The IEW Method
IEW stands for the Institute for Excellence in Writing, a proven writing method, which teaches skills of structure and style in an orderly progression. Each new skill is built on the foundation of previously learned skills. With repeated practice, the skills become “natural.” Eventually, the student is able to employ and manipulate them in his own creative and unique style.
Instead of focusing on creativity, as most writing classes do, the IEW method equips students with writing tools of structure and style. The method approaches writing as a discipline, with particular skills to be learned, practiced, and mastered. As a result, both “reluctant writers” and “natural writers” are able to grow in their abilities.
I am an IEW-accredited instructor at the Certified Level with twenty years of IEW teaching experience. In addition to teaching my own personally designed IEW courses for homeschoolers, I also taught at IEW’s 2010 Writing Educators’ Symposium at Wake Forest and for Westminster Schools of Augusta’s 2011–2013 Summer Program. I regularly have students published in IEW’s Magnum Opus magazine, and former students often contact me with reports of their success in their college writing.
The short answer is, “It depends.”
Here is the long answer:
Although there is no “magic pill” for writing, IEW produces outstanding results; in my experience, it works for every type of student! It just takes a little longer for some kids, and it depends on how much effort you as the Parent Editor are willing to put into it.
I have a son who had some sort of language processing disorder, and he had a very hard time with reading and writing. But through a combination of memorization, reading aloud, and IEW, over time he developed very strong language skills and now he writes with ease. He even writes his own blog posts for his business website.
The Parent Editor must be willing to work with the student to the extent necessary. For some parents that means sitting with the student every day, guiding him and keeping him on task. For other parents, it means a quick review and editing of the paragraphs of an assignment as they are finished.
For students with severe language issues, the best choice might be to start with my PREP-1 class, to prepare the foundation for the writing in Level 1. Please contact me to discuss this option if you would like more information about the benefits of PREP-1.
All students need help and external motivation. The students who do not make progress in my classes are those who do not receive enough oversight. Some of those students are very bright and quick learners, and some are students who struggle.
What makes the difference is how committed the parent is, not how bright the student is.
Registration and Fees
Writing is not only an academic subject but also an art similar to music. I determine my class prices by local prices for music lessons, taking into account the amount of time I spend in class and outside of class, evaluating homework papers, creating materials, and communicating with and helping parents and students.
For examples of the cost of music lessons in Augusta, please visit Turner’s Keyboards, Portman’s Music Academy, and The Musical Express. Private music lessons in the Augusta area are approximately $25-$31/half hour.
Teaching writing is very teacher-intensive. I spend an average of 1/2 hour on each individual student’s homework after each class, evaluating (grading) the work turned in. I carefully evaluate homework papers and communicate my assessments with students and parents through Thinkwave so that students can improve. The time I spend on individual grading is roughly equivalent to the time a piano teacher spends teaching a private lesson.
In addition to grading time, each graded assignment is preceded by a 1.5 hour class session. Without including the individual time spent on each student’s work, my classes have a unit cost of $9.91/half hour (or $9.13/half hour with the discount).
One of my favorite quotes from Andrew Pudewa is, “Parents pay me to grade. I teach the classes for free.” 🙂
Furthermore, unlike music lessons, which always require students to purchase music throughout the year in addition to the cost of lessons, I provide my students with all the materials they need for class. All students, both local and online, receive a physical copy of my custom textbook created specifically for each class, as a part of the total cost.
Besides the grading, materials, and class sessions, which are held live for both local and online students, my students also benefit from other hours I spend outside of class. I write my own curriculum, as well as create new materials (see here and here) throughout the year as I see the need. When extra guidance is needed for assignments, I am available during the school week to answer questions, give direction, problem solve, or clarify instructions.
In summary, my prices compare favorably with the cost of music lessons.
As a thank you for people completing their registration before the start of the busy summer months, I offer an Early Bird discount for students who are registered, with a paid registration fee and completed registration form, by May 31st. No other discounts are offered.
No. Only students for whom I have received the registration fee and form are guaranteed a place in the class, for two reasons:
- In the past I have turned students away because I was holding a spot for a student who ultimately did not register, leaving me with an unfilled spot that could have been filled.
