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Teaching Writing: Structure and Style DVD Seminar Complete Set Review by Laurie Gauger

Student Writing Intensive Level BComplete Set
Andrew Pudewa
Institute for Excellence in Writing

There are many reasons that I love homeschooling my children. One of the biggest benefits of this choice, is that I can learn with my daughters. Oh yes, I went to college, took all the classes, and graduated, even so, there were lessons where I did the minimum necessary to get by. Additionally, there are classes that were simply unavailable to me back when I was a student. Now, as a homeschooling parent, I appreciate the opportunities to learn in a deeper way. For those reasons, I am a curriculum nut. If you tell me that you have a complete set of a subject, I am there. Binders, organized lessons, worksheets, oh yes, bring it on.

One of the subjects that I am drawn to as a parent/teacher, is Writing. I was not a good writer as a student. I hated it, mainly because it intimidated me. What do I write about? How do I construct an outline? When my instructors required a minimum of three pages, I inwardly panicked. It was not until I was somewhere in the middle of my college years, and admittedly, helped along immensely by my husband, that I came into my own and not only learned how to draft a paper properly, but to also enjoy the process.

With my educational history being what it is, I determined that I would make it a high priority in our homeschool to make sure that my children would learn to write with confidence. When the opportunity arose to review this full teacher and student intensive course, I jumped at the chance.

I received the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) Structure and Style DVD Seminar and Student Writing Intensive Complete Sets, Level B to use and review, and let me say up front, that this set is phenomenal. It has everything necessary to get started, short of an extra binder or two, notebook paper, and a variety of reading materials. There are a few different sets available, that may be used with several grades at once. This set is intended for the middle school grades, that is grades 6-8.

There are two parts to this course, the parent/teacher instruction, which will guide you in how to teach this course, and then the student intensive, which is where the lessons and activities for students are found. I will break them up for you, so you can get an idea of what is in each.

It only makes sense to begin with the teacher section, because you cannot teach without the lessons, am I right? This part of the course includes a large binder with dividing tabs, master sheets, teacher procedures, goals, techniques, and appendices. There are over two hundred and three pages of instructions, which could easily cause a parent and/teacher to become overwhelmed. Fortunately, this course includes DVD instruction for every unit that you will teach. Twelve discs provide specific instruction in how to present the material to students. This is not a course where you can just wing it, you need to plan ahead to prepare for each unit, but it will be worth it, I promise.

The videos were filmed in a classroom setting, with instructor Andrew Pudewa teaching educators in a series of seminars. I suppose that you could have your child watch them with you, but personally, this is my time, where I can be taught, and soak up the knowledge for myself, before presenting it to my daughters. At any rate, I enjoy being the student as I plan future lessons.

Interestingly, as you will learn through the videos, the system that Pudewa teaches did not originate with him. He learned it from a class that he ended up taking for many years. The principles of the course resonated with him because they made the material accessible for the youngest of students. Thankfully for us, he has carried on the torch.

As I began the DVD's, it was encouraging to hear that Pudewa did not start out as a good writer either. He had the same issues that I had, including the major one, having no idea of a topic to write about.This course solves that problem by supplying the material for the students, through many short stories, articles, and paragraphs. He reassures us that providing this for students is not cheating, rather it teaches them how to put together the basic rules of the course in their minds. Over time, they will have enough experience through this process, to create their own topics. 

To say that Pudewa is thorough is an understatement. Each DVD covers a single unit, and he takes you through the entire lesson, writing out the notes with you, taking and answering questions, and troubleshooting for circumstances in which a student may not respond to the course the way a teacher hopes, or expects. He offers many firsthand experiences to encourage teachers. I have to laugh, because my background is in early childhood education, where I was taught that a preschooler's project, or learning activity, that it was the process, not the product that was important. Guess what? Pudewa also has experience in that field, and he made a point of saying that exact phrase, that as it relates to writing, it is the process, not the product! As is the case when I leave a teacher seminar that I attend in person, at the end of one of the DVD teacher seminars, I am encouraged, and ready to share what I have learned with my daughters. 

That covers the teacher part of this course. The second part of this program is for the students. They also receive a large binder, though not as full as the teacher binder. There are divider tabs for their work, and some general master sheets to use, as necessary. Students also have the benefit of DVD instruction in this writing intensive. Four of the discs are all the video instruction for the entire course. They are all labeled, and as you follow the syllabus, it is clearly marked what to watch, and when. There is an extra DVD, and this one is an overview of the course, meant for the teachers. You will find this same instruction in the DVD set for teachers that is a part of the complete premium set. 

As Pudewa was taped instructing teachers in the planning section, so he is taped teaching a classroom of students for this part of the course. As you would expect, he presents the material that you, as the teacher, went through in the earlier session. Something that stood out to me was his consistency in manner. He was the same personality whether instructing teachers or students. He has a pleasant, gentle disposition. He uses many personal examples when teaching, some humor here and there, and is overall approachable. The layout of the course is well organized, and easy to track. Once I have watched the planning video, I only need to put on the student video, and assign the daily exercises. 

This course is meant to be covered across the span of an entire school year. Depending on the age and grade level of your student, you might slow or increase your pace. We are on track to finish it as suggested, by the end of this school year.

I am using this course with both of my daughters, who are thirteen years old and fourteen years old. They are in eighth and ninth grade, respectively. Yes, technically my oldest could be working in the next level as she is now a freshman. She has been a reluctant writer when it comes to schoolwork though, and I felt that she would benefit from the program, as she can brush up on the basics. She is working on an additional high school level English class as well. The videos are the first part of the lessons, lasting from a few minutes, and sometimes closer to an hour. Daily assignments are given out after that, and may be a simple review, writing a paragraph, or creating an outline.

Included in the complete premium set:

For the teachers:

-Structure and Style Seminar and Practicum Workbook (in a sturdy binder)

-Organized notes and tabs for each unit

-Twelve DVD's for teaching writing (in a sturdy, padded, disc album)

-Teacher handouts and master sheets

For students:

-Student Writing Intensive student materials (in a sturdy binder)

-Student handouts

-Five DVD 's with overview, outlines, summaries, paragraph structures, sentence openers, and more.

All the materials arrived in a solid box and packaged very well.

This course may be used by homeschool families, schools and/or co-ops. If you are a homeschool family as we are, you may copy the handouts for your students. The copyright will not allow that for co-ops or schools. If that is where you will be using this, each student will need their own copy.

Lessons covered are as follows:

Unit 1.) Note Making and Outlines

Unit 2.) Writing from Notes

Unit 3.) Retelling Narrative Stories

Unit 4.) Summarizing a Reference

Unit 5.) Writing from Pictures

Unit 6.) Summarizing Multiple References

Unit 7.) Inventive Writing

Unit 8.) Formal Essay Models

Unit 9.) Formal Critique

Also included:

-Writing about Literature

-Stylistic Techniques


This is a scope and sequence program, and lessons are expected to be completed in order. I really love this program. Prior to this opportunity to review the course, I was familiar with the name IEW, but had never used the materials in our homeschool. This has been a game changer for us and will now be a part of our studies. I do not worry about leaving anything out, because it is so well put together. My daughters share my learning style, and prefer a well-organized, step by step, easy to follow syllabus. That makes this a solid fit for them as well. My youngest enjoys it the most, because she naturally loves school, but my oldest also finds this a palatable way to learn the foundations of writing. We give this product two thumbs up.

-Product review by Laurie Gauger, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, January 2019