These questions explain how Excellence in Writing fits into various curricula, its relationship to a language arts program, and some incidental teaching questions, such as what age to start, who can benefit, and more.
Question: At what age should you start using Excellence in Writing's materials?
Answer: The teacher's seminar covers all levels of writing, from the beginning in first or second grade through high school. The Advanced Communication Series prepares a senior in high school for college.
Although you could start this program as soon as a child can put pen to paper, it should be started gradually with an emphasis on dictation and with plenty of parental help, including writing down what your child dictates. Focus on good reading skills early on, and the writing can follow.
This question is answered by Moms from our IEW Families site. What is IEW Families?
I began the IEW journey largely because I had tried so many programs with my LD son without success. He was (unfortunately) a sophomore before I found Andrew's program, and HATED to write. I'm so excited for you that your DS is only 10. You have many years to develop this skill.
IEW made the most remarkable change in my son. He truly enjoys writing now, and is beginning college next week. My advice.... be sure to buy the TWSS/SWI combo. Watch twss, and take the swi slowly. Don't move to a new skill until the first one is mastered. After he learns key word outlines, you can have him verbally give you the sentences and you write them.
Tell him how to spell the words he wants to use and be his "human dictionary and thesauras." Watching the twss will give you great confidence in helping him begin to master this wonderful world of writing.
One other comment, from one mom to another, are you comfortable with your diagnosis? We spent many years searching to find all the puzzle pieces that made up our son.
I've been homeschooling my severely LD boy for the last 7 years. He has dyslexia, dysgraphia, limited auditory comprehension, aspergers,etc. Don't worry! If he can't write the sentence on his own, have him dictate to you. I did that for years with mine and out of the 4 he was the most creative, probably because he didn't have to worry about spelling, capitals, punctuation, etc. Just try to use the same verbage every time you are asking for a particular task. Break down EVERYTHING, task analyze. If he can't remember, spell, comprehend, and write, you certainly can't ask him to do all that at once. Try having him dictate one sentence to you. Then write it on the board. then have him read it out loud. Then have him try to write it independently. Then try to have him find any mistakes. Then correct together. Do you see? Always be positive and these baby steps will pay off. And he'll remember the cues you give him because you'll say the same thing every time.
My 10 y/o son sounds similar to yours [Does your son love to bounce by any chance? :-) Mine does.] He still struggles with spelling and writing complete sentences, but this program has given him some concrete guidelines. I keep the composition times with him quite short and don't require him to complete everything perfectly. If he forgets to do something, I use the checklist to remind him, and I am sure to keep everything positive (no yelling or disgusting sighs when he spells the same word wrong in two different ways).
Once he does a rough draft of a paragraph and we "edit" it for spelling, he seems to enjoy writing it again in his best handwriting, which is quite amazing to me since he can barely sit still for two minutes. Seeing that final product of a neatly written paper that he has done all by himself has motivated him to try again the next week. He also enjoys using the key word outline to "tell back" something he has learned. It keeps him on track. I video him "telling back" (I do this with all five kids; my 6 yo says his ABCs or recites a poem) so he can watch himself. He does all the critiquing and then tries to improve the next time.
Enjoy your son right where he is, all the while encouraging and validating who he is (i.e., "I see your diligence in trying to complete this. I know it's a challenge, but look at how well you spelled "house" this time. Remember when you couldn't spell that because you forgot about that "e" at the end. You're improving every day! I see your character growing!") while pointing out just one area where he can improve (i.e., "Remember the "-ly" words? Where could you put one of those? Let's think of a few places you could use an "-ly" word and then you pick just one and put it in before you do your final draft." You may have to remind him of this one thing for a month or so, but that's all right. He'll get it if you don't grow weary in encouraging him. It's a growth process for you too). Wait until that area is mastered (or at least he doesn't forget about it) before moving on to something else. You have plenty of time (since your son is only 10) to work through composition.
