Friday, June 12, 2015

Institute for Excellence in Writing Review

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) creates the best literacy curriculum sets available, at least in my opinion.  Now we have the wonderful opportunity to review IEW's Primary Arts of Language: Reading Complete Package and Primary Arts of Language: Writing Complete Package. These curriculums are huge and packed with amazing activities, games and lessons! The Primary Arts of Language sets are ideal for children in grades K-2 and are specifically designed with special needs children in mind, but are still perfectly suitable for regular learners. Young children who struggle with reading or spelling will benefit from both of these curriculum sets.

We were thrilled with our IEW curriculum last year (Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree) and we were even more impressed with the complete reading and spelling packages. These are seriously in-depth curriculums that cover basically everything you can think of, as far as literacy lessons go.

One of the biggest bonuses to these curriculums is that they are fun. The games are fun to play and make it easier to work with children of different ages.

IEW Review
The Primary Arts of Language: Reading Complete Package comes with a Teacher's Manual, Reading DVD-ROM, Phonetic Games workbook and Phonetic Farm sticker book. The student reading book is available as a download to print at home, but if you prefer, you can purchase the physical book with your set. Students will learn about poetry and whole words with this curriculum, play lots of learning games and track their progress using the phonetic farm sticker book. Each sticker represents a phonetic sound that they have learned, so when they complete the whole unit, their sticker book will be full.

The Phonetic Games book has a checklist to help you keep track of your student's progress. There are 35 games that are consumable, so only one student can use them. You'll also find the story and game pieces at the back of the book, which are printed on thick cardstock paper. We organized them in two craft storage containers. 

Kira is progressing faster with reading than she is with writing, so we are a bit further into this curriculum than we are in the writing curriculum. But we practice often with both programs, so we consistently move forward. And because all of the lessons are fun and never feel like a chore, she is always eager to sit down and learn and it never feels like "work." 

IEW Review
The Primary Arts of Language: Writing Complete Package comes with an All About Spelling Teacher's Manual and student packet (see the list below), along with a Writing Teacher's Manual and DVD-ROM. You'll need to download and print the student book (from the DVD-ROM), unless you order the physical version from IEW (it's 274 pages), which may be more convenient for your family. You can purchase these sets separately, but the whole package is a better deal, not just because it saves money, but because there's so much more to offer with the combined materials. 

Included in the All About Spelling student packet:
- Phonogram Chart
- Tokens
- Phonogram Cards
- Sound Cards
- Key Cards
- Word Cards
- Progress Chart
- Certificate of Achievement 

While this is a complete curriculum, it doesn't come with materials like notebooks or pencils, so you'll want to have a couple available for your student. A composition notebook will be used as a daily journal (I recommend using a primary journal, as it has a drawing space on the top half of the page and writing space on the bottom half). You'll also need notebook paper, a card box for the student materials (feel free to re-use an old box, mine was a mug box), and a magnetic whiteboard to use with the letter tiles (if you do not attach the magnets, then you can use them on any flat surface). I also suggest having a notebook for the teacher to use. I use a five subject notebook (reading, writing, math, science and misc - music, social studies/history/geography, etc.) for each child and I use it for notes and to keep track of their progress and write in suggestions for future lessons. 

You have to separate and attach the letter tiles to the magnets before you can use them on a magnet board. If you don't own a magnet board, you can use just the tiles on any flat surface. 

The helpful guide shows you how you're supposed to set up your magnet board. Ours is too small to fit all the tiles and still have room to practice using them, so we usually set them up around the outside of the board. 

Bean likes to practice making words while I set up the lesson for the day. I'll help her sound out words and she'll find the appropriate letter tiles.

Munchkin doesn't always sit for the full length of our lessons (usually 20-40 minutes per day), but when he joins in, he plays with the letter tiles. I will find select tiles that make a word he is familiar with and scatter them. Then he puts them in what he thinks is the correct order.

The main bulk of the student materials packet are pages of cards that you'll need to fold and tear apart at the lines. Yes, it took at least an hour, but it was absolutely worth it. The cards are amazing and have become one of the most used materials in our homeschool. We are able to practice phonograms, letter sounds, learn about spelling rules (like what a vowel or plural is) and practice reading words.

When I finished taking the cards apart, I searched the house until I found a sturdy box that was the perfect size to fit all the cards. It's a gift box that once had a mug in it, but now it has new life as the "word box."

There are dividers that come with the basic interactive kit, so you can easily organize your cards. The three dividers are for review, future lessons, and mastered cards.

The phonogram cards have a letter or two on the front (student side) and the sounds and key words on the back (teacher side).

The key cards are used to learn spelling rules, like what a consonant is and how to count syllables.

There are 170 word cards. We use them at the pace directed in the book, and we review them often.

As you work through the cards, they will move around a lot inside the box. I only use them with Bean, so it's easy to keep track of her progress. But it would be much harder with multiple children. So if you plan on using this curriculum with two or more children, then I suggest purchasing additional student packets and basic interactive kits.

The progress charts and certificates also come in the student packet. We keep them in plastic sleeves in our literacy binder and mark off our progress with a dry erase marker. 

Not pictured is the student writing book. We print off the pages that we need at the beginning of the week and set them up in our daily work folders. I am considering purchasing the physical book, because I feel like it will make it a million times easier for Bean to keep all her materials in one place (not to mention save on ink costs).  I personally would have preferred the student book to come with this set, but I understand why they made it available as a printable download.

Many of the lessons use multi-sensory teaching methods, which makes it easier to teach a group of children with different learning styles. We already use blended styles, focusing on visual and kinesthetic methods, and supplementing with auditory methods. Hands-on lessons seem to work for both of them, and I usually read about the subject while they play or work on the activity. Or as Bean is writing a letter or word, she will either sound it out or read it out loud. Using all three learning styles will mean that they learn more than if they were just focusing on one style. 

The Writing lessons are divided into three parts. The first part is an introductory course and consists of 31 lessons. The second part has 40 lessons and the third part has 16 lessons. The lessons are completely customizable and can easily be modified to fit your child's needs. Children who excel at literacy studies may pace themselves at one lesson per day, while beginner or struggling students may complete one lesson per week. We always make sure to fully complete and understand a lesson before moving on to the next. Working at a student's pace makes it easier for them and they won't fall behind or feel overwhelmed. 

Each student will have their own daily journal. They will learn to write the date and add a couple sentences about their day. We use a primary journal, so Bean also draws a picture about what she wrote about. Since she's still new to spelling, I sit beside her and help her sound out and spell words. If she doesn't feel like writing, but still wants to tell a story, I'll do the writing for her. When we first started with writing journals, I did all the writing, but now she is more comfortable and wants to do it for herself. Sometimes she'll tell me the story first and I'll write it down on a piece of paper and then she will copy it into her journal. 

Teacher's can learn to teach confidently with the manuals as their guide. I read through all of the materials before even beginning the lessons. I wanted to understand how the lessons would be taught and took notes about things I might do differently. I always try the books methods first and if they don't work, I modify them to what words better for my kids. It's usually minor things, and it never effects the overall lesson. 

