June 10, 2015

Institute for Excellence in Writing: Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package~ Level A {Curriculum Review}

Teaching writing in our homeschool is likened by Little Britches to that of pulling teeth without meds. Or being run over by a tractor. He just thinks it's dreadful! I am always looking out for a new curriculum that can make writing actually something he is willing to do, but it has been a challenge. When I was given the opportunity to review the Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package Level A with Fix-It! Grammar 1 and 2 from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW), I wondered if this one would give us something we could actually use...pain free!
Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) Product Review

Product Information

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) is recognized as one of the premier writing curriculum companies on the homeschooling market today. The founder Andrew Pudewa has a mission to help students learn how to write well, think clearly, and express themselves articulately and confidently. Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW for short) offers everything from complete Language Arts curriculum packages for Kindergarten to High school, to focused writing curriculum. There are even special curriculum available for special needs students!

One of the writing curriculum options is the Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package which is available for grades 3-12th. Each of these packages contains everything you need to successfully teach the IEW writing program. The company also offers a no time limit 100% guarantee on their product.

We were given the Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package Level A with Fix-It! Grammar 1 and 2, as well as the A Word Write Now and Portable Walls

This package contains the following resources:
*Teaching Writing: Structure & Style DVD set
*Seminar Workbook
*Student Writing Intensive DVDs Level A, including the Structure & Style Overview
*Student Notebook with handouts and lesson plans
*Fix-It! Grammar, Books 1 and 2 with downloadable student e-books (print versions are available for additional charge)
*A Word Write Now
*Portable Walls

This package is geared for teaching students at 3rd to 5th grade level work and retails for $299. The purchase of the package, which includes the Teaching Writing: Structure & Style course, ALSO grants you access to a PREMIUM bonus of FREE downloads with mp3 versions of the DVDs (to take your teacher course on the go!), additional student materials, and a large collection of great pdfs to use with the program!

As I said above, we received the Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package Level A with Fix-It! Grammar 1 and 2 which comes with the A Word Write Now and Portable Walls. This was going to be used with my third grade student.

How Did We Use this Program?

Look at all these goodies!
The first thing I did when everything arrived was just to look at it! It was so overwhelming at first because there was so much stuff! The next thing I did was put together the three binders I was going to use: one for Teaching Writing: Structure & Style (TWSS), one for Student Writing Intensive (SWI), and then one for the handouts and lesson plans for the SWI. The TWSS and SWI binders were included in the package. I just pulled a third small binder for my own use for the handouts/lesson plans. I followed the directions for setting them up, which is included in each package.

Binder Set-up Info
Next, I followed the guidance of the included papers in the Fix-It! Grammar books to “order” our student e-books for the program AND followed my included paper in my TWSS program to download the additional online materials for myself--the webinars, and additional pdfs.  This was all easily done following the directions included on the papers that came with the products.

I didn’t even need to figure out how to use the Fix-It Grammar program, because we have been using it since we reviewed Book 1 last year. I was very excited to be able to have Book 2 to begin as we were just a couple weeks from finishing Book 1. You can read all about my detailed Fix-It Grammar review from last year, so I am not going to be talking much about it, except showing you what a completed program would look like a little further down. 

The first thing I did was learn that the TWSS program would help me teach the Student Writing Intensive program, so before we started Little Britches on his program, I started working through my seminars. I decided that since it seemed to coordinate with the order of Little Britches program, I would only work ahead enough to stay up with what he was learning. I popped my DVD into my laptop and sat with my binder and a pencil and just listened to his fascinating seminar. His focus is how to TEACH the SWI course. How to work through it with our children and how to understand the methods that IEW uses. I learned so much about the problems with writing programs today and totally identified with the info about how a student responds to writing assignments. I found it very helpful and made notes that I referenced once we started the program with Little Britches. 

As of today, I am in the middle of my second DVD and learning more and more with every seminar he gives. I am very happy that they included to many extras with the Premium package! I can take it with me because of the free download of the mp3 version of the webinars. And I love all the extra pdf printable downloads that go with the program!

I will touch on Fix-It! Grammar now, because we have been working on it for awhile and I continued work on it while I was preparing for teaching the writing course. The Fix-It! Grammar curriculum is very simple. Students will hunt for errors in a daily passage (a sentence or short passage) that put together, tell a story. The grammar work usually takes just 15-20 minutes and incorporates three steps: 

1. Read and hunt for grammatical errors in the passage
2. Look up and define the bold vocabulary word in the passage
3. Record the corrected sentence and vocabulary definition in binder.