I have a son who just turned 10 and is dysgraphic. We've been trying to teach him typing while still working on some basic handwriting skills. Anyway, this summer, I started doing IEW with him and we are taking it very, very slowly and our son is actually not having fits of frustration at the mention of writing even one simple word anymore. The hardest thing for me to do is to not mention how poor his writing is when we are working on IEW as it is more important for him to get his thoughts down on paper than for him to concentrate on his letter formation. Basically, as long as I can read it and he can read it later on, then it is acceptable.
There are times when he will take more time typing out the paragraph on the computer than it would take him to write it out because I think that he gets down on himself looking at his own writing. Sometimes, on days when he is struggling too much, I will let him dictate to me while I type for him so that he can still feel successful despite the writing struggle. It's only been one summer, but so far it seems to be working for us. Hang in there, take it slow and remember that you are working on a skill that will carry him far in life, not just get him through "school".
Question: If I teach Excellence in Writing, do I also need to use another Grammar Program? If so, what do you recommend?
Answer: We do not recommend any particular grammar program. It seems that most children who actually know much grammar didn't learn it from a workbook, but in one of three ways or a combination thereof:
Foreign language, preferably Latin.
A lot of writing, with questions answered as needed.
An outstanding teacher who could make grammar meaningful and interesting.
It is not our place to say how much grammar you may or may not need, but to provide you, the teacher, with resources to help you understand English better, so you can teach at the point of need. Therefore, these reference books are meant to be just that. We offer two: Enough About Grammar and Blue Book of Grammar.
Question: To what degree does your program overlap with other English programs. For example, does your program get into writing mechanics/conventions, usage problems, literary forms (poetry, newspaper writing, letters), or other typical elements of a language arts program?
Answer: We do not formally address the workbook type of punctuation and grammar exercises that are common in a language arts curriculum. Such materials are readily available and do not usually include content directly related to composition. We do teach and require a variety of grammatical patterns, but being able to identify all the different constructions is not a prerequisite for beginning to learn how to use them. In fact, many teachers have enjoyed the way this approach puts grammar information in context and allows them to teach at the point of need, rather than mechanically working through an exercise book without much application to literature or composition.
Poetry, although valuable, is not included or presented in our syllabus; neither are stream of consciousness creative word plays. Our Unit VII, entitled "Creative Writing," essentially means being able to write from one's own base of knowledge, thought or experiencebut with a specific structure to the composition. Of our eight structural units, there are both fiction and nonfiction models that can be applied in different contexts; however, many approaches teach various forms of writing. We believe that if a student masters the eight models of our syllabus, he will be prepared to adapt to any format that may be required of him in the future.
Question: Is the IEW seminar Teacher Training using a particular method, a presentation of a developed curriculum, or both?
Answer: The word "curriculum" usually implies a set of materials for student use, i.e. workbooks at different grade levels with a teacher guide, answer key, etc. A "syllabus" indicates a course of study or outline of things to be learned. Our seminar is designed to help you become a better teacher and coach of writing. In it we elaborate upon our syllabus/workbook, which contains specific goals and teaching procedures, example checklists, recommended materials and student samples.
Providing nine structural models (composition formats of 1-5 paragraphsboth fiction and nonfiction) and four groups of six stylistic techniques (specific grammatical usages to be taught and required), this approach can be used with children of all ages and levels. When applied to different grades, what varies is the sophistication of content and style and speed of progression. All students learn the skills. Rapidly, older students can acquire greater composition organization and sentence fluency; at a younger age, skills developed will be more thoroughly internalized. Using the syllabus with children of varying ages and aptitudes, parents and teachers have found the model and style checklist approach highly effective.
Question: Does your program include helps/guides for the teacher regarding evaluation of student efforts?
Answer: Absolutely. Because we use a checklist-based approach, it is easy for the parent or teacher to give specific assignment goals and to evaluate or grade the student based on those goals. Like learning a musical instrument, writing is learned by practice. Skills should be learned in a step-by-step approach, with a layering of techniques and an ability-appropriate level of challenge for each assignment. When a student's writing is awkward, instead of marking it "awkward," the teacher can show the student how to overcome the difficulty and then require it on subsequent checklists.
