Thursday, June 11, 2015

IEW Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package Level C - A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

Review Crew
In April I learned that Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) was letting the Schoolhouse Review Crew review some of their newly revised products.
IEW Review
I was amazed at the selection we were given to choose from, and I was delighted when I was selected to review the Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package Level C. IEW was amazingly generous in what they were offering the Crew to review. I was also sent FIX-1 & 2,  PLUS A Word Write Now and Portable Walls. (Level C is for students doing 9th-12th grade level work.)
IEW Review

First, before anything else, I want to thank IEW for their generosity! I am still amazed at all that they gave me for this review! The contents of the Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package Level C [FIX-1 & 2]  included:
The Deluxe Combo also includes a Premium Code to be used to download additional resources worth a value of $99 if you were to purchase them. (To me it looks like it is worth more than that.) There are many valuable and worthwhile MP3 downloads, as well as multiple PDF downloads to assist the user in implementing the program for years to come.

When the Deluxe Combo package first arrived, I felt overwhelmed. My feeling was a combination somewhere between the delight of piles of packages on Christmas morning and the sense of dread when a college student has just purchased books for the semester. Wow!
I had had the opportunity previously to experience Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (TWSS) in its earlier format. I had purchased TWSS and SWI a few years ago.At that time I found the experience overwhelming. The original format was a one-week seminar where parents were taught, through a series of seminars over the course of a week, how to help their students begin, develop, and excel in their writing skills. However I came away from the experience feeling I could never remember it all It was wonderful, but I felt like a failure because I couldn't figure out how to implement it.

At that time I had purchased Student Writing Intensives (SWI), Level B, in the hopes that between TWSS and SWI I could figure out how to lead my son into becoming a quality writer. The Student Writing Intensives was set up the same way as the Teaching Writing with Structure and Style. It was filmed over the course of a week, where students sat in a classroom under the instruction of Andrew Pudewa, and over the course of a week Mr. Pudewa walked them through a process to help them succeed at writing. At that time my reaction was that: 1) I did not have a week where I could let my student focus on only writing to watch the series, and 2) I did not have the ability to break the program down on my own to spread it out over a school year.
When I had previoiiusly purchased TWSS and SWI, I had given it a try and quit. However I learned, when this review was being offered that the program had been revised, and I wanted to give the program another chance.

All I can say now is, "WOW!" What IEW has done with this program is amazing! I have hope! I'm no longer a failure at teaching writing to my son!

To start, I read the introductory material in both TWSS and SWI. Then I watched the first DVD in TWSS, which is teaching the parent how to teach. Next I reread the beginninig pages of SWI and  setup three notebooks: the Teaching Writing Workbook, the Student Notebook for Student Writing Intensives, and an additional notebook to hold student papers not yet needed, which get handed out as the course progresses. The SWI instructions to the parent said to watch the introductory DVD by myself, and then start watching the first course DVD in SWI with my student.

At this point I got briefly confused. I had already watched an introductory DVD (for TWSS), but I was now supposed to watch the introductory DVD for SWI. I missed that point, so my son's first experience was starting to watch the introductory SWI DVD with me that I was supposed to watch alone. He was very unhappy with it, and it didn't take me too long to realize that I had him watching the wrong DVD. Oops! So I let him go do other schoolwork, and I watched the SWI introductory DVD that day.

So, the next day we were actually able to start the program. (Our tight schedule the first day prohibited starting over that day.) So, my son was already starting out with an affected attitude about doing a program with me that we had tried before and failed at, a program that he had sat through a long session of DVD the day before that had been really boring to him. He was a good sport, though. It did take him several days to warm up to Mr. Pudewa, but soon he was right on board, willing each day to work on the program.
So, let me explain why the program is better now. It is as if Mr. Pudewa read my mind and knew where I was struggling with these DVDs. The SWI program is set up now in a way that spreads the watching and the work out over a 36-week period. The TWSS is set up in a similar manner in that is now set up to be watched over a 36-week period. It is wonderful. The additional downloaded materials supplement the 36-week program, and the goal is that the teacher and student will learn how to use the program, and then continue to use the program for several additional years until the student is a confident, competent writer.