- Most importantly, though, registration is a significant indication of parental commitment. I want students whose parents are convinced of the value of the class. The commitment of my writing parents is crucial to the progress of their students.
I want all parents who join my classes to be confident in their decision, so I never use “sales techniques” to encourage someone to register. However, if you are thinking of registering but have questions, I will happily discuss your questions to give you the information you need. I will also put you in contact with one of my Veteran Writing Parents who can answer your questions from a parent’s perspective.
No, I do not give refunds. Years ago I realized that some parents registered their students to hold a place while they decided on their school plan for the year. I was sometimes left without any compensation for unused materials and unfilled spots that could have been filled with other students. The “no refund” policy encourages parents to register only when they are sure they want to participate in my classes.
Understandably, sometimes situations change and parents have to make a different plan for school before classes begin or even after they start. My 3-installment payment schedule was created to address this reality.
Payments are made at registration, at the Parents’ Meeting when receiving materials, and at the first October class. If a student drops the class before the 2nd or 3rd payment, the parent has not lost all the money and I have been compensated for the time, work, and materials already spent on the student.
I do not offer individual tutoring. I love the group interaction of the classroom and I am at my best there! Writing is one subject that is taught most effectively in a lively group setting.
No, I do not offer classes in the summer. I spend the summer reviewing, revising, and recharging for the new school year, so I can be ready and refreshed when classes start!
Students who are enrolled in a full time school are not eligible for my classes for several reasons:
- My classes, both local and online, are held live during the school day, when students are attending school. I do not offer any after-hours or pre-recorded classes.
- Students enrolled in a full-time school that includes a language arts class do not have time to do all the work that is required for my courses in addition to the work for another language arts class. Students who take my class are expected to complete all the work that I assign and there simply isn’t time to do that with two language arts classes.
- Keeping up with the methods and requirements for two different language arts teachers would be confusing for the student rather than helpful.
For online classes, the maximum number of students per class is 14, which is the most students I can manage well on the Zoom screen. For local classes, the maximum number is 16; that is all I have room for in my classroom. Generally the classes are smaller than the maximum number.
Classes start the day after Labor Day and end approximately the last week of April/first week of May, depending on how the calendar falls each year.
Classes meet every other week. In between, students have a nine-day writing schedule. They are supervised by a parent, who is called the Editor.
I stumbled into the two week schedule. After I agreed to teach my first paid classes for a co-op, I learned that they only met every two weeks. I was skeptical that such a schedule would work. I soon changed my mind, because the extra week between classes produces great results.
Not counting weekends, weekly students have only four non-class days each week to write. This adds up to eight days per two weeks. In contrast, the 2-week schedule allows nine days to write. The assignment sheet breaks the work into nine daily “to-do” lists. The extra day makes a huge difference in the pace of the work.
Once people experience the less frantic pace of biweekly classes, they come to appreciate it as much as I do!
We have a week break for Thanksgiving week, a 5-week break at the end of 1st Semester (Dec. into Jan.), and a Spring Break week during the first full week of April.
The only people who are not good candidates for Writing to Learn classes are parents who want their students to be mainly autonomous.
My classes require each student to have a Parent Editor, a parent who stays in tune with what the student is doing and helps to the extent necessary. The Parent Editor has specific responsibilities; see the list here.
I am very committed to offering The Very Best Writing Classes in the USA 🙂 and supporting parents as they help their students. It is my joy to problem solve with parents whose students have difficulties so that their students can grow and succeed in their writing.
All students can learn to write well, and I have seen it happen repeatedly in my 20 years of IEW teaching. During this time, I have had hundreds of students, many with language learning issues, who have gone on to college and/or career and succeeded tremendously in their writing!
Yet every year I have a few students who do not progress because they do not put in the work necessary. This usually happens because either:
1) No one supervised them to make sure they did the work.
2) No one helped them if they had difficulties.
All students need help and external motivation.
Parents who want a hands-off class for their students are not a good fit for Writing to Learn classes.
The Role of Editor
There are NO famous writers who do not have editors. In fact, the higher an author rises in the publishing world, the more editors he collects. Also, even some college professors insist that students have an editor, because, wisely, they have learned that unedited papers are painful to grade. 🙂
Since even the most experienced writers need editors, why do we think that a middle school or high school student can get along without one?
