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The Writing Curriculum For Struggling Writers

As a teacher and parent, I’m always looking for great writing curriculums.  Writing does not come easy to many students.  When I taught middle school, many of my students struggled with writing an organized paper. Recently I was introduced to IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) writing by one of my friends.  Joie was a former school teacher who now homeschool her two children. She’s also teaches IEW writing at Classical Conversations CO-OP and is a presenter at various Parent Practicums.  Joie has had great success using IEW with both of her children.  I was thrilled when Joie kindly agreed to write a post explaining IEW briefly.

HOW IEW WRITING  CURRICULUM HELPED MY SON BY JOIE H. 

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN?

I am the proud mother of two terrific kids. My daughter, the eldest, always seemed to be a bit ahead of the game. My son met every baby and toddler benchmark on time, except talking. By age 3 he was diagnosed with severe Apraxia, a speech motor planning disorder. He could understand everything but he just couldn’t speak. To make matters more interesting for him, by age 4 he was diagnosed with ADHD, inattentive and hyper!

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE METHODS YOU TRIED WITH YOUR SON?

We did quite a bit to get him to talk. We used pictures and flashcards and all sorts of television shows that promoted speech. I was thrilled when he would match his magnetic letters to the sounds he heard. And even more thrilling was when he would copy whole words and sentences from a show or a book that he loved. When it came to writing, I really struggled with knowing quite what to do for him. He has poor word retrieval, so it was a HUGE challenge for him to be given a topic and expect him to write about it. I was pretty excited when he would draw Thomas the Tank Engine and then write “TR!” Entering grade school my little guy could write all his letters. And he was learning to read. So, being classically minded, I got a copy work book called Draw, Write Now. He did a wonderful job copying the little descriptive paragraphs and drawing the pictures. It was a grand start, but he still wasn’t writing on his own yet, only copying what someone else had written.

HOW DOES IEW WORK?

My daughter’s writing, on the other hand had taken off! She was in fourth grade and the curriculum we were using in her co-op class was simply amazing! Institute for Excellence in Writing, or familiarly known as IEW, had a format for writing that was simply brilliant. It is an incredible curriculum where the child is provided with a source text and from the text makes a Key Word Outline (KWO). There are rules. No more than 3 words on a line and no more than 7 lines. Once the Key Word Outline has been created, the student is required to write an original paragraph using only the words/symbols from the KWO. Every lesson is designed to teach a new “dress-up” which might include an -ly word (adverb) or a who/which clause (an adjectival clause) or a because clause (an adverbial clause) and so on. There are also vocabulary words to add. This is all very tenderly introduced and done so with perfection.

WHAT PART OF IEW HELPED HIM THE MOST? 

This spring, my third grader, who was struggling to come up with complete thoughts on his own, was able to write a complete, two paragraph paper because of IEW! What helped him the most was that not only did he have to pick key words from a sentence, he had to reconstruct a sentence from the three words that he pulled out! He was truly able to demonstrate a complete comprehension of what he read because now he had to hear it, process the most important parts of what he read, write it down, then (my favorite part) make an entire sentence, all his own from what he had in his outline. IEW uses this simple format, which gives children confidence and ownership over what they do. For my son, it was actually taking all of his random words, and helping him put them in order!  Here’s a copy of his finished assignment that was typed up.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND IEW TO ALL TYPES OF WRITERS?

In my household I have two totally different kids that have had great success using the simple, yet incredibly comprehensive curriculum called IEW. I was able to tutor a class of ten this year using IEW. Their papers were wonderful, exceeding grade level in content and format. If you are looking for a writing curriculum with high interest stories, a basic, yet brilliant format, rich with vocabulary and writing styles and techniques, and one that can work even the struggling writer, check out IEW!

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