Sunday, February 1, 2009

IEW and CC

The Institute for Excellence in Writing and Classical Conversations equip parents to teach their students the grammar of writing. The classical model of writing was described in an essay by Benjamin Franklin. He explained how he taught himself to write by outlining and rewriting other well written essays until his was better than the original.

We are not initially interested in teaching our children creative writing or journaling their own opinions. If they are naturally interested in those activities, great! But as Andrew Pudewa, founder of IEW, is so fond of saying, most children, especially boys, would rather build forts than sit still long enough to write an articulate essay. So we need to make every teachable moment count.

The grammar of writing includes ideas like titles, closing paragraphs, clinchers, outlines, keywords, themes, and dress-ups for boring sentences. Classical educators endorse teaching structural skills for writing while waiting for the child's creativity to bloom through lots of reading and real life experiences. In other words, rather than wait for them to have something interesting to say and for them to enjoy writing, let's teach the basic structures and styles in short easy lessons.

Think of all the mechanics - punctuation, spelling, sentence structures, paragraph structures, penmanship, and parts of speech - that make it possible even to write a creative or informative article or story. The classical approach includes practicing the mechanics while engaging the student in lots of verbal conversations. Eventually, the two will catch up, and when we have something in our minds to write, the mechanics won't hinder us. On the other hand, without a decent grasp of the mechanics, no one else will want to read what the author has to say.

We need both - interesting ideas and clear mechanics to write well. In Classical Conversations, we use IEW materials for 4 years. Our 4th to 6th graders work on weekly IEW assignments in our Essentials program. Then they have a year to polish their skills with IEW in our Challenge A program. After that, our Tutors are all familiar with the IEW structures and styles and begin to challenge the students to express coherent, descriptive ideas while using the IEW structure.

We continue to offer 1-day Student Practicums for high school students who may have missed the IEW of children, and we also offer 3-day IEW Student Practicums in the summer for all ages of students to give them a head start for the school year.

Listen to Mr. Pudewa and me as we discuss his important contributions to helping us teach our children to write well at, Wednesday, Feb 4, 2009 at 12 noon EST or listen to the archive anytime afterwards.

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