The role of Editor is actually a Suzuki Music idea. In Suzuki classes, each student has a practicing parent who attends the lesson and learns the skills. This parent is responsible for overseeing practice sessions so that the student doesn’t go for a whole week practicing incorrectly.
All students need help and external motivation. They also need correction so that they do not end up practicing skills incorrectly several times in row. When mistakes are repeated, they are much more difficult to unlearn and correct. Immediate correction speeds up the learning process and the acquisition of skills. This is why all of my students must have a parent who agrees to serve as Editor.
Here is IEW creator Andrew Pudewa’s explanation of the role of Editor: 🙂
The difference between a mom and an editor is that an editor gives corrections without a lecture attached. An editor does not give grades; he helps prepare a piece for publication. He is an assistant rather than a teacher.
It is much, much easier to spot someone else’s mistakes than one’s own. Everyone should have an editor, including students. It is the most efficient way of improving a paper and making progress in writing.
In Writing to Learn classes, the student is instructed on the assignment sheet to take work to the Editor for review at regular intervals. The Parent Editor commits to:
- Checking emails regularly. This is how I communicate with parents and students about issues on homework, notifications to check grades, assignment corrections and clarifications, and many other issues.
- Reading the pages assigned in the handbook so they know what their students are working on. Parents can’t help if they don’t know what we’re doing.
- Keeping the student on track with the 9-day writing schedule. Procrastination is a death sentence for writing success.
- Working with the student to the extent necessary to complete the assignments.
- Reviewing and helping the student correct missing or incorrect items on the current assignment.
- Assuring that the completed homework is turned in on class day.
- Reviewing grades and comments on returned assignments so they can know what the student needs to correct on the next assignment.
Yes, it is absolutely necessary. My classes meet every two weeks, and that is much too long for a student to go without oversight. Actually, even one week is too long.
The oversight of the Editor is one of the most important aspects of Writing to Learn classes. It is possibly the top reason that my students are so successful in their writing. Conversely, my few students who for some reason do not receive consistent Editor oversight usually flounder and fail to progress.
Understandably, many homeschool parents want outside classes that give them a break from teaching; however, all of my students must have a parent who commits to serving as Editor.
Sometimes parents worry that they don’t know enough about writing to help their student. The great thing about IEW and Writing to Learn classes is that you will learn to write along with your student as you read the handbook pages, review the skills we are practicing, and act as a second pair of eyes for your student on each assignment.
Each assignment slowly adds new skills to the previously learned skills. Your job as the Parent Editor is to read the handbook pages so you know what the student is supposed to do. You will also make sure the work is being done according to the schedule that I have laid out for each of the nine days on the assignment sheet, so he/she doesn’t get behind, which is the WORST thing in writing. When your student brings the work to you as instructed on the assignment sheet, you will read over the paragraph and help correct whatever you notice is missing or incorrect.
It is WAY easier to catch someone else’s mistakes than it is your own, and you will be able to help. You may not catch everything, but that’s ok. The process of review and rewriting works wonders in a student’s writing skills.
Class Levels and Curriculum
I do not use any IEW publications in my writing classes; I write and publish my own curriculum. Here are the covers of my handbooks for my three writing levels:
My writing courses are reviewed and approved by IEW every two years when I go through reaccreditation. Over the course of Level 1 and Level 2, all nine IEW units and all style techniques, except for Triple Extensions, are learned and practiced. Triple Extensions are covered in Level 3.
For PREP-1, in addition to my custom handbook, students also receive a copy of Andrew Pudewa’s Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization. It is the only IEW book used in any of my classes.
See this video about my custom handbooks!
The only differences are the location, the day, and the time.
Local classes meet in my home in my dedicated classroom, which was recently renovated. Two different local Level 1 classes are available: Tuesday at 1-2:30 PM and Wednesday at 1-2:30 PM.
The online Level 1 classes are held live on Zoom. The class sessions are exactly like the sessions I hold locally in my home except we see and hear each other on our computers instead of in my house. Both online Level 1 classes meet on Tuesday, with a choice of either 10-11:30 AM or 3-4:30 PM.
