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Teaching Writing: Structure and Style

by Andrew Pudewa

Reviewed by Martha Robinson

Purchase details: Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, by Andrew Pudewa. DVD's and seminar notebook, $169. Published by The Institute for Excellence in Writing Please support by buying this program from our Christian Book Distributors link or Amazon affiliate link. The VHS version of this program was reviewed.

Updated review! See the additional recommendation below!

Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, consisting of seven videotapes and a notebook, is a "how to teach composition" program for parents of children in grades two to eleven. Andrew Pudewa of The Institute for Excellence in Writing teaches writing workshops throughout the country, and this program is a videotape of his two day seminar for parents and teachers. All of Mr. Pudewas programs, popularly referred to as simply "IEW," are based on Mrs. Anna Ingham's "Blended Sound-Sight Program" and James B. Webster's book, Blended Structure and Style in Composition. Teaching Writing: Structure and Style has the goal of making all children into effective writers by helping the parent to stretch out the writing of the reluctant child, while paring down and focusing the writing of the verbose child.

The heart of Teaching Writing: Structure and Style is the modeling technique. Students begin by learning to take notes and to make a key word outline from a short selection. They then narrate and write the story from their notes to create a composition in their own words. Suggested adjustments to tailor the class to younger or older students are included in the notebook.

After mastering the first step, Mr. Pudewa recommends working on style with the addition of what he calls "dress-ups," adjectives, adverbs, dependent clauses, and so forth. He does not feel that it is important for the student to know the technical term (such as adverbial clause) in order to use it. Rules of grammar may be introduced as they come up. Mr. Pudewa recommends a variety of wall charts to help the student think of more creative words to use while writing, and checklists to give the student a great feeling when he or she adds an element.

Teaching Writing: Structure and Style introduces complex techniques in subsequent lessons. After teaching a method for summarizing stories, Mr. Pudewa covers the more advanced topic of summarizing references to build a research report. During this section, he explains how to begin paragraphs with a topic sentence and end with a clincher. In the following unit, Mr. Pudewa switches gears to more creative writing with making a story from a three-frame comic strip. In the later units, recommended for grades 4 and up, creative writing and essays are used to teach the concepts of an introduction and conclusion in longer compositions. The final lesson covers writing a "critique," something that resembles the high school level book report or short story report.

The materials included in the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style package are videotapes and a notebook. Six of the professionally filmed videotapes show Mr. Pudewa conducting the seminar in front of a group of parents. His bouncy and charismatic style is easy to watch and holds one's attention. The notebook, also called the syllabus, offers notes for each of the units along with an appendix full of samples, ideas, on-line resources, and teaching suggestions. The seventh videotape shows Mr. Pudewa conducting an approximately two-hour seminar of the first two units of the program with children. The parent's choice of the elementary (grade 2-4), intermediate (grades 5-7), or high school (grades 8-10+) tape is included in the package. While this tape is not of the same professional sound and video quality as the parent seminar tapes, it has great value in showing the technique used in a live situation with children.

Recommendation: If you never excelled in writing and you are fearful of teaching your children how to write, you cannot miss with this program. Mr. Pudewa offers a simple, step-by-step approach in layman's terms that will let those who are behind in writing skills rapidly catch up and will give effective formulas to new writers.

Teaching Writing: Structure and Style will NOT take the place of a good grammar program. While effective use of grammar is not its goal, it will enhance the composition portions of any grammar program that the family wants to use.

This program may not be needed if you are using a grammar program, such as Rod and Staff English, that teaches composition gradually. If you are a natural writer and feel very comfortable in teaching your children the skill, you might find this program to be a bit too structured.

Many people are confused over what to order from the many programs offered by The Institute for Excellence in Writing. The Teaching Writing: Structure and Style set is for parents to learn how to teach their children. The seventh tape included in the set, the student workshop tape, could be shown to your children, but it only covers the first couple of units.

The Student Writing Intensive series (not reviewed) is a 10-hour video of Mr. Pudewa teaching the entire program to children. You could let your children follow the instructions of this course on their own. A combination package of the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style DVD's and the Student Writing Intensive series DVD's is available for $239, but basically the same material is covered with a different audience (parents versus students) so I do not think both would be needed. An additional program, Advanced Communication Series, is available for upper level high school and college level students and is reviewed separately.

Andrew Pudewas "IEW" is a highly popular program among homeschoolers, and its positive reputation is well-deserved. Mr. Pudewa gives confidence and knowledge to homeschooling parents who are anxious to have their children's (and their own!) writing skills excel.

Additional recommendation from Carli: Ages 11 and up can use IEW independently, using the SWI A, B, or C levels. SWI stands for Student Writing Intensive and it comes as a DVD series. The teacher involvement at that level would be editing, suggestions, and general overview of their assignments. SWI comes with a binder of materials for the student to use with the DVDs. On the back of each writing sample, there is a table with the writing assignment. This is where they would write in the due date which you, the teacher, would assign to them.

IEW is an excellent writing program. I thought it was a bit redundant at first; however, they are top rated every year and now after two years of using it (sparingly, because I drag my feet), my daughter is writing with absolute confidence and the students I know who use the program are excelling, writing three essays per week. (The three essays are not assigned by the IEW DVDs.) I clicked with Mr. Pudewa immediately while watching the DVDs and listening to him speak at a conference. There might be other writing programs that seem easier to implement but IEW is in my opinion, the best writing program on the homeschool market. It can be worked to fit any student and I cannot say that about any/all other programs. resources related to this review:'s Language Arts Resources Section for tons of ideas, links, and more!
Review of Advanced Communication Series by Andrew Pudewa
Review of Bible Based Writing Lessons in Structure and Style
Review of Writing Trails in American History, an IEW supplement
Review of Imitation in Writing, an IEW supplement
Review of Put That in Writing
Review of Phonetic Zoo

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