Thursday, March 5, 2015

The "Write" Stuff

For my blog, this is the first in a series of posts about curriculum.  I love trying new things and finding real winners when it comes to curriculum.  I am happy to finally have a child old enough to work with the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) here is my post about it...

The case for the Student Writing Intensive program that Emmett is working on now. 

Student Writing Intensive Binder that holds the lesson plans, compositions, checklists and source texts. 

Andrew Pudewa has done wonders in teaching children how to write.  Andrew Pudewa taught ME how to write.  I really didn't know how to write until a few years ago when I was introduced to his writing program called Teaching Writing: Structure and Style.   This DVD and workbook is the seminar for the teacher to learn how to teach his program.  The Student Writing Intensive is the student DVD lessons that Emmett is working on now.  (Note: even though the lessons are on DVD with Mr. Pudewa instructing, I sit with Emmett and explain things to him and be there for support.  I never leave him in front of the computer to fend for himself.)

I encourage you to click on the links above and check out all of his wonderful source texts, materials and teaching programs that are available on the IEW website.

Looking back on my experience with writing in the past, I'll never forget being in college and getting Cs on all of my papers.  I remember being in my professor's office talking her after getting another C.  Honestly, I don't remember what she even talked to me about.  I do remember seeing red ink pen marked all over every paper I wrote in my English class. More than what she said, I remember how I felt.  I was discouraged, upset and insecure.  I felt like I wasn't  "college material".  No matter how hard I tried, I still got Cs.

Fast forward now about 15 years.  I am happy to say I actually WAS "college material".  I made it through college, became a teacher, and now can teach my own three children in our home.

I came across Andrew Pudewa and IEW in about 2006 when I began my teaching and tutoring business and did research in the classical model of education.  I have had so much success with the classical model of teaching IEW in particular.

Wonderful curriculum aside, however, I had success for two reasons:
  1.  I connected with my students
  2.  I was flexible. 
In all my years of teaching, tutoring and consulting with parents, I have found that both home educating parents and teachers in schools alike have had some misconceptions about what it means to use and implement a curriculum.  I have seen parents who buy curriculum, research curriculum, buy books that review curriculum, talk about curriculum, swap and trade curriculum, and the list goes on. However, all this talk of curriculum does not always equal success.  There is more to it.

Two examples about how investing in curriculum alone won't work:
  1.  I worked with a parent once who was so frustrated because she was trying to implement the Spell to Write and Read program by Wanda Senseri.  She was so frustrated because her son wasn't getting it.  The program suggests to not start writing in the learning log until the student knows cursive.  Her son did not know cursive so she was holding him back from writing and reading and learning the phonograms.  I suggested to her to let her son print in his learning log!  Simple as that.  KNOW your child and adjust to his/her needs.  This parent could not understand why the program she purchased was not working for her son.  
  2. A local school that I worked with in my tutoring business used Andrew Pudewa's IEW program.  The few students I tutored absolutely HATED writing.  This is the opposite of the desired effect of this program!  What some of the teachers at the school were doing was getting so hung up on the dress up idea and the number of elements they required for the checklist/rubric portion of the assignment that the students lost sight of what it was they were even doing.  They were too busy checking off items and creating a product for a demanding and nit picky teacher.  

Nothing works, even if it is the best curriculum ever written, if it is not implemented with the specific child in mind.  If the parent/educator is not willing to be flexible and make adjustments, then the success will not happen.  

Two possible remedies for the above examples:
  1. Mom can adjust to the needs of her child.  There is nothing wrong with the curriculum.  She just needs to flexible.  I haven't quite figured out if this is something that comes naturally in teaching or if it is learned.  Adjusting to the needs of the child and teaching in a different way comes naturally to me.  However, I have seen others be completely confused about this.  This parent came to me for help and implemented the same program but in a different way and made some progress.  Sometimes, though, it is too late by the time the parent calls me for help.  Also, many things can be undone at home.  
  2. The teachers in the school can adjust to the needs of their students.  There is clearly a disconnect between writing and enjoyment.  The teacher is losing sight of motivating the students and getting behind what he/she is teaching.  If the motivation is gone, the learning dwindles and what little of if is going on becomes somewhat inconsequential. It has a spiraling effect.  Children want to please.  If the student is only checking items off a checklist for a writing composition there is minimal desire to please going on.   The system starts to break down and the curriculum, no matter how great, is hurting the whole situation.  
Presently, with all my experience teaching, tutoring, consulting and working with teachers in schools, I am happy to be able to implement curriculum in my own way with my own children!  I have learned so much from working in the field of education for so many years.  For example, I have learned:

  • self directed learning is amazing
  • curriculum is only as good as how it is implemented
  • the desire to please adults is strong in children
  • humor and a positive outlook yields great results
  • teaching a child can affect his life FOREVER

Now to IEW!  IEW is a wonderful way to teach writing.  Andrew Pudewa takes the most common problem that children have with their writing and he completely flips it around.  Rather than starting with the scary blank page and simply just a topic, he begins with an actual paragraph composition and then dissects it with the students.  He does this by using the key word outline format and then retelling the paragraph by rewriting it from the outline.  I have seen this work with so many students, including myself!  

Even now when I sit down to type a blog post, I see the blank screen and it makes me nervous.  In the IEW program, you start with a model paragraph, dissect it, and then rewrite it in your own words.

Below, in the videos, Emmett explains what he is doing with his writing.  

Emmett's first keyword outline from the source text, Sea Snakes, in the Student Writing Intensive DVD lessons.

Emmett's report on Sea Snakes.  

Even while Emmett is doing all this writing, he still finds time to build with Legos. :)

I have to sign off on this blog post as my computer is acting up and I don't want to lose the whole thing! 

This is what it looks like outside of our front door on our snow day today here in Waynesboro, VA. A good day for blogging, I would say. 

Please share ideas, questions, curriculum you love, and anything relating to writing.  I would love to hear what you think.  

Happy Writing!

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