There is no difference in the curriculum for the various Level 1 classes. The handbook and assignments for each Level 1 class are exactly the same.
The only differences are the location, day, and time.
Local classes meet in my home in my dedicated classroom, which was recently renovated. One local Level 2 class is available: Thursday at 1-2:30 PM.
The online Level 2 class is held live on Zoom. The class sessions are exactly like the sessions I hold locally in my home except we see and hear each other on our computers instead of in my house. The online Level 2 class meets on Wednesday at 10-11:30 AM.
There is no difference in the curriculum between the Level 2 classes. The handbook and assignments for each Level 2 class are exactly the same.
Level 2 writing requires well developed abstract thinking skills, as well as a command of the skills taught in my Level 1 class.
Students 8th grade and up who have completed my Level 1 class with at least an 80% for the year are eligible for Level 2.
Students in 10th grade+ with a strong IEW background from other IEW courses may be assessed for Level 2.
Students younger than 10th grade or with little or no IEW background must begin with Level 1. Level 2 is the most challenging of my courses, and I have found that younger IEW students from other courses struggle greatly in my Level 2.
The IEW method is unique. Each level builds on the previous level(s). As a comparison, consider a flutist who decides to learn to play the piano. Although piano and flute utilize the same music theory, both require many skills that are specific to the instrument. The flutist cannot skip the first piano book. An experienced flutist will quickly absorb and begin to apply the new piano knowledge, but the knowledge still must be learned first.
I was in my 40s when I first began to learn the IEW method! I had many writing skills, but I still had to start at the beginning, with the same skills my students learn in Level 1. However, being an older and more experienced writer, I was able to quickly absorb and begin applying the new skills.
All students must start at the beginning, but older and/or more experienced students will write at a more complex level more quickly than the younger students.
Students who have completed my Level 1 are eligible for Level 2. Additionally, students 10th grade and up with a strong foundation in IEW are eligible to be assessed for Level 2.
High school students who have had little or no IEW training must begin in Level 1. I have many high school students in Level 1 each year. 🙂
None of my levels can be described as “easy.” Even Level 1 is plenty challenging for a high school student who puts in genuine effort instead of “cruising.”
I was in my 40s when I first began learning IEW. I still remember the brain strain as I worked on implementing the first few structure and style techniques that Andrew Pudewa taught in the teacher training videos. 🙂 He said his purpose in having us write an assignment with the skills was not JUST so we could practice them; he wanted us to be more empathetic toward our students and to recognize that using the skills with ease and finesse takes practice and time…even for totally grown adults.
Level 1 students who are older and already have some writing skills will be able to use the structure and style skills at a more mature level than will the younger, inexperienced students. The complexity of Level 1 can be increased by choosing more challenging materials for assignments that allow students to pick their own resources, such as for the research report and the novel review.
Only by suffering through the training of Level 1 will a student have the skills and the perseverance for Level 2. 🙂
Homework, Grades, and Credit
Yes. Each class is followed by a daily homework assignment, which the student completes over the two-week writing period. The assignment includes the skills learned in that class, as well as all previously learned skills. A 9-day “to-do” list tells the student exactly what to do each day.
The 9-day schedule begins the day after class and ends the day before the next class. No homework is assigned on weekends. 🙂
Yes. I consider grading very important. The student will not progress without guidance for improvement. I give specific comments for improvement on each homework assignment, and I expect the student to incorporate these in the next assignment.
Each assignment is accompanied by a checklist that details the required elements and the point value for each. The grade is based on these objective criteria.
You should plan for your student to spend 30-60 minutes daily on the homework. The 9-day homework schedule only includes week days, not weekends.
Local students submit homework in the folders I provide. After I grade the papers, I post the grade and any comments on Thinkwave. The student can review them and make any needed corrections to the current assignment he is working on. The folder with the graded paper is returned at the next class.
Online students turn homework in on Thinkwave, the academic site I use. I review, mark, and grade each assignment and then post the graded copy to Thinkwave. The student can then review the graded copy and incorporate any corrections in the current assignment.
Grades are posted on Thinkwave for each assignment. As each grade is added, Thinkwave calculates and displays a cumulative grade for the semester. I send PDF “report cards” at the end of each semester through Thinkwave to the parent’s email address.
