Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Institute for Excellence in Writing ~ Level A

I had the privilege of reviewing the Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package Level A, for grades 3-5, along with A Word Write Now and Portable Walls for Institute for Excellence in Writing.

The set includes:
My Initial Thoughts 
To be honest, when I first began looking through Teaching Writing: Structure & Style, I was extremely overwhelmed. I felt like I was about to climb an insurmountable mountain that was surely going to end in failure. I put the curriculum aside for a day and then went back to it, determined to not let it intimidate me. I began organizing the curriculum with the amazing step by step instructions and started to feel a sense of accomplishment. As I began watching the first teacher training DVD, my fears, doubts and questions all melted away. It was like the clouds had lifted and the sun was shining down on me. After listening to the first two hour instructional DVD, all I could say was, "WOW"!!! I had truly stumbled upon a real gem of a curriculum. My excitement was hard to contain and I couldn't wait to continue learning this amazing approach to writing. I soon realized that this curriculum was going to be just as beneficial for me as it would be for my children. My only sadness came with the thought that I wished I would have stumbled upon this curriculum years ago. I could not wait to share with my children, all that there was to glean from Institute for Excellence in Writing.

Institute for Excellence in Writing suggests that you follow the following schedule in order to complete the curriculum in one school year:
  • Units 1-2 in September
  • Unit 3 in October
  • Unit 4 in November
  • Unit 5 in December/January
  • Unit 6 in February 
  • Unit 7 in March
  • Unit 8 in April
  • Unit 9 in May
Of course, this is just a guide. The curriculum can easily by adjusted for the older student, wishing to complete the curriculum at a faster pace, or the younger student, needing more time to successfully complete it. 

A Thematic Thesaurus for Stylized Writing

A Word Right Now is a theme based thesaurus for the student to reference in order to use more variety in there writing. 

Section A, covers character traits such as:

Such words as "frightened", "unsurely", and "shy away" are just a few of the colorful words that could be used instead of fearfulness. The words are broken down into parts of speech. Each character trait is defined. Quotes and excerpts form Classical Literature are included for each character trait. 

Section B, covers descriptive words such as:

Adjectives for texture based on different textures such as wetness, roughness, fuzziness and tightness are given. Excerpts from Classical Literature are included to show how more colorful words are used in the context of writing.

Section C, covers words for movement and senses. 

The Appendix has many useful tools for the student to use in order to aid in their writing journey. 

Portable Walls

The Portable Walls is an amazing "go to tool" for the student to reference as they write. This reference folder included helpful reminders in the following:

  • Dress-ups
  • Sentence Openers
  • Decorations
  • Triple Extensions
  • "-ly" Adverbs
  • "-ly" Imposters
  • Prepositions
  • Synonyms for "said"
  • Strong Verbs
The portable wall also includes an overall summary for each unit. This is so very helpful!!!

Teaching Writing: Structure and Style
Institute for Excellence in Writing really sets out to help the educator understand the whole writing process and how it has been taught WRONG for so many years. It was pointed out that there is a very broad aptitude as well as a broad spectrum between students of same grades. This curriculum model sets out to reach all aptitudes and spectrums. So much of learning has to do with ATTITUDE. When a student is struggling learning is often times counterproductive. 

As educators, we need to stop and step back to think about some very critical components of the student writer. Have you ever heard your student or child say, "I just do not know what to write"? Well, often times, we as teachers tell a child to write about a particular topic or give them a writing prompt and say, write. Well, this sets the child up for failure. "Why"?, you ask. Well, a child does not have much life experience to come up with the content. Children think in the now. Source material for writing needs to come from what the child knows, not what they have only heard. As the children improve their writing skills, they also expand their thinking skills. Teaching writing is a building block process. If you stack the blocks out of order and haphazardly, the result will be a mess.

What do most children do when they hear, "Lets do grammar"? Normally it is not positive. Well, this curriculum sneaks grammar into the writing process, using context to teach grammar. 

