Please note that this is an introduction and summary page. We have more comprehensive comments and opinions on the individual reviews (linked to below).
At a time when many home school families are looking for student-directed programs that allow parents to hand kids a text and let them complete it on their own, Andrew Pudewa’s Institute for Excellence in Writing takes a different approach. IEW makes products directed primarily at parents, who are taught how to present the material to their students.
Seeing an entire bookcase from one company just on writing is intimidating. The mixture of binders, spiral bound books, DVD sets, and more can appear cluttered and many of our clients are understandably confused. Our goal here is to introduce and help simplify the concept of the IEW product line, and give a general sequence of use. Links throughout will take you to longer, more in-depth reviews and product samples.
How Do These Work?
Most of the products consist of DVD lectures and a syllabus for the teacher, along with workbooks for students. Some are only workbooks, but the content is based on information presented in one of the seminar/DVD lectures. Used together, these programs form a solid foundation in language arts and literature study for students grades K-12.
Over time, IEW materials have become more consistent, and they've developed systems for helping customers understand what can be used when. There are now four "levels" of IEW materials: P (for primary, grades K-2), marked with a tan color; 3-5, marked with green; 6-8, marked with blue; and 9-12, marked with purple.
Primary Arts of Language:
PALS, for grades K-2, has two main elements introducing reading and writing, laying the groundwork for moving on to IEW's main writing course. These sets, including fully-scripted lesson plans, can be used alone, though work best together. The 80-lesson Reading Package can be used from K-1 and incorporates games and stickers. The 87-lesson Writing Package, which can be used through 2nd grade, takes kids from the fundamentals of printing, to copywork, style, and basic composition. All About Spelling Level 1 is used to fill out the spelling component of this course.
Teaching Writing: Structure & Style:
The flagship product of IEW, and its most important element, is Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (TWSS), a course designed to guide parents and teachers through the essentials of writing instruction. If you plan to use any of IEW’s other products, you should start here. Even if you’re not interested in their other offerings, we'd recommend you look into this one as a teaching resource. The approach is rooted in student imitation of exemplary writing to learn the essentials of the craft as well as clear thinking and formatting to produce their own quality work. You can now purchase the video seminar on DVD ($189) or as a digital access ($129). Both of these options come with the workbook. If you already have access to the videos, you can purchase the seminar workbook separately ($39).
If, after watching TWSS, you are confident to teach the material on your own, you shouldn't need to buy anything else. However, IEW offers a few small resources that will make life easier for everyone. Four of these in particular stand out—the Writing Source Packet, the Student Resource Notebook, Portable Walls, and Word Write Now—though there are some other aids available too.
Student Writing Intensives:
IEW recommends you purchase the Student Writing Intensives with TWSS. They encourage this by bundling and discounting "Combo Packs." SWI are meant for students to watch directly, and teaches through age-appropriate material from TWSS. The student watches the DVD lectures and works through an accompanying workbook. Originally filmed as two-day intensives, these short courses include material packets that space the videos out over 18 weeks. All three SWI levels cover the same sort of material (Level A for grades 2-4, B for 5-7, and C for 8-10), so don't follow up with another SWI later. Instead, use the next level "Continuation Course," or a Theme-Based Writing Lesson.
Theme-Based Writing Lessons:
A large part of the IEW philosophy is that students learn to write by imitation, so, naturally, you'll need content to imitate. You can pull material from anywhere you like, but IEW has published a variety of pre-made lesson plans with assignments to help students implement the writing theory they’ve learned in TWSS and SWI. The Theme-Based Writing Lessons guide kids through writing assignments based on the Structure and Style methods, while teaching them about a variety of subjects from science and history to literature and economics through interaction with important texts.
IEW Advanced Materials:
If you want to follow up the material covered in TWSSD and SWI, IEW publishes a number of advanced level texts (marked with the purple stripe) that help kids learn advanced note-taking, perfect their essay-writing skills, write a research paper and even guide them through the basics of writing a novel. Their advanced materials also include literary analysis and material to develop rhetorical arguments.
IEW "sneaks" grammar into their writing instruction, but has always supplemented their writing materials with suggestions for additional grammar texts. They have all but replaced most of these with Fix It Grammar, their own six-volume, story-based grammar course. Beyond these books, they suggest the Blue Book of Grammar and a couple of Victor Pellegrino's Writer's Guides (Transitional Words and Expressions and Powerful Paragraphs).
IEW Excellence in Spelling
Excellence in Spelling uses Andrew Pudewa’s unique philosophy of education and phonics acquisition to teach spelling. This isn’t a reading course (though the phonics rules are so thoroughly covered you could probably use it as one), but your kids’ reading and spelling skills will be greatly improved and should stay with them for the rest of their lives if you follow Pudewa’s detailed guidelines. Like other IEW courses, these come in A, B, C, and Advanced levels.
IEW Literature & Poetry
While it isn’t an IEW product, Adam and Missy Andrews’s Teaching the Classics literature program is highly recommended by Pudewa as a prelude to IEW’s literature study products. Teaching the Classics is based on Socratic study methods in which teachers rigorously question students and lead them in discussion to illuminate the meaning and importance of literature; the course can be used with basically any age-level, and nearly any genre or type of literary work. Following this, IEW recommends Windows to the World (a literary analysis course), Worldview Detective, and World, American, and British literature studies for high school students.
Primarily just poetry memorization, Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization is designed to help your students’ communication skills and learning/information retention abilities. Following this, IEW recommends using The Grammar of Poetry, an introduction to poetry analysis and appreciation from Logos Press.
Our Honest Opinion:
These language arts materials are by no means the simplest courses available. Just learning how to use them requires a learning curve, and implementing them takes time and effort. But they're not typically that hard to use once you’ve watched the DVDs and read the syllabi. And though they're not the least expensive options, we believe both time and cost investment is well worth it, especially if you're working with multiple children at different ages.
Overall, you’d be hard pressed to find anything much better for language arts. Not only will your kids receive a fuller understanding than most other programs offer, you will be equipped with the tools necessary to actually instruct and guide them, making the task of teaching writing and literary analysis ultimately much less daunting.
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