So, with the new program my student's writing began to bloom. The very first week he produced a fine writing assignment, and the weeks went on from there. I couldn't be happier. My son felt confident and wanted to watch the segments on his own and do the assignments, but that just didn't work. We need to watch together. There are times when the teacher needs to give the student the next reading/outlining/writing resource, and the information didn't get to me. Then my son would say, "I don't know what the assignment was." Clearly I was in the dark and could not help, so once again it is true, "Follow the Directions". The program is designed to be watched by the student AND the teacher, or the teacher can watch the student segment in advance, but the program is not designed to be done by the student independently.

I have discussed TWSS and SWI. Now let me tell you about the additional products included with the Deluxe Combo. First, there is Fix-It! Grammar. I received physical copies of the Teacher's Manuals for The Nose Tree (Book 1) and Robin Hood (Book 2). I received digital copies of the Student Books for each of these. 

I had the opportunity to review Fix-It! Grammar, Level 3 last year, but unfortunately my son did not have an adequate foundation to start off at Level 3. I was thankful to have this opportunity to let my son establish a good foundation, since I received this time Levels 1 and 2. I started by setting up a notebook for his Fix-It! work, with sections for grammar, vocabulary, etc. as indicated in the directions.

Having already used Fix-It! , my son knew just what to do. He resisted the program in the same places (looking up definitions for the vocabulary). However, he found the required work smooth sailing, though, and this was a pleasant portion of our IEW review.

We also received A Word Write Now, which becomes your student's own thesaurus. It is a beautiful, spiral-bound book. It is not an exhaustive thesaurus, but for selected words gives the student options they might not have thought of.

I really like the way A Word Write Now is made, so nice and sturdy, and the internal format of the content, such that a word like "anger" has choices for noun, verb, adverb and adjective.

A similar tool, Portable Walls is a tool the student can keep in the inside pocket of their notebook to pull out and reference when they need to. It gives quick-helps for each unit as they work their way through SWI. It has "Dress-Ups", "Sentence Openers", "Decorations", "Triple Extensions", "'-ly' Adverbs", "'-ly' Imposters", "Prepositions", "Synonyms for 'Said'", "Strong Verbs", Unit 1-2: "Notes and Outlines", Unit 3: "Story Sequence Model", Unit 4: "Summarizing References", Unit 5: "Writing from Pictures", Unit 6: "Library Research", Unit 7: "Creative Writing", Unit 8: "Essay Model", and "Unit 9: "Critique Writing". That's a lot of content in a fold-out equivalent to three front-and-back pages!

We keep our Portable Walls in the Student Notebook where it can easily be pulled out anytime my student needs a little word help.

I can't say enough about how wonderful this Deluxe Combo is, what a blessing it will be for years to come. I now have confidence that when my son applies to college he will have a portfolio of solid writing assignments available for prospective college recruiters to look at when considering my son for a scholarship. We have only had the program a limited number of weeks thus far, but I am so thankful. I can't wait to continue to dig in deeper in the years to come, and I am enjoying watching my son's writing improve. I don't know if he will ever enjoy receiving a writing assignment, but I have confidence that he will be equipped to complete assignments when he gets to college.
Every year the Crew votes on their favorite products they reviewed over the course of the year. I have to tell you that by far this is my favorite product I've reviewed in a long time -- not just this year! So as you go to your Homeschool Conferences, be sure to stop by the IEW booth and check out the Deluxe Combo set, or just order it off of the IEW website.

IEW has Deluxe Combo sets for all age and grade levels. They also have special sets for Special Needs students. To read more reviews about IEW Deluxe Combo sets and Special Needs products, click on the link below to see other reviews by other members of the Crew.

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