Every time students are given an assignment, they are provided with a model to follow and stylistic checklist to complete. Re-writes are required until the checklist is complete. Because of this approach, students can and should receive a 100%, A+ on every writing assignment. Once students have demonstrated mastery of both the models and stylistic techniques, then instructors can free their students from the checklist and allow them to develop their own writing style using the many tools they now have at their disposal.
Question: How does your program fit in with the Classical Model?
Answer: One of the fundamental ideas of the Classical Model is the emphasis on skills development as a prerequisite for creativity and expression. Many writing programs are set up first to help a child figure out what to write in order to be able to practice writing. With our syllabus, we separate the problems of "what to write" and "how to write." Young children do not have a wealth of experience and knowledge to draw upon when writing. In fact, it's a little absurd to ask them to write about their thoughts or feelings until they have practiced and are comfortable with the basic activity of putting sentences on paper. Therefore, in providing them with the content (what to write), in demonstrating a specific model to follow, and in giving them a concrete checklist of a variety of grammatical constructs and techniques to use in each paragraph, we can teach them to develop a high level of skill and confidence with writing. Because the classical model also encourages ability development by repetition, our approach of using everything learned so far in every paragraph written provides that repetition and allows even the most remedial student to produce a decent composition again and again with increasing independence.
Question: Is your program distinctly Christian as well as classical?
Answer: There is no religious content in any of our video courses. Some sample student compositions do mention God; however, that is normally within the bounds of free expression and personal opinion allowed students in their own writing. As far as the printed materials we sell, the only book with distinctly religious content would be, of course, Bible-based Writing Lessons. The Grammar of Poetry uses scripture along with other classic poetry as examples of poetic devices but has been accepted by several public schools. The Effects of Music on Life contains some brief comments about the effects of music within Christian churches.
A friend of ours did make a particularly thought-provoking statement, however. She suggested: "Learning anything through a method which is by its nature truthful helps to develop in the children who use such a method their basic sensitivity to truth."
Question: Will this seminar help my own writing? How about my spouse's?
Answer: Although we clearly promote this as a teacher development program, we have had extensive feedback confirming that the syllabus is helpful at every level. Even graduate level university students have found the ideas presented in our syllabus to be useful in papers and dissertations!
This question is answered by Moms from our IEW Families site. What is IEW Families?
I remember when I was at a homeschool conference looking at some other writing materials and a very nice Mom poked her head over my shoulder and pointed me to IEW. I glanced at it then, but like you, thought it looked overwhelming.
A year later, I decided to give it a try and I absolutely wish I had done it so much sooner. IEW is not difficult to use or teach, in fact, it's easier and clearer than most of what's out there. The "thought" of it is what can be overwhelming, but the program itself is not complicated. Once you get it, begin using it and learn how to teach writing using IEW - you'll wish you started sooner. Plus, you have this great group for support if you ever have questions!!
I looked at the website yearly for about 4 years before I finally bought it. Each time I looked at the website I thought, "I can't do this. It looks too hard. It's $229 and I won't be able to do it” Fast forward to the next year and I said the same thing.
Finally this year I decided that all the people I admire that recommend it must have a REASON for liking it so much so I bit the bullet.
Between what is in the plans, the help on the IEW families loop and what you have at the lesson share site, you won't have to put much effort into lesson planning especially if you have a curriculum you already use. Your son will learn the techniques and then apply them to his regular assignments.
I'm currently working through SWI-B with my two oldest. I'm going at our own pace (slower than 1 disc/day MUCH faster than the 15 week
lesson plan). And I'm NOT a good lesson planner. I'm happy when I'm convinced they 'get' a topic like the KWO or the dress-ups.
This is NOT hard to teach. It really isn't. If you flip through the TM without watching the CD's it can look confusing and overwhelming. Once you listen to Andrew explain everything it all makes sense.
Last night, dd (13) thanked me for getting IEW. It is making writing 'fun and much easier' for her. My ds (11) feels the same way. He never put pen to paper before. Now he is doing it, enjoying it and showing a creative side that he never has.