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Review by Cathy Duffy

February 1999

In spite of the development in recent years of excellent resources for teaching writing, many parents hesitate for lack of confidence. Andrew Pudewa presents writing seminars for parents and students that overcome the confidence barrier better than anything else I've yet seen. Since attending Andrew's seminars is not practical for many parents and teachers, he now offers those same seminars in the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style video course. The course consists of four video tapes (6+ hours of viewing), workbook/syllabus, your choice of a Student Workshop video, free toll-free phone consultation, feedback on practicum assignments, and a certificate of completion.

The course teaches both structure and style such that students acquire a repertoire of techniques. Parent/teachers learn how to teach both creative and expository writing. Students continue to develop and apply the techniques through actual writing activities taught throughout the course. Parents may watch the entire course all at once or spread it out over weeks or months. Students might watch with them, but this really is focused on teacher training. [Special note: I.E.W. offers $9 per tape refund for tapes returned within 2 months of purchase. The syllabus does cover the same material in abbreviated form. So if you work through the seminar carefully, then refer to the syllabus as you teach your students, you can save money by taking advantage of this generous offer.]

Pudewa does not try to cover all types of creative and expository writing, but focuses on basic structures and approaches. However, this foundational development should be excellent preparation for students to build upon as they explore other forms of writing.

One of the strategies Pudewa uses is to have students begin by making notes from a model composition. Students come up with key words to convey main ideas. Then they work from their notes to reconstruct the piece, not attempting to copy it, but using their own words, expanding with their own ideas and expressions. This strategy works very well since it provides a secure starting place so students are not worrying excessively about what to say. Instead, they concentrate on structure and style.

The course as presented to students, consists of nine units: Note Making and Outlines, Summarizing from Notes, Summarizing from Narrative Stories, Summarizing References and Library Reports (2 units), Writing from Pictures, Creative Writing, Essay Writing, and Critiques. Once past the first few lessons, we can use the lessons in whatever order seems best for our students. The syllabus includes reproducible models that are an essential part of each lesson.

What I like most about this course is that Pudewa walks us through each strategy in detail. His teaching experience is very evident as he identifies and deals with the problems that tend to crop up for both teacher and student. The lessons move along slowly enough for us to think and work through the process with his "live" audience. This means we are more likely to end up with a really solid grasp of the course content.

As mentioned above, the seminar set includes your choice of a Student Workshop video. Students Workshops are recording of hour-long classes conducted with different age groups: elementary (grades 2-4), intermediate (grades 5-7), and high school (grades 8-12). These serve as demonstration classes. You might have students work alongside the "on-tape" class to introduce them to some of the methods of this course.

Even more help is available through Student Writing Intensive videos. These are four-tape sets of actual classes, running about 10 hours per set of videos. Three age-designated sets are available: grades 4-5, grades 6-7, and grades 8-10+. Video classes in each set focus on selected lessons from the syllabus. A set of reproducible papers (models, checklists, reference sheets, worksheets) comes with each set of tapes. As with the Student Workshop videos, students may work through these along with the "on-tape" classes.

I.E.W. also offers other related resources in their catalog, including a group package for the video seminar that you should investigate if you want to do a group class.

A few homeschoolers were so impressed with I.E.W. that they went out of their way to make sure I reviewed it. My impression is that their enthusiasm was well-founded.

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