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Student Writing Intensive Continuation Course: Level C Review by Debra Brinkman

Andrew Pudewa and Jill Pike
Institute for Excellence in Writing
1 (800) 856-5815
8799 N. 387 Rd
Locust Grove, OK 74352

Has your child completed the Student Writing Intensive program from Institute for Excellence in Writing, and now you wonder just what to have them do next? That's the situation my high school student faced recently. There are a few options, of course. You could use a theme-based program, such as the Life Science-Based or the U.S. History-Based, Vol. 2. There are options to work on essays with The Elegant Essay or High School Essay Intensive. If your child learned well with the DVD-based instruction provided by Andrew Pudewa, you will definitely want to consider the appropriate Student Writing Intensive Continuation Course (SICC).

My high school student moved into the Level C (grades 9-12) SICC recently, and that has been a fabulous fit. The course includes nine DVDs of instruction for the student, a printed 3-hole-punched student packet, and a CD-ROM containing the teacher manuals and class handouts. You can purchase additional student packets in either printed or digital format.

The course includes 32 lessons, which can be completed over one year (by doing one lesson per week) or over two years (by doing each lesson over two weeks). We chose the two-year option, which is perfect pacing for my busy student. The teacher's manual contains suggestions for adjusting the program for either situation. The final two lessons are more general and can be repeated as often as you wish.

Before starting the Level C Continuation Course, the student should be familiar with the basic IEW structure and style. If they have completed Student Writing Intensive C (or B), they will be fine. However, from my experience with some of the theme-based programs, if they have thoroughly completed one of the B- or C-levels of those, they should do fine with the SICC Level C as well.

In this course, the student will write a variety of essays, conduct an interview and write about it, write a "super essay" complete with footnotes and a bibliography, and more. If you split this into two years, the first year will cover some paragraph writing, a couple of biographical essays, an interview essay, an event essay, and a couple of fables. The second year has the student writing a couple of persuasive essays, a letter to the editor, the super essay, and finally a couple of personal essays (think college application essays here). The optional lessons at the end include one on writing fiction, and one on essay or report writing.

What did this actually look like in my home? First off, my son was pretty independent with the learning. He would check in with me when starting a new lesson, and then watch Mr. Pudewa on the DVD. When possible, I would watch the lesson with him, otherwise I watched it myself at another time. These DVD portions were typically 30-60 minutes. After viewing the DVD, he'd check with me again to be sure he understood the assignment, and then he'd just get going on it. Usually, the first week would involve starting the assignment, and the second week would be where he'd turn in a rough draft and we'd go over that, polishing it up over that second week. I loved that I didn't have to be directly involved every day.

One difference from the Student Writing Intensive is that the assignments are given for the entire lesson, without a detailed daily breakdown. This means that my son is learning to manage his time, as he needs to make the decisions about pacing. Since the format isn't dramatically different from what he was doing before, this incremental approach has been great.

Like the previous course, the assignments in SICC are explained on the DVD, and many times, the outlining or brainstorming done "in class" can be the basis of that week's writing assignment. For more advanced writing students, the option exists to use another topic instead of what was presented. My son tends to be a bit writing-phobic, so working with the materials presented on the DVD works well. What I've found as he progresses, though, is that he is gaining confidence in these longer writing assignments. What could be better than that?

The best part of this, like most Institute for Excellence in Writing materials, is that you can re-use the materials with additional children. The Student Writing Intensive Continuation Course costs $199, but that is two full years of high school writing instruction, and by just getting additional student packets ($19 for a physical copy, $15 for a downloaded version) you have two years of instruction for the next child as well.

Product review by Debra Brinkman, Assistant to the Product Reviews Director, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, March, 2013