Friday, June 12, 2015

{Crew Review} IEW's New Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Package - All This Goodness In One Spot!


This, right here, is The Motherload of Awesome Review Products.  Seriously, it is a combination of products from an amazing generous company (Institute for Excellence in Writing) -- products which engage kids, and help them become effective communicators.

What I Was Sent & How We Used It:
Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package Level A ($299) This package included:

  • Teaching Writing: Structure & Style (TWSS) DVD set - This is a set of 12 DVDs (in a very nice black "pleather" case) that is meant to be a teacher inservice on effective writing instruction.  Ideally, you will watch the DVD that corresponds with the unit that you are teaching your child -- and maybe even practice the techniques yourself -- so that you can carefully walk take your student from taking "notes" (called Key Word Outlines, or KWO) of source material all the way through to writing research reports, basic essays and critiques.  
One of the hallmarks of TWSS approach is to model the writing of source material, to help prevent students from having that deer-in-the-headlights look when asked to "sit down and write a story."  When we ask students to write a story or essay or research paper, students struggle to know what to write in addition to how to write.  Well, following classical education techniques -- where students first learn the 'grammar' or basics of a subject -- TWSS initially focuses on helping students to use language to their benefit.  So, writing assignments use a predetermined topic (source material) to bypass that difficult task of figuring out what to write.  Without having that to worry about, students as young as 3rd or 4th grade can begin to learn to express themselves using a variety of language structures and sentence types. {More about this later.}
    There is a disc for each of the units below:  
    1. Note Making and Outlines
    2. Writing From Notes
    3. Retelling Narrative Stories
    4. Summarizing a Reference
    5. Writing from Pictures
    6. Summarizing Multiple References
    7. Inventive Writing
    8. Formal Essay Models
    9. Formal Critique + writing about literature/ literary analysis
    Finally, the last three discs are demonstrations lessons showing students being taught the techniques at different age levels (K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and high school) 
    • Seminar Workbook- This accompanies the DVD set and is absolutely essential if you are getting the DVDs.  This workbook is for the parent teacher and includes the notes you will need to follow along with Andrew as he teaches the families on the DVD.  It contains a 3-ring binder and custom dividers (one for each of the units above) which you'll use to organize a packet of seminar notes (230+ pages), source texts, student samples (from various grade and age levels), and various recommended resources.  
    There is a "sorta" chapter about writing about literature (which would be helpful for middle and high school students as they write literary analysis papers),  a section which goes over all of the stylistic techniques  that your student will over-practice in this program (and I don't mean 'over-practice' in a bad way -- I mean that you student will begin to use strong verbs and great descriptor words and easily create complex sentences because they've practiced expressing themselves while writing about a variety of topics. Their writing will become more fluid and expressing themselves will become easier).
    Stylistic Techniques
    -ly adverbs
    who/ which clauses
    strong verbs
    because clause
    quality adjective
    clauses (when, while, where, as, since, if, though)
    Sentence Openers
    subject
    prepositional
    -ly adverbs
    -ing
    clausal
    vss (very short sentence)
    Decorations
    alliteration
    question
    conversation
    quotation
    2sss
    simile/ metaphor
    dramatic open-close
    +Triple Extensions
    + Advanced Dress Ups
     So, how did I use the seminar workbook and TWSS dvds?  Well, I am familiar with IEW as I've been  a happy consumer for several years.  I was interested to watch and own the updated dvds. I LOVE the quality of the DVDs and find that Andrew's teaching is as entertaining  and  informative as ever.  He is a wealth of information about teaching students...especially boys and I am grateful for male instructors who can provide some additional insite into my crazy sons' brains.  I think materials such as these help me to be a better mom and teacher to my boys because it helps me remember that God made boys different from girls -- and it is a good thing. 
    My preference was to watch the DVDs as Luke is completing each unit. Now, I've done the watch-it-all-in-its-14-hour-glory before for the overview;  now, I am re-watching it unit by unit so that I stay don't forget all the great ideas and purposes of the program.  Truly, Andrew's dvds help me to remember to lighten up and have fun teaching writing.
    • Student Writing Intensive DVDs Level A, including the Structure & Style Overview AND Student Notebook with handouts and lesson plans- This is a second DVD set intended for grades 3-5(ish).  The target audience is a little different in this set -- here, Mr. Pudewa is teaching a set of students (not adults).  At this level, students work through the basic units of TWSS -- key word outlining, basic dress-ups, story summary, reference summary.  They also begin to learn what makes a paragraph.  Finally, the students do a little creative writing.  EVERYTHING that you need is included to walk you and your student through the process.  
    • A suggested course schedule  breaks down assignments and DVD teaching lessons into manageable chunks (even telling you when to start/ stop the DVD) for each day of the week (assuming a 5 day teaching schedule -- but it is easy to modify).
    • Teacher notes for each lesson (which can comprise several weeks).  A summary of what your student will be watching on the DVD is given, reinforcements are provided, even a model KWO is provided for those of us who need a little encouragement as we learn this along side our students. You'll also get the source texts, printed out in a large, easy to read font, and checklists to complete when you are finished to help your student to evaluate if their work has met the criteria for the assignment.  
    • Set of colored sheets which students will fill out with stylistic techniques that they learn throughout the course.

