• Candice Forte

Review: Institute for Excellence in Writing®

Updated: Aug 28

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.

A big struggle of mine as a homeschool teacher is how to teach writing well. What a blessing it has been to use the new Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level B (grades 6-8) from Institute for Excellence in Writing®. This is our 4th year using IEW®. First, let me break down what the new Structure and Style® for Students is all about.

What does the curriculum teach?

There are 9 units in Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level B and they are covered in a 24 week time span. There are instructions on how to stretch that time to 30 weeks, though. Here are the 9 units:

  1. Note Making and Outlines

  2. Writing From Notes

  3. Retelling Narrative Stories

  4. Summarizing a Reference

  5. Writing From Pictures

  6. Summarizing Multiple References

  7. Inventive Writing

  8. Formal Essay Models

  9. Formal Critique

It breaks down writing by first giving the student something to write about, called a source text. It teaches the student to take notes from the source text via a Key Word Outline (KWO) and to rewrite from notes using the same key material but their own words. It's really genius!

Once that basic concept is cemented, it starts building using the Easy +1 method. Unit 2 adds the first "dress-up" in an -ly adverb. It keeps you there for a little bit to hone skills and then on to Unit 3. Stylistic techniques are added, as well as mechanics and formatting items as you go. There are always checklists for each paper. C is good enough at it at this point his KWO can be done solo and his rough draft. I come in and help him correct and clear up the draft and go through the checklist to make sure everything is there. Then, he copies or types the final. He actually used this in a non-writing class this year and got a great grade!

He went from a very weak writer, to writing an entire paper on Ulysses S. Grant with more than 3 source texts (books) and 3 topics. It was several pages. He included all the fun style elements to keep the paper interesting and he has learned to paint with words (word pictures) in a way that we have only read about in literature. I had him redo that fun with the updated curriculum for Unit 6: Week 16. Since has has vast experience with the curriculum we felt pretty comfortable trying it out. The early lessons were review. Here's what he wrote (typed so you can read it better): Week 16 Screen Shot:

And the final product:

Bear in mind, he is just 6th grade, so with more practice and a full year with this updated curriculum, he will do even better! He always improves!

Speaking of literature, literature suggestions are included and it has geography, vocabulary, etc included in the video lessons. The interdisciplinary study is a wonderful addition!

What Changed?

There were enough big changes that I feel the new version is a wonderful value. There is interdisciplinary study (geography, vocabulary, etc), the video looks fresher, and it has streaming capability. It still has physical products, though, in the form of a student binder and teacher manual. Now, an aside on the streaming...if you buy the streaming package the videos end up in your IEW® account and are non-transferable. So if you, like many homeschoolers, want to purchase, use, and resell to recoup some cost, you will want to go with the disc version. The streaming does make it very convenient to access, though. I did access it via our television's web browser and it didn't work very well for me. We also had some difficulty with it via AirPlay from our iPad to our television. These are tv issues, but they bear mentioning. The iPad ran it fine without AirPlay. It was not anything impossible to overcome, but for some reason pausing and resuming were an issue for us on the tv. We had no problem with it through our iMac and IEW® account, though.

The teacher's manual is so easy to use and encompasses the student materials in it. It makes planning a snap!

It begins with instructions on how to adapt the curriculum per your needs. Once a week? 2-3 days a week? 4-5 days a week? They have you covered with suggested daily breakdowns. We need these types of things. We are paralyzed without them!

This new manual gives you time stamps per lesson. I am a visual person and the new manual really helps me. It has a very detailed daily breakdown.

Onto the next piece of the curriculum:

The student binder!

It comes with tabbed separators for organization (with instructions on when to put what where in the teacher's manual...the same instructions in the videos). It has the same daily task list and everything from the teacher's manual. You see what your student sees, and more.

We love IEW® and we hope we have helped you learn more about how it can help you grow clear and confident writers! Also, we hope we have shed some light on why the updates to the program are worth upgrading! To see more takes on the new Institute for Excellence in Writing Structure and Style® for Students check out the Homeschool Review Crew website or click the banner below!