Week 1 of Book 2
Every lesson is progressive building on the previous one. Book 1 goes a bit more slowly, with 1 or 2 new grammar items to learn and hunt for each week. Book 2 begins with six basic grammar items to be found and corrected and continues to add at least one more each week. The grammar lessons are very short and concise and each lesson comes with a new grammar card for the child to reference as needed. By the time the child has completed the book, they will have written out the entire story by simply adding in their corrected daily passage each day.

The first book contains the story The Nose Tree and the second book tells the story of Robin Hood. We really liked the first story, but Little Britches was eager to get started on the second book because he loves the old Disney movie Robin Hood.

You can read in detail about our experiences with Book 1 on my review post from last year, but I wanted to show you what it looks like when you are completed with the book.

Certificate at the end of the book

Once we were done, we took out all the pages of vocabulary and the rewritten story and stapled them together
To prepare for book 2, I went online and downloaded the student e-book (the teacher copy is printed!), then I printed off the first two weeks of daily lessons/packages and the first two weeks of grammar cards.
Little Britches cut out the grammar cards I printed off (on colorful paper of course) and we attached them to a piece of cardstock this time for him to keep in his binder. I really like this method...it was recommended in the e-book.

Then we just dove right in! Because it starts “fresh” the first week’s grammar was review, though it did take the lesson on capitalization further by incorporating rules for proper nouns which was not covered in book 1. I liked that it started with thing we already did—but expanded on them right away. 

We worked on Fix-It! Grammar as I continued to work my way through the TWSS program until I got to a point where I felt that it was a good time to start the student course. When I told Little Britches it was time to do writing, he groaned. It’s not his favorite. But when I said he had a teacher other than me, he perked up. (what can I say? LOL) We popped in the DVD for his lesson and just got started. The first lesson is an introductory one where the kids get to “meet” Mr. Pudewa and he gets them ready to go. Then the real first lesson started. 

Listening to his lesson
For the lessons, I find that it works best if I sit in on them as some of them need to be paused at particular spots in the middle of the lectures. Also there needed to be time for Little Britches to work on the assignments as they were taught—So while he watched and worked through the DVD, I watched and followed along in my lesson plan.

The goal of the first lesson is to introduce your child to note making, outlines and writing from notes via learning about how to do a keyword outline. Mr. Pudewa guides the students through a paragraph about sea snakes, and then teaches them how to make a keyword outline after reading the paragraph, in order to be able to write about the paragraph in their own words. The whole process is demonstrated by Mr. Pudewa to a room of children who are taking the course, so the responses to his guided questions resemble what you would expect from your own children. He uses a LOT of humor in his lessons, which my son adored and made him more interested. At the end of the lesson, the teaching pauses so that your own child can work on the assignment themselves. 
At this point, I can use the lesson plan to finish completing lesson one with Little Britches, which is two weeks worth of material if you include the assignments in the reinforcement materials. I decided that the reinforcement materials were very good for making sure the lesson was learned, so we completed the lesson plan for lesson one as laid out in the included teacher’s notes over the course of two weeks doing 5 days worth of lessons. By the end of the time, we had worked through three keyword outlines and three paragraphs successfully.

Doing a rewrite
We continued to Lesson 2 which was listed as optional reinforcement for students needing more practice with keyword outlines and summary paragraphs. Because Little Britches did well on the three previous paragraphs, I decided to just do one more with both aspects, but only write a keyword outline for one of the other additional reinforcement materials. I learned that this is encouraged in the Teaching Writing that I was working through at the same time. Lesson 2 goes over another two weeks of daily lessons, but since we cut it short, we only worked on it for about 6 days worth. We continued with Lesson 3 as the lesson plan suggests (DVD instruction again) which carried over another two week span. By the time you work through the first three lessons as noted on the lesson plan, you will have six weeks of work if you follow the lesson plan as it is written.
Lesson Plan
As of this week, we are in week 6 and are preparing to finish it up and move to Lesson 4 and week 7 for the SWI, working on week 2 of Fix-It! Grammar Book 2, and I’m in the middle of the second seminar DVD for the TWSS course.

What Are Our Thoughts?


