Founder Andrew Pudewa believes that writing should be taught through imitating excellent writing that models the skills to be taught. Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, IEW’s premiere DVD series for teachers, begins with teaching how students learn from the models. The DVD explains how to introduce students first to proper note-taking, then how to get students writing basic sentences from their notes, and finally, how to add stylistic elements one at a time. Each technique is mastered by students through repeated exercises; advanced exercises include all previously learned skills.
The selected models are always interesting: many are drawn from classical stories such as Aesop’s Fables, while others present fascinating scientific experiments and animal studies. Students will find the effort to re-present the stories worthwhile.
Mr. Pudewa’s method is essentially that used for centuries by men like Benjamin Franklin: “I thought the writing excellent, and wished if possible to imitate it. With that view, I took some of the papers, and making short hints of the sentiment in each sentence, laid them by a few days, and then without looking at the book, tried to complete the papers again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length and as fully as it had been expressed before . . . Then I compared my Spectator with the original, discovered some of my faults and corrected them. (From The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin)
Mr. Pudewa believes this approach provides the proper foundation for teaching creative and expressive writing. “One of the fundamental ideas of the Classical Model is the emphasis on skills development as a prerequisite for creativity and expression. Many writing programs are set up first to help a child figure out what to write in order to be able to practice writing. With our syllabus, we separate the problems of ‘what to write’ and ‘how to write.’ Young children do not have a wealth of experience and knowledge to draw upon when writing. In fact, it's a little absurd to ask them to write about their thoughts or feelings until they have practiced and are comfortable with the basic activity of putting sentences on paper.”
The Classical Model gives students confidence in writing before asking them to undertake difficult tasks. “In providing them with the content (what to write), in demonstrating a specific model to follow, and in giving them a concrete checklist of a variety of grammatical constructs and techniques to use in each paragraph, we can teach them to develop a high level of skill and confidence with writing. Because the classical model also encourages ability development by repetition, our approach of using everything learned so far in every paragraph written provides that repetition and allows even the most remedial student to produce a decent composition again and again with increasing independence.”
IEW also offers student-directed DVDs, an Advanced Communication Series for teaching persuasive writing, and a “Grammar of Poetry.” Theme-based Writing Lessons apply the IEW method to Biblical stories and history. IEW’s commitment to classical education is further evidenced by “Linguistic Development Through Memorization,” which reintroduces “a vital but often neglected source of powerful and sophisticated linguistic patterning available to children: memorized language, especially memorized poetry.”
IEW’s products are available online at www.excellenceinwriting.com.