Mar 18, 2013

IEW - Student Intensive Writing Course - Official Review

I recently borrowed the IEW - Student Intensive Writing Course Level C, from a very dear friend of mine to try to help KM prepare for the writing portion of the GED. My friend's children, whom KM is very close with, enjoyed the program and highly recommended it. I also have heard many rave reviews on several of the larger home ed lists that I am, but was always hesitant because of the price and some potential negative outcomes that I had heard of. So when my friend eliminated the cost issue by lending it to me, I figured we would give it a try.

Here is the description of the program from the website - Recorded live with Mr. Andrew Pudewa, this four-DVD writing course for students lays a solid foundation of writing skills, based on our Teaching Writing: Structure & Style syllabus. Over the course of 15–30 weeks, students will learn how to effectively use a wide range of structural models and stylistic techniques in their compositions, as they write on a variety of enjoyable fiction and non-fiction topics. Included with the student handouts are complete teacher's notes, source texts, assignments, and checklists.

As I mentioned previously, we decided to take some time to focus specifically on KMs writing skills this month, so I thought this would be the perfect thing to start with. We decided to do about a lesson a day, but that we would keep it open ended in case KM needed more time on something. The videos were recorded over four days, but that is more than a little TOO intensive for us.

The program starts out by explaining an outlining technique that helps you jot down a two or three words to remind you of the content in the sentence so that when you go to summarize you don't look at the actual paragraph, article or whatever source you are using. This worked out very well for KM. It allowed her to have something to write about without the stress of having to "think" of something on the spot. Here is what she came up with -
How Music Shaped our Nation
The committee in charge of writing the Declaration of Independence consisted of John Adams, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, who all agreed on the main points of the first draft, but decided that the final draft should be more artistic and precise. Jefferson received this task because Adams was too rough, Franklin too sick, and Paine was too controversial. Jefferson’s landlady recorded his struggle in her journal, which was him pacing and seemingly accomplishing very little. He sent home for his violin which he would play for a while and then quietly work on the Declaration. After a few days it was completed and ready. Music helped him unlock his linguistic genius and helped him find the words of destiny which few people know about today.

The next lesson covers structure and explains the "story sequence". The kids were given a story to outline and they could either rewrite it or create a similar one with the same sequence. Again KM liked this outlining format and found it very helpful. Here is the story she came up with -
Le Chef Foo

Once upon a time in Cheshire, Mongolvia there was a young, simple Chef de Cuisine. He had finally graduated from culinary school and opened a new restaurant. Chef had was working on a recipe for a stew, that his grandma used to make, for the grand opening. He was about to put in some pepper when his sous chef said “No, no, no! You should use the onion powder instead.” And so the chef did.
Next, the chef tried to put in some potatoes, but his chef de froid told him, in a very knowing tone, “You mustn’t use those, put in some artichokes.” Well the chef de froid seemed to know best, so the young chef put in the green thistle.
As the chef was slicing the beef, the old pastry chef walked over and shook his head. “What is the matter?” asked the young chef. “You shouldn’t use beef, my boy, rabbit would be far better.” replied the old chef. Since the Chef de Cuisine was so young he trusted his elder and added rabbit instead.

Finally it was time to serve it to the customers and boy, oh boy did they hate it! Every single dish was sent back. All the critics said it was the worst food in town. After everyone read the reviews no one would dine there. The restaurant had to close.
and
Who Won the West Side 
In a dark alley Mr.Duke, a big mobster, was patiently waiting for his rival Mr.Wallace. They were in a fierce battle over territory on the West Side. Mr.Duke heard a scuffle from the foggy opening, which made him whip out his shotgun. “Mr.Wallace has arrived.”, thought the mobster, as he fired his first of six bullets.


“Hello, Mr.Duke. One shouldn’t fire shots as a welcome.”, whispered a voice from behind him. Mr.Wallace walked up to Mr.Duke, who was quite scared, and held his gun against the mobster’s back.
“Surrender your turf to me now.” Duke swung around with incredible speed and as he grabbed the gun, he aimed for Wallace’s foot. He shouted, “Never.” when he shot the gun.