      I have been purposefully implemented the program slowly for Levi during this review period, because I really wanted to focus on the key word outline (Unit 1).  I think that this ends up being a foundational skill that he will use throughout his life, in academics, the workplace....even as a husband and father (sitting at the bank taking notes while talking to a banker about mortgage rates, sermon notes, etc).  Now, I had informally started this KWO idea last year with Levi in our homeschool co-op program, but Levi really thrived listening to Andrew Pudewa teach him via the DVD in a very kid appealing way. Andrew is a master at instructing children and he is a pleasure to watch and learn from.   I'll have to admit that it was nearly impossible to slow Levi down in this program.  He really enjoyed it and pushed me to allow him to move on to the next part.  Each component of the writing process was encouraging to My Little Sponge.  
      • Fix-It! Grammar, Books 1 and 2 with downloadable student e-books - Included in this is the printed teacher's manual (nearly 200 pages) and directions to download the student worktext (you may download as many as you need for the children in your family). We used this 4 days a week during our review period, which is exactly how the program is described.  Book 1 is meant to be completed in 33 weeks; therefore two years of grammar instruction are included in this premium set. It doesn't take long -- maybe 15 minutes at the maximum so far.  Truly, this is not a long program.  Your student will work on grammar in a unique way -- by editing a story one sentence at a time -- four sentences a week.  This is a short, manageable amount of work for Levi and it engages him and is motivating.  Then,  then completing copywork to put it back together sentence-by-sentence.  Levi LOVED this, and I think it is a great introduction to grammar for him.  Grammar concepts are introduced slowly and piece-by-piece, yet they do build on one another.  As the program progressed through the weeks, you'll be responsible for catching and labeling more parts of speech, more word usage errors, and more punctuation errors.  
      I'll let you know that I used the 1st edition of this program with Ben when he was younger, and it wasn't as great as I'd hoped.  However, in version 2.0, the teacher materials have changed immensely.  The teacher guide helps you to teach the concepts and correct work. I feel like I am not throwing my student into a program with little preparation (for me or him).  I'm finding that I like this program MUCH more than I did before it was revised.  
      And, again, Levi LOVES grammar.  There are not too many times that a teacher gets to say that....so it is definitely a keeper! 
      Things your student will learn in Fix It! 
      ~ parts of speech ~ punctuation~ homophone usage~ vocabulary~ dictionary skills
      ~copywork~ identify all IEW's stylistic techniques and dress ups in the context of a written story~
      • A Word Write Now (thematic thesaurus)- This 106 page Thesaurus is a good first step for those students who are beginning their journey in IEW.  There are four parts. 
      • (A) is a synonym finder for character traits.  Words are categorized by part of speech.  For example, words for "criticism" are listed under: Nouns, Noun Characters (i.e., a nit-picker), Adjectives, Adverbs and Verbs.  There is room for students to add their own favorite words that may not be listed here.  A definition is provided for the word as are some notes/ quotes from literature.  
      • (B) is a section for descriptor words. This section even gets into phrases that describe features, such as "in the olden days" to describe the feature of 'time.'
      • (C) provides synonyms for words of movement and senses
      • (D) is divided into 5 parts:
      1. Playing with Words teaching tips
      2. Transition words (such as "for instance," and "hence," and "evidently.")
      3. Prepositon list
      4. Categories of literary genres (again, providing synonyms for words like "fiction" and "drama")
      5. definitions and examples of literary devices
      In all honestly, this is probably not a product that I would select to purchase on our generally limited budget. However, I have to admit that I have yet to find the perfect thesaurus for writing assignments.  Elementary thesauri seem too simplified, and we often get a little frustrated with the more advanced book.  This is a helpful tool for younger students as they begin to experiment with synonyms. 
      • Portable Walls- This is a simple tri-fold cardstock folder that can be be used by your student as s/he is working on writing assignments.  It presents the steps for all the units of writing in the Student Writing Intensive programs (and TWSS for that matter) in very graphic, visual ways -- great for someone who is a visual learner and needs an overview.  It also has some easy to reference lists for common writing helps -- "ly" words, prepositions, and strong verbs to replace the set of banned verbs (see/saw, go/went, etc).
      Downloads!  I don't want to forget about this part!  Along with this entire package of goodies, I also recieved as part of the premium package, a one-year subscription to:

      • streaming videos of the entire 14 hour TWSS (which has 5 additional hours of demo lessons of actual students)
      • free monthly webinar training, which will start in August
      • mp3 downloads of Andrew's popular conference talks
      • PDF downloads of writing packets, an IEW reading list, and mini-posters

      Final Thoughts:
      I absolutely LOVE IEW.  Their products are great investments because you as the parent will learn tools to help your children for YEARS to come.  The student materials are engaging and make students WANT to learn.  Honestly, this package is a full-on language arts program -- minus, perhaps a spelling program.  And, so many components of it will last beyond one year or even one child, that this becomes a great long-term investment for your family.

      Other Crew Members reviewed this package with the SWI B (for middle school) and SWI C (for high school).  Additionally, smaller sets were sent to families to use with children with learning differences -- because IEW is really SO flexible that nearly anyone can use it.




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