Did you know that different areas of the brain direct different skills? Handwriting and art require fine motor skills. Composition, which encompasses language function and syntax, requires logic. Spelling is unique in that it requires, "correct retrial of sequentially stored virtually random bits of information".  You cannot expect the younger students to produce a composition if you are making them focus on handwriting too. Now, I am not saying that handwriting is not important, because it is.  When a younger students have to constantly jump from using one part of their brain to another, QUALITY and CONCENTRATION is lost. With patience and time, handwriting, composition and spelling become more automatic. 

No Erasing Allowed, did you know that:
  • turning a pencil around to utilize the eraser breaks the brains thought process 
  • having a no eraser rule "fights perfectionism"
I could continue to write about all of the amazing gems that I have learned while using Institute for Excellence in Writing, but I will let you, the reviewer, glean this information for yourself. This curriculum has so much to offer. 

Who used Student Writing Intensive
I used Student Writing Intensive with my 3rd and 6th graders. I focused more on my 6th grader, due to the short amount of time that I had to review this product. My 6th grader loves to read and write but we have not really stuck with any formal writing program, as of yet. When I first introduced the program to her, she was hesitant about what would be expected. I put her mind at ease and explained how Institute for Excellence in Writing was different than most writing curriculums that we had previously used. A smile appeared across her face when she successfully completed her first Keyword Outline and her Retelling. She enjoyed the DVD sessions. After the first go around, she was able to complete this two-step process modeled in the first 2 units of Student Writing Intensive in a very short amount of time, with great ease. The step by step process taught is straightforward. 

In Unit 1 the student is taught how to look at a given source text and make an outline. It is recommended that the student use their outline to orally retell the story or information of the source text. The curriculum explains in detail how to create a source text outline using three key words from each sentence. Symbols may be included in the outline and are considered FREE. The student is instructed in how to choose important key words in the outline process. 

In Unit 2 the focus is on retelling, in the students own words, using their outline the source text. The goal is to retell the source text in the students own words. One important rule of the rewriting process is that there is NO ERASING ALLOWED!! The focus should be on content and not on the handwriting. The goal is to have the child feel confident in their writing ability. The student is asked to produce several drafts in order to make sure that structure, style and mechanics are included in the final draft. 

My 6th grader was able to read a source text, produce an outline and retell the information in one sitting. At first the process took a greater length of time but as she continued to practice this process it became easy and enjoyable. 

For this review, we worked through units 1-2. I am looking forward to working through the rest of the units. I want to follow the suggested plan of progression so as not to compromise the desired outcome of skills for each unit. 

Fix-It! Grammar
I absolutely love Institute for Excellence in Writing's approach to teaching grammar. Instead of grammar exercises and worksheets that teach grammar rules and concepts, this curriculum utilizes stories to model proper grammar. Repetition ensures that the student gains mastery. The student acquires grammar rules and skills at the points that they are needed, within the given text. In about 15 minutes a day, four days a week, your student will learn vocabulary, grammar, style, editing skills, and textual fixes. Each day builds on the prior day's story text. Fix-It! Grammar Book 1 uses text from The Brother Grimm Fairy Tale ~ The Nose Tree. Fix-It! Grammar Book 2 uses text from Robin Hood. 

The purchase of the Fix-It! Grammar, Teacher's Manual entitles it's owner to a free download of the following:
  • Fix-It! Student Book e-book
  • Mastery Learning e-audio
  • But..But...But...What About Grammar? e-audio
If you would rather purchase the preprinted, spiral bound book, it is available for purchase. 

How we used it

I had my 3rd and 6th graders use the Fix It! Grammar books. This program is unlike any program that they have used in the past, in regard to grammar. They both liked that it only took a short amount of time each day. They also liked that they got to build upon a story to learn grammar. Both of my daughters are avid readers and so this really appealed to both of them. I found it easiest to sit and work through the given text each day with them instead of sending them off to do the days work on their own. This method of learning grammar is much more laid back and enjoyable that traditional grammar texts. 

Overall Thoughts
If you are looking for a writing curriculum, look no further. I would highly recommend this curriculum to homeschoolers and educators, alike. 

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1 comment:

  1. Fix-It! Grammar is one of our favorites! (Plus, I get to sneak in penmanship. ;))