Friday, May 13, 2011

TOS Review: Institute for Excellence in Writing

You've heard of them right? Institute for Excellence in Writing is one of the most popular and sought after curriculum providers around. Their reputation for excellency in their products and effectiveness for academic learning is widely known. Mr. Pudewa's great teaching style and sense of humor is well known also!

Well, I have had the wonderful opportunity to review their Student Writing Intensive Level A this year. I have felt so blessed to have been able to review such a great product!

In my package I received the following materials:
  • four DVDs
  • a binder with dividers
  • a packet with the Teacher's Notes, handouts and checklists (lots of pages here!)
  • portable wall
  • Structure and Style DVD
The Structure and Style Overview is a 2 hour 20 minute overview of the IEW method and briefly covers the 9 units of structure of the program. While the full teacher/parent Structure and Style  (TWSS) course is recommended for an in-depth view of the method, the Overview DVD in combination with joining your student in watching the DVD lessons will give you the tools you need to successfully teach the materials.

I have to say that the materials packet is laid out well and very organized. With one read over the Teacher's Instruction page I was ready to put my daughter's notebook together and begin.

McMama's Experience:
We gathered Biggest's materials: notebook, writing paper and pencil, popped in the DVD and sat back to learn. Although I was excited about this program I was a little apprehensive about using it with Biggest simply because writing has never been something that she has enjoyed. She has struggles anytime she has to put her pencil to paper for any length of time. For this reason I asked my hubby to sit in with us and watch so that I could get his opinion. We watched together and honestly I was immediately taken with Mr. Pudewa's fun teaching style and amazed at how easy he makes writing. Biggest truly enjoyed her first session and although she struggled in some areas she was doing great, completed her first writing assignment with relative ease and was happily looking forward to the next session.

Once we were wrapped up I privately asked hubby what he thought and although he thought the program was great he wondered if it were too advanced for our reluctant 8 year old writer. I kept his thoughts in my mind as we moved forward.

We made it a couple of more lessons with Biggest then, after tears and frustration put it aside. It was just too much for her at her age and development. She loved Mr. Pudewa and enjoyed watching the DVDs and even put forth great effort at trying to write out her papers but for her it was just too much.

I plan on pulling this program back out for her maybe in the 2nd semester of her 4th grade year and trying again. (I LOVE that each level can be used with multiple grade levels! So awesome!)

The Breakdown:
That being said, I think that this is a great program! Writing is made so easy! I really wish that I had been taught this way! As I continued to watch the lessons and go through the notes on my own I was amazed that more educators of writing do not teach this way. 

SWI has pre-written paragraphs for the children to use. Then, they are lead through a variety of exercises, beginning with finding key words from each sentence to make their own outline. Then they are taught to add in different dress-ups, sentence openers, decorations and sentence styles to make the sentences more complex. With the pre-written paragraphs the dread of coming up with original ideas is taken away and the children are able to concentrate on finding the most important words in the paragraphs and learn how to build a great paper from there.

I guess I should say that for struggling writers the pre-written paragraphs are great. If you have a child that doesn't struggle at all then they would only box her in. However the methods Mr. Pudewa focuses on would make it easy for advanced children to apply in their own ideas.

All in all this is a program worth looking in to if you have a child that freezes when blank paper is put in front of her. If your child doesn't struggle I wouldn't say not to try it but I would suggest maybe trying to take a good look at it from someone who already owns it that you know or really browse it at a conference.

 The SWI Level A sells for $99, the Portable Wall for $7 and the Structure and Style Overview DVD for $10. All of the products come with a complete satisfaction guarantee. The website also has a ton of Help and Support for learning more about the products and what ones will suit your needs. And by the way, forts make a great space for some tear-free writing! IEW also hosts webinars on different writing topics and their products!

**Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.** 
And thank you IEW for this wonderful opportunity!!!! 

Lovin' Learnin'


  1. The great advantage to homeschooling is studies are presented at the childs's pace, not the classroom. Though Biggest might not be ready for writing course, she will be in the near future and she won't feel left behind.

    Love ya.

  2. We did Level B. OH, we love this product so much! lol


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