Thursday, January 27, 2011

New series of posts -- Institute for Excellence in Writing

You may have seen that some of the Homeschool Crew have already posted reviews on other IEW products,  a DVD on Teaching Boys and the Phonetic Zoo.  Others of us have been given a much longer time to work with IEW's signature products--  Teaching Writing : Structure and Style (TTSS), various levels of the Student Writing Intensive (SWI), or both.  I received the combination package of Teaching Writing and Student Level A.  I will be the first to admit  these are big ticket items,  not something you're likely to pick up with spare change just to see if it will work with your kids.   I also want to to justice for the company for generously providing me with a copy to use and review.  I am therefore going to try and keep a weekly log of how we integrate this writing curriculum into our homeschool.

So to begin at the beginning--I didn't know anything about IEW before this review.  What I did know was that Language Arts is the one area I feel least competent about teaching.  Give me subjects with right and wrong answers,  physical laws that can't be broken, or names and dates etched in time.   I could probably cover the rules for diagramming sentences (in fact, I enjoyed this in my own schooling), but writing is more art than science.  Top all this with the fact that writing is my Schnickelfritz's least favorite subject and you see why we  procrastinated starting any real writing program and now we're in second grade.

While I waited for the books and DVDs to arrive I did some online investigation.  I recommend finding and downloading the audios for some of Andrew Pudewa's workshops.   My two favorites are Reaching the Reluctant Writer and the Four Deadly Errors.  The former is available on the free download pageof IEW's website.  The latter can also be obtained for free if you use the coupon code available on page  18 of the company's magalog (be sure to check it out before the 2011 magalog comes out in March).    I put these on my MP3 player to listen while I walk the dog or while I'm washing dishes.  For those of you who do better with reading material, there are plenty of articles and workshop handouts on the site (look under Help & Support).

One thing I did learn (and right now I can't remember which audio it was on),  the technique used in IEW in not new.  It was in face used by Benjamin Franklin to help him improve his own writing skills (the Bible says there is nothing new under the sun).  Here it is in his own words...

About this time I met with an odd volume of the Spectator. I had never before seen any of them. I bought it, read it over and over, and was much delighted with it. I thought the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it. With that view, I took some of the papers, and making short hints of the sentiment in each sentence, laid them by for a few days, and then, without looking at the book, tried to complete the papers again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length and as fully as it had been expressed before, in any suitable words that should come to hand. I then compared my Spectator with the original, discovered some of my faults and corrected them.

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