Although Mr.Duke had won the battle, there was another predator waiting around the corner. Agent McKinley had trained as a sniper during the Korean War, which allowed him to be unseen by the winning mobster. McKinley quickly fired 2 shots at Mr.Duke, who fell instantly to the ground. 
Mr.Wallace heard the shots and cautiously peeked around the corner to see what happened. When he saw Duke lying on the ground, he knew that all of the West Side was now his.
KM had no complaints up to this point other than the fact that she felt that Mr. Pudewa talked down to the kids, talked A LOT and didn't give them enough time to write down the notes as he was giving them.

The next skills that they covered were called "dress-ups" and these are things that Pudewa thinks should be added to enhance all writing and here is the point where I started to loose confidence in the program. The students are required to included certain things in each and every paragraph and this cause the writing to all sound very much the same - a potential negative outcome that I had thought might occur given the extremely structured nature of the program. 
The revisions are minor, but to me, they seem to be more distracting than enhancing. 
In my opinion, KM's story was better before she did the following rewrites to Le Chef Foo


Once upon a time in Cheshire, Mongolvia there was a young, simple Chef de Cuisine. He had finally graduated from culinary school and determinedly opened a new restaurant. Chef was working on a delicious recipe for a stew, that his grandma used to make, for the grand opening. He was about to dash in some pepper when his sous chef exclaimed, “No, no, no! You should use the onion powder instead.”, which convinced the chef to do so.

Although the chef tried to add some potatoes, his chef de froid told him, in a very knowing tone, “You mustn’t use those, put in some artichokes.” Well the chef de froid appeared to know many things, so the young chef put in the green thistle.
As the chef was slicing the beef, the old pastry chef walked over and shook his head. “What’s the matter?” asked the young chef. “You shouldn’t use beef, my boy, rabbit would be far better.” replied the old chef. Since the Chef de Cuisine was so young, he trusted his elder and added rabbit instead.

Finally it was time to serve it to the customers and boy, oh boy did they hate it! Every single dish was sent back quickly. When the critics said it was the worst food in town, no one would dine there. The restaurant had to close.

At this point they continued to cover more detail oriented things such as sentence openers, note taking, planning a paragraph, taking notes from live lectures, and writing full reports. As Pudewa read the students work, it was clear that the students in the class were catching on and KM was also noticing how similar their style was at just the point when they introduced more things that you should add and they called these "decorations". These included things like questions, dramatic openings or closings, similes or metaphors, and alliterations. KM agree with me on her pre-edited work being better, so was loosing gusto with the program. I told her to take things that she thinks will work and leave those that she feels are unnecessary. She should make it what she needs it to be.

After reports they proceed to more things that they recommend you put in each paragraph and these are denoted as "decorations" - things like questions, quotations, alliterations and similes or metaphors. While the program thinks you should have one dress-up in every sentence, they advice utilizing 1 or 2 of these in each paragraph. 

Finally the program heads into essay writing, which was the main area that KM was looking for assistance in. They begin with the basic 5 paragraph essay and give some tips on planning out how many paragraphs you need to write for an assignment if it is given to with required words or pages. They also cover the Rhetoric Model, Super-Essay Model and outlining and thinking skills. These are all things that KM is fairly familiar with so was feeling more than a little disappointed by the lack of new information.

All and all KM felt let down by the program. She felt although the description of the program was accurate, she had been expecting more time to be spent on essay writing and more suggestions on open prompt writing as 90% of the assignments were rewriting the work of others - short articles or stories that you used the outlines structures to recreate. I honestly feel that there were some positive benefits as she had a good time being creative and the program did get her to write which helped improve her confidence. I also think that the outlining, story sequencing and note taking will be very helpful to her reading comprehension and study skills. However it did not give her any sort of tools to help her get past that blank mind feeling she gets whenever she sees a writing prompt. This is generally called brainstorming skills and we are going to have to find something to help her work on that. I am glad that she had the opportunity to try it, but also glad that we borrowed it because I do not feel that it would have been worth the $109 + shipping.

Now I feel as though I should also mention that although this program would not be considered secular by many people there was only one small mention of the bible and it was in regards to there being a number of similes and metaphors within it's passages. 
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