I am so thankful for the additional teaching helps IEW offers through free downloads of articles and workshop audios. I honestly believe that without them we would never have worked through the learning curve of the program and just tossed it aside as "not for us."
For our review, we received the DVDs for the student intensive program. When we began IEW, I used the same technique for viewing the video lessons that we emply with Math-U-See. Whenever Mr. Demme asks a math question I would pause the video and give me Schnickelfritz the opportunity to answer before the childrem blurt it out. Fritz is very good at math and has no problem coming up with a correct answer. This is not the case when it comes to writing. I would hit pause when Mr. Pudewa asked for key words and allow Fritz to underline his choices. When it came time to testing our keywords I would again pause the video and tell Fritz "Now you make a sentence using these three words." The results were poorly chosen key words, fragments of sentences, a frustrated student and teacher. According to the teachers DVD forming sentences was supposed to come naturally to native English speakers. I began to worry that there was more than just a dislike of writing and perhaps a real learning problem here.
Then I listened to a workshop entitled "The Four Deadly Errors of Teaching Writing." Error number two is holding back help. I was doing the equivilent of throwing Fritz off the diving board in the deep end of the pool and expecting him to learn to swim. I saw that Fritz was making poor keyword choices but rather than steer him to something better I was waiting for him to discover it on his own during the keyword test. I had never explained to him that a sentence needs to be a complete thought and the only grammar he's been exposed to are Schoolhouse Rock videos. It wasn't a learning problem but a teaching one--I think I've admitted before that one of the reasons I was excited to try IEW was because I had no idea how to teach writing on my own.
Mr. Pudewa encourages a lot of group brainstorming at each stage of the writing process so that kids with more language skills and larger vocabularies can help the weaker students. They call out suggestions for keywords before Mr. Pudewa writes them on the whiteboard. They build lists of adverbs and stronger alternatives to overused words like "goes" or "said." Fritz is literally in a class by himself though. I had to turn to the kids in the videos to be his surragate classmates. We watched the videos again and this time I didn't hit pause until after the examples had been given. I figured out that my literal son was trying to form sentences with only the keywords so I had to rephrase myself and ask "What sentence are these keywords trying to remind us?" Incidently, it isn't a problem if the child quotes back the original sentence verbatim. We're not worried about plagerism at this stage. The child will be learning how to "dress up" the sentence by adding adverbs, combining sentences with who or which clauses, and replacing weak verbs and adjectives.
When we needed additional practice I showed him the Unit 1 section of the Teacher's DVD as well as the Student Writing workshop samples included with the TWSS. Kids have a remarkable way of letting you know when they no longer need your help. As Fritz became more familiar with the techniques he would blurt out "Pause the tape! I know!."