I give a full Language Arts credit for successful completion (averaged grade of at least 75% for each semester) of the course. Each student will receive a PDF documenting the credit and an overall assessment of writing progress.
States differ in their requirements for documentation. I am accredited by The Institute for Excellence in Writing, not by state agencies. It is the responsibility of parents to determine whether the documentation I provide is acceptable for their state.
In Georgia, where I am based, my documentation is sufficient to meet state requirements. I am not familiar with the requirements of other states. However, to date I have had students from South Carolina, Florida, New York, Connecticut, and Missouri who have returned for more classes. 🙂
To be eligible to move on to the next level, students must have submitted all homework and the final exam by the last class day, and earned a cumulative grade of 80% or higher on homework and the final exam.
In addition to the percentage grade, I have detailed a set of skills that I have found to be essential before moving to Level 2 or Level 3. I assess the students on these skills throughout the year, and my assessment is included on the semester report cards, along with the cumulative percentage grades. Although these skills do not affect the students’ calculated percentage grade and the credits they receive, I do use them at the end of the year to determine whether a student is ready to move on to the next level of writing classes. A student who is “Struggling” or “Developing” in these skills generally is not ready to progress to the next level. Parents should use the following information to work on these areas throughout the year.
I use the following SKILLS SCALE for each of the skills:
- Struggling: Student often has difficulty implementing the skill;
- Developing: Student has difficulty but is making progress in implementing the skill;
- Proficient: Student is usually successful in implementing the skill;
- Outstanding: Student implements the skill correctly and with excellence.
Here are the SKILLS I assess:
- Class Participation: Answers questions and shares writing, voluntarily or if called on. Has assignment accessible to be shared.
- Online classroom behavior (online students only): Keeps mic open/video on without having to be asked, in order to facilitate participation; avoids use of phone/computer except for classroom activities.
- Focus: Stays focused and engaged in class discussion and avoids distracting self and others with extraneous activity and discussion.
- Attention to detail, following directions, and conscientious effort: An attitude of careful attention to detail and to all directions on the assignment sheets and composition checklists is evident in the quality of the student’s work.
- Submitting homework: Correctly submits homework on time and in the correct form with all KWOs, rough drafts, and final drafts in the correct order (and correct file types for online students).
- MLA: Correctly implements MLA guidelines for formatting (and citation of sources when required in a research paper).
- Structure and Style Skills: Able to implement all structure and style skills for student’s level.
- Grammar Rules and Usage: Generally correct sentence construction, punctuation, and language.
I love literature and I have a passion for teaching students to love it and to learn how to think and write about it. Since all of my writing families have so many different approaches in their homeschool courses, I have developed my courses to work with any family’s school plan.
In Levels 1 and 2, we do Fiction writing/Literary analysis in the Winter/Spring Semester. I use the Center for Lit method of literary analysis, promoted by Andrew Pudewa, to teach students a useful method of analyzing literature. In the literature sections my students learn how to think about and analyze any novel or short story.
The first literature assignments in both Level 1 and Level 2 are based on a short story. Level 1 analyzes a short Jack London story, and Level 2 writes a comparison essay of a short story and movie, “The Little Mermaid.” This allows the students to practice all the elements of literary analysis using a manageable and understandable piece of literature. After the short story paper, the student then writes another paper on a novel chosen from my book list.
My book list is varied, with many selections of different complexity. My main criteria is that a book be well-written and worth reading, regardless of the length and depth. See a partial list of titles on my Story Chart page. I am in the process of creating Story Charts for all of the high-quality books I have read but that is a life-long process. Students may choose any of the novels on my Story Chart page to write about, but I also allow them to choose books I have read but have not yet created a chart for.
A good reading plan for students is to read one classic novel per month. It really doesn’t matter which books a student reads, as long as they are high-quality books! I agree with the approach to literature set forth by Adam Andrews of the Center for Lit: “Education is not about what you read, or how many you read. It’s about how well you read. It’s about whether you are ready for the Great Books of the Western tradition to do their proper work on your soul. And if you’re ready, it only takes one.” I feel so strongly about this that I urge you to read my article and afterwards to listen to Andrews’ talk, “Asking the Right Questions,” linked in my article.