At the beginning of August, four of the teachers of Immaculate Heart of Mary School were able to attend two seminars on Teaching Writing: Structure and Style. The seminars were taught by IEW's senior educational consultant Linda Mikottis, who did a fantastic job of presenting the methods and materials. Here at IHM, we are excited to put into practice the training we received and to implement this wonderful program in our classrooms.
IEW stands for Institute for Excellence in Writing, and Andrew Pudewa is the director. Here is a description of their program from their IEW Handbook for Administrators and School Leaders:
Our methodology presents a powerful method of teaching writing, which consists of two main components.
Structure refers to organizational models for writing, which are explored and reinforced each year at ever-increasing levels of sophistication firmly internalized by the students.
IEW's sequence of structural units teaches students
-a consistent method for composing clear and cohesive paragraphs
-a reliable system for organizing narrative and expository writing
Style is a collection of tools that students use to achieve variety and competence in expression. It is through employing the stylistic techniques that students
-become competent in using interesting vocabulary
-employ a variety of sentence structures
-gain an understanding of grammar
It is through the Structure and Style method that teachers are able to break down the writing process into clear, easy to understand incremental steps, and students of any age or ability are able to gain confidence and competence in writing in an organized manner, using strong imagery and examples with cohesive paragraphs. This is good writing; this is what we teach.
One of the many wonderful aspects of this program is that it uses imitation to teach writing, which is traditionally how writing was taught. At the seminar, Mrs. Mikottis shared how Andrew Pudewa was originally a Suzuki trained violin instructor. She shared his analogy where he compares writing to learning to play an instrument: both are skills. However, unlike the way writing is generally taught these days, you would never tell a student taking up an instrument that he must also compose – and well – the music that he is to play on this instrument he has just started! Instead, he will imitate the masters for a long time.
Another great element of IEW is the inclusion of public speaking training in all the grade levels. Poetry in the lower grades is one of the means employed. Every week the K-2nd graders memorize a new poem. There are great benefits to this, not the least of which is the fact that we have to help children to internalize rich vocabulary and accurate sentence structures. Mr. Pudewa calls it “furnishing the mind”. It was pointed out at the seminars that we write the way we speak, and that if we want children to write better, we have to teach them to speak better. Thus, good oral presentation is taught to the students at all ages.
Something new that IEW is offering, which we are excited about and are pursuing, is accreditation for schools. The first step is to get our teachers registered. By attending the seminars, we have begun the process of completing the practicum assignments. It might take a few years, but we are excited to have started the training necessary to reach this goal. Receiving IEW accreditation is just one more way for us to make sure we are giving the students of Immaculate Heart of Mary School the best education possible.