Bookworm loves to read, and while he also likes writing, I wouldn’t say it’s his favorite subject. I’m not sure what they taught him up through 3rd grade when he attended traditional school, but for 4th and 5th grade, we worked on book reports and writing at the paragraph level.
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Now that he’s entering 6th grade, I knew I wanted a more comprehensive writing program. We were offered a chance to try the Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package Level B with Fix It Grammar 1 and 2, and let me tell you, writing programs don’t get much more comprehensive than this! Offered by the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW), this program is already giving Bookworm the beginning of a strong writing foundation.
What We Received
- Teaching Writing: Structure & Style DVD set (includes 12 DVDs for the parents to watch)
- Seminar Workbook (this workbook accompanies the parents’ DVDs and gives further details about how to teach your children to become strong writers)
- Student Writing Intensive DVDs Level B, including the Structure & Style Overview (includes the 4 student DVDs where Mr. Pudewa teaches a live course)
- Student Notebook with handouts and lesson plans
- Fix-It! Grammar, Books 1 and 2 with downloadable student e-books (includes both teacher’s manuals with links to download the student books)
- A Word Write Now (this is a student thesaurus that gives synonyms for character trait words, words to describe, and words for movement and senses.)
- Portable Walls (this fold out includes details about all of the techniques used during the course. While this material is also available in the course materials, the fold out is handy for quick reference.)
This package (level B) is ideal for students in 6th – 8th grade. The complete package as listed above costs $299.
Our Experience with the Deluxe Combo Teacher Student Writing Package, Level B
I’ll be honest, when I received the kit in the mail, I was completely overwhelmed. There is so much material here! I looked at it for an hour or two before I plunged in and organized the files to get ready to use them. (I would have much preferred if they had already come assembled for me even though there wasn’t that much assembly required.)
This is also not an open and go program. In fact, it comes with 12 DVDs for the parents to watch. (That is 14 hours total viewing time, which may be watched during the year as you begin each new unit or all at once.) When I received the material, I was in the middle of a busy work weekend, so I was only able to watch a little of the DVD each day. However, I’m glad that I watched the first DVD before I started teaching because there was essential material in there.
When we received the program, I took three days to organize all of the material and watch the first teacher’s DVD. Then, the following Thursday, Bookworm and I were ready to start!
Student Writing Intensive (SWI)
We followed the Suggested SWI B Course Schedule. Following this schedule, a student watches about 45 minutes of instruction from Mr. Pudewa on DVD the first day. (Parents are advised to watch with their children.) Then, the rest of week 1 and all of week 2 are spent applying the lesson.
If used in this manner, the course is 30 weeks long. However, if you’re using this course with a high school student, IEW suggests you could double the pace and finish in 15 weeks. If you’re using this with a child younger than 6th grade, you will likely want to stretch the material out even more than as it is stated.
In the first two weeks, Bookworm learned how to create a keyword outline from a given paragraph and then to use that outline to create his own paragraph from his own outline about the sample paragraph. During the first two weeks, he did this for three different paragraphs. One day he wrote the keyword outline, the next day he wrote the paragraph, the third day we reviewed it together, and then he rewrote the final, “polished” draft.
For weeks 3 and 4, he followed much the same pattern. In the instruction video, Mr. Pudewa taught him how to use the who-which clause. The rest of the lessons followed much the same as weeks 1 and 2.
For week 5 and 6 (which is as far as we got during the course of this review), Mr. Pudewa taught Bookworm how to use an -ly dress up (using an adverb to enhance the paragraph) and also gave him some banned words such as “said,” “thought” and “go/went” as well as strong verbs that could be used instead.
Fix It! Grammar
We had the pleasure of reviewing Fix It! Grammar The Nose Tree (Book One) last year. At that time, we reviewed five weeks, but then I put it on the shelf so we could finish the grammar program we already had. Big mistake!
Last year, Bookworm had wanted to continue with The Nose Tree after the review, but I wanted to finish the other grammar program we already had. We both struggled through the boredom of diagramming sentences and dry grammar work in our other program, so I can’t tell you how happy Bookworm was to come back to Fix It! Grammar.
We picked up right where we left off after the last review for this review. While Fix It! Grammar can be used independently, there are notes for those who are using it with the SWI. These notes are about who-which clauses, dress ups, etc., that students are also learning about in SWI.
For this review, we used Fix It! Grammar five days a week. Each day, Bookworm annotated one of the sentences. He marked where the who-which clauses were, the articles, pronouns, nouns, etc. He also looked up one new vocabulary word a day. This work takes maybe 5 to 10 minutes per day. On Friday, he rewrites the four sentences he worked on during the rest of the week.
Both Bookworm and I enjoy Fix It! Grammar, so we’ve officially tossed our other grammar program and will be using Fix It! Grammar for the foreseeable future. (Yep, I should have listened to Bookworm last year!)
Teaching Writing Structure and Style
I watched the first parent DVD and found it useful. Mr. Pudewa addressed typical parental problems such as telling your children the content isn’t good enough and trying to “help” them come up with better content. He also talks about parents who get frustrated that their kids can’t think of topics to write about. The SWI helps avoid forcing student to come up with their own topic by first teaching them to create an outline for a given paragraph and then rewriting the paragraph in their own words.
Our Thoughts about IEW’s Deluxe Combo Student Writing Package Level B
Simply put, both Bookworm and I LOVE this program! There are a number of reasons why I feel this way:
- The program seeks to help parents become better English teachers for their children,
- Mr. Pudewa is often a bit corny, but he makes my son laugh, and that increases his enjoyment of the program,
- Mr. Pudewa gives careful consideration to boy learners who may need different types of materials to pique their interest and help them become successful writers,
- The material is presented in small bits so Bookworm has time to master each strategy and technique,
- The material can be reused for younger students, meaning that the initial dollar investment of purchasing the product is reduced with every additional child who uses it,
- IEW offers Level B (which we reviewed) as a middle of the road level that parents can use for multiple students from 1st to 12th grade. I love that they give details for how to make the material work for any grade level (though I myself wouldn’t use Level B before my kids hit 4th grade),
- Fix It Grammar is based around an interesting story, so grammar is not the dry, boring subject it often is in other grammar courses,
The only negative I could find that some parents might not like is that there is a parental time commitment for this program. However, in my view, that is not really a negative but a positive for both parents and student, though I could see that finding time to watch the parental DVDs might be difficult if you also work from home or have a larger number of children to homeschool.
I was one of 85 people to review a variety of IEW products spanning all grade levels and abilities. To read more reviews, click on the link below: