Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.
One of those companies that I have heard about for a very long time is Institute for Excellence in Writing® (IEW). Their reputations as a strong writing instruction program is just a given in most circles of home education. But I was intimidated! The program was overwhelming to me to look at and think about the required prep for. That has definitely changed! Structure and Style® for Students is their new, redesigned writing program and it is so easy to implement! I am sold.
We received the middle school level of this program for this review. Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level B is where we began with our 6th grader and while it took a bit to get into (due to the student, not the program), it has been a good fit. We received everything we needed to get started except for a pen/pencil and some blank notebook paper. The program comes with:
- student pages and binder
- teacher’s manual, and
- access to the streaming video with “forever” access
This is a video based teaching structure with Andrew Pudewa. Mr. Pudewa teaches a class on the video. This is a class with live students that has been recorded for our benefit, to see real students using this material and for our students to get the benefit of a live class setting. Each video is about an hour and a half but is set up in the lesson plans to viewed over 2 class periods.
During each class period, Mr. Pudewa has the students interacting, writing, and taking notes. From there, he gives some specific writing assignments to be completed throughout the remainder of the week. The lesson plan runs for 4 days but can be stretched to 5 easily enough. We have even had to stretch it longer, which I’ll explain in just a bit.
Each week, the instruction is based on well-researched source texts, such as the example below, that IEW has put together. They have done their own research and writing so that parents can know that these source texts are quality materials. There are printed copies of this in the student pages and each week the student is given organization tips to help them learn to keep materials in order and easy to find.
A full piece of writing is completed each week of this 24 week course. This creates quite a strong set of writing by the end of the course. It begins with learning about a key word outline and creating this. Some of the outline is done during the class video and the rest is completed without the video. By the end of the course, the student is writing formal critiques. The entire set of styles that will be addressed in the 9 units includes:
- Note Making and Outlines
- Writing from Notes
- Retelling Narrative Stories
- Summarizing a Reference
- Writing From Pictures
- Summarizing Multiple References
- Inventive Writing
- Formal Essay Models, and
- Formal Critique
In addition to writing, vocabulary is a strong component of this course and is integrated well into the teaching class. No need to separate it out. Additionally, grammar is discussed creating a seamless inclusion of these parts of good writing. If you need more, they recommend adding Fix It! Grammar, another IEW product, to your class day.
Student Pages and Binder –
The student sets up the binder on the first day of the course, following the guidance given. Instructions are written to the student and are clear. Once the binder is set up to start, new organization instructions follow throughout the video lessons and at the end, as needed, to help the student learn to stay organized.
The Teacher’s Guide is spiral bound and contains all the information the parent/teacher needs to support the student through the video based class. There are clear reproductions of the student pages in the Teacher’s Guide, as well as gray boxes that provide additional information for the teacher. Some of these boxes include complete information on what Mr. Pudewa writes on the white board during the video and I have found these very helpful. I don’t sit down with Miss J for this class without my copy.
The videos will be found in your online portal through the IEW website. When you purchase the program, you create an account with them. You then have lifetime, 24/7/365 access to the videos through your account. You visit their website, login, and click the tab that includes you SSS videos.
Mine says SSS-1B Video since we are in Year 1 of Level B. Click that, select the lesson you are on, and off you go. There is a white mark partway through that shows you where to break between day 1 and day 2. You cannot see it in the screenshot below. Each part of the lesson run 30-45 minutes.
Our Use and Thoughts
I have been very pleased. It takes a long while for Miss J to work through the lessons but she has come to enjoy them. Mr. Pudewa cracks a lot of jokes and that is something that Miss J doesn’t love. She calls it “misuse of jokage” but she laughs just the same. 🙂
The Teacher’s Guide claims that it takes between 30 and 45 minutes to work through each day’s materials but we have found it take a lot longer, especially since there is often a bit more to do after the videos are finished and they are often 45 minutes. Our solution is to have her work at completing the day’s materials on day 1 and day 2. We minimize other things if need be and she takes a couple of breaks since writing (the physical process AND getting words out of her head onto paper) has always been a challenge for her. She doesn’t necessarily have a problem, it has just not come easy to her. For the other two days on the lesson plans, she can take a day or two longer if needed. Since there are checklists on her weekly outlines, it is easy to see what she still needs to do for the lesson at any given point.
This is especially important to give her time since she has finally decided that her writing (the physical putting words to paper) is important and she wants to have good cursive. This last writing assignment took her 6 pages to write out. So, I gave her plenty of time to do her best. And it provided good, solid, high-quality writing.
I am very pleased with this IEW product and so glad they have come out with this new version of their writing program. As I said, with the old program, I was intimidated by it all as an adult. I couldn’t bear to share that intimidation with my girls but Structure and Style® for Students is a VERY accessible program that the student can enjoy being a part of. It has been a great fit for Miss J and I am pleased to recommend it to others.
The Homeschool Review Crew has been using this program at all three levels – A, B, and C – with their students for the past few weeks. Those who used Levels A and B are sharing their thoughts about it this week. Level C is going to be delayed just a bit but they should be joining the linkup before too terribly long. Click over to the Crew blog to read more.
Lori, At Home.