Little Britches:
“I think my teacher is funny and kinda weird. I love it when he says that you might get into ‘Deep Yogurt’ if you do things incorrectly. I really like writing with a pen like he told me and the stories we read are interesting. I don’t mind doing the writing if it’s like this.”

Me:
You see his response? That tells me all I really need to know. He likes it. He is willing to work on it. For someone who was rather daunted by writing, this is fabulous! 

I appreciate that there is a program to teach me HOW to teach the student course. It has definitely helped me know what to do and what to avoid. I like how it coordinates perfectly with the student course, so I can work through it at a pace that matches. Everything is available in download if it’s not included in our binder, which is great for future reference. The material is very clear, easy to read and easy to follow along and understand. 

The student program is the same. It is very “open and go” which is my style of program. We BOTH love having the DVDs to do the teaching, so that I can act more as an aide or tutor. I do have to watch myself to make sure I’m not trying to get him to do things that the program—and Mr. Pudewa doesn’t push (spelling!). But this is where the TWSS program assists me.

It is possible to teach the Student Writing Intensive curriculum without the Teaching Writing: Structure & Style course…but they meld so perfectly together and you learn so much about why Mr. Pudewa teaches the way he does, that I don’t think it’s a waste at all. Likewise, you could teach a writing course without the SWI curriculum if you had the TWSS program…BUT it would be a lot more work and a lot more hassle.

I have learned a lot from Mr. Pudewa already in regards to how writing should be taught and I’ve seen a real difference in Little Britches attitude towards it. 

One additional thing is the emphasis on using what is being taught to teach public speaking! I love that both of the courses encourage oral presentation! Speaking well in a public setting is so important and so few people can do it well. The way that this course teaches how to summarize and present is excellent.

I love the Fix-It! Grammar books because they teach all your child really needs to know about grammar, and does it in short 15 minute sessions that are easy and fun. I love the idea of having a story as the basis for the work and Little Britches responds well to the short lessons. The vocabulary instruction is possibly my favorite part—and I was able to teach him how to use a dictionary because of it.

As we move forward in the writing program, we will have a chance to incorporate the other two things which came with our package—A Word Write Now (a type of child’s thesaurus) and Portable Walls (a single pocket folder with extra page that makes a tri-fold chart with all the writing unit models, word lists, and more for quick reference).

Is there anything that’s a con?
Hmm. Well for some, this program is going to be out of their price range…because in all fairness it is a lot to pay for one subject…except you are getting the teacher course AND a grammar course WITH the writing curriculum. AND you figure out that you can use the same program for grades 3-5. Which means that you can use the same writing program over the course of three years—OR teach more than one student with it! If your child is in grades 6-12, there are the Level B and Level C packages for them! The grammar included with this package is TWO years worth of beginning grammar! Now that I’ve had the product and used the product, I think that yes—it IS a major investment…but considering you can use it over and over again for a few years, I think it’s well worth the expense for an excellent writing program. I also love that they offer a 100% guarantee. 

So, will we continue to use this product?
We are currently heading into summer vacation, but come this fall, we will most likely be picking it back up. If I change my mind, it will only be to push it back to a different year, but I definitely see us using this product in the future!

Would I Recommend This Product?

If you need something different for writing, because writing just isn’t working for your child, I recommend you give this curriculum a try. If you want something that is going to teach them how to not only write effectively, but communicate well…give this product a try. If you are worried about investing in a curriculum and then not liking it, give it a try…there is a 100% money back guarantee! If you want something to teach more than one student within about a 1-4 year span, definitely give this a try. And if you are looking for a writing curriculum that tells YOU the teacher how to go about teaching it in the best way possible—give this deluxe package a try!

Want to Learn More?

We reviewed the Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package Level A with Fix-It! Grammar 1 and 2, as well as the A Word Write Now and Portable Walls ($299) from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW). There were five other Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing packages, as well as four packages for special needs students reviewed by the rest of my Crew Members! I hope that you will go see what they reviewed!
IEW Review
To stay in touch with Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW), make sure you connect with them on these social media outlets:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/excellenceinwriting
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/iewriting
Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/iewtv 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/iew
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/iewtv
IEW Blow: http://iew.com/help-support/blog
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+Iewriting/
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With my trial of this excellent writing curriculum from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW), I now have an excellent curriculum to use with our family for several years. It was a great blessing to be able to find something that worked very well for us--and made writing no longer the equivalent of pulling teeth.

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