of my sons challenge is coming up with creative words so I figured having this at his finger tips would help expand his vocabulary as he writes. I also purchased Portable Walls which is a sturdy fold-out that has key points for each unit that he can look at at a glance for a refresher as he is writing. It also has some word lists as well. My goal in purchasing these 2 items was to make writing easier from him with tools available at his finger tips.

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