Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) - (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

If there's one company who has the highest reputation among homeschooling families and is the most recommended, it would probably be Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW).  With that well earned reputation for quality products, IEW has been the gold standard for teaching writing and grammar.   So when I was given the opportunity to review the just released updated version of Teaching Writing: Structure and Style along with the Bible Heroes Student Book  and Bible Heroes Teacher Book  I jumped up and down like a crazy woman and knew I was being given a huge blessing.

Writing has never been a fun subject in our household because of Garrett and his autism. Because of this diagnosis, we agreed to review this particular combination of products as targeted for the Special Needs student.  I should point out that these items are no different from the items that are purchased by parents of regularly able students, they are the exact same. Instead, how I approached the IEW method with my son because of our own unique learning conditions would likely be different from other students.

What I Received 

The first item we had a chance to review was the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style . This is the second edition of the very popular writing seminar DVD set.  Newly updated, it came with 12 DVDs stored in a nice leather folder and the Seminar and Practicum Workbook. Also included was a 1 year subscription to the Premium Content online.
Of the 12 DVDs, 9 of these are the 14 hours of instructional materials as taught by Andrew Pudewa at one of his live lectures in November 2014. Mr Pudewa goes in great depth on how this particular writing program works, why it works and how to teach the 9 structural modes to your students.  The additional 3 DVDs shows Mr Pudewa teaching these techniques to students at various age levels, from Kindergarten to High School level, which is extremely helpful when wondering exactly how to approach a child with this method.   

The Seminar and Practicum Workbook serves as a guideline and syllabus as you watch the DVDs as well as a reference once you start applying these techniques into your classroom.  This is a 234 page book that has been professionally printed on loose-leaf paper and then placed inside a very sturdy 3-ringed binder.  Each of the 9 Structural Modes has their own dedicated Unit tab in the binder along with tabs for Writing about Literature and Stylistic Techniques. An Appendices is also included. 

The Premium Content gives you full access online to all the DVD contents in streaming format as well as access to MP3 audios of Mr Pudewa’s conference talks. It also gives you access to a monthly webinar training program given from August until May each year. 

As if the above wasn’t generous enough, I was also given a physical copy of the Bible Heroes: Writing Lessons in Structure and Style Student BookThis is a soft backed, spiral bound, 222 page book that also contains pages of activities printed on sturdier cardstock to be used for various lessons.  Geared for grades K-2nd, this book is used along with the Structure and Style method to help younger children understand the first 6 of the 9 methods taught in the seminars.  The physical copy of the Student Book gives access to the downloadable Teachers Manual which I was easily able to load into my Kindle Fire without any issues.  (A physical copy of the Bible Heroes Teacher Manual is available for purchase separately).   The Bible Heroes book uses 27 lessons to help teach vocabulary, parts of speech, and writing techniques by using games and fun activities that appeal to younger children. Stories about creation, Enoch, Noah and Moses also help to start laying a basic foundation for Biblical History and a Bible verse at the beginning of each lesson helps to encourage memorization.

How we used it

Streaming Perfectly on Kindle
Having absolutely no experience with IEW in the past beyond just drooling over their catalog, I will say that there was a lot of excitement in opening the package. I felt like Christmas arrived in our house as I took out each component of this program.  However, once the excitement weans (I won't say it completely goes away, I'm still excited) then it is followed by a bit of an overwhelming feeling. There is SO much information available that one can feel a bit over their head with it all.

Since I wasn't familiar with IEW and their style  Mom had homework to do of her own.. For the first few days, I watched the DVDs and streaming videos and read through the workbook to become as familiar with the IEW method as possible.   I really enjoyed the seminars that are the core of the IEW program - Andrew Pudewa is very engaging and even with lengthy sessions, it's very easy to listen to him speak without being bored.   He does a great job at explaining how this style of teaching writing works and how to incorporate it into your own teaching.

After watching the first seminar multiple times and reading over the section in my binder, I felt comfortable enough to start trying to introduce it to my own children.  Garrett is not much of a writer. Actually, that would probably be classified as the understatement of the year as Garrett despises writing.  It's one of the little ticks about him when it comes to his autism: writing requires him to sit down, stay still and concentrate on a formulated set of letters on a piece of paper that should be in a specific order. He absolutely HATES writing (and reading too) so I was really interested in how he would take to this program as a special needs student.

Our Very First IEW Lesson
The three of us sat down with my trusty white board and we began. I gave the kids their first paragraph from the Bible Heroes book and we read through it together and then we broke the paragraph up into our picture/word components. The kids had fun telling me what pictures they wanted to replace words (as they are limited to how many actual words they can use but can have unlimited pictures).

They then sat and copied the picture/word paragraph to their outlines. I was shocked.  No fighting and no tears. (Well, we had a meltdown when mom accidentally spilled her coffee on Garrett's hard work but that wasn't IEW's fault.. Thank GOD for scanners/copiers).   Garrett (and Ashleigh) both wrote the picture/word outline without any complaining. They then recited the entire paragraph back to me using their outlines.

Excuse the "crumpled" looking paper.. This was post coffee accident - I scanned the original 

 Was this a fluke?  I mean, this was the first time we tried this. It was something new for them so as they started going it on a regular basis would they both continue to do well? I had no doubt that Ashleigh would be just fine with it (she actually had a lot of fun with it) but would Garrett continue to enjoy it and want to participate?  Or would we once again resort to tears, crying and various forms of "Writing is too hard" as what is typical of him when it comes to copy work. 

Garrett independently filling out his outline
 The answer is YES!!!   The IEW process has worked really well for Garrett and he often finishes a lesson with a huge sense of accomplishment for a job well done.  Garrett especially likes the premade outline for each paragraph. Something about having that 1, 2, 3 really zones him in to what he's suppose to be doing with it; I'm not sure if its because he can see the beginning and the end and knows how much he will need to do, or if its just the structure of the outline itself, but it has made a huge difference for him. Hard to believe something so simple could change his outlook but it did.  Suddenly, this kid, who hates writing, enjoys filling up the lines.

Garrett playing one of the Bible Hero Games
The Bible Heros book has also been a very integral part of this program for us.  First, it provides some really great paragraphs to baby step students through the IEW process. It includes the printable outlines to accommodate the paragraphs but it also includes ways to include grammar and proper sentence structure into the IEW lessons, making it a more rounded curriculum then just writing.   These activities were great for my kids who were having so much fun they didn't realize they were learning about Adjectives and Verbs in the process.  (Please don't tell them)

The teachers guide for the Bible Heroes book proved to be very useful to me also. It's chalked full of suggestions and tips for each lesson, as well as how to present the lessons to my kids in ways they can relate to and have fun with. I honestly am not sure if I could done as well with the expanded lessons (such as about grammar) without it and the fact that I could just load it into my Kindle (with no problem with the formatting) proved very useful.

Bottom Line: 

I would highly recommend this program to any homeschooling family, especially those with special needs. Any program that can get my headstrong son who hates writing to actually write (and to throw a fit when I accidentally ruined his assignment rather than view it as ooh, now I don't have to do it) is a plus in my book.. This method is deceptively simple in the way that it builds upon itself in small steps and Mr Pudewa gives a great schedule in how to turn this program into a year long curriculum.  I have no doubt that by following this program, my kids will not only write but will write well in the future.

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) can be found at the following social media networks:  Facebook, Pinterest, Vimeo, Twitter, Youtube, and Google + as well as on their blog.

IEW Review


  1. Hi Brenda,
    I appreciate your review helpful. In your opinion would you need an additional language art curriculum to supplement if I used Bible Heroes?

  2. Structure and Style is fundamentally a writing program, but it does cover basic grammar such as nouns, adjectives, and verbs, but grammar isn't the primary focus. If Biblical Heroes were to be used for the intended age grade (K-2), it would probably be fine as a stand along language arts curriculum, then adding something like "Fix It! Grammar" in 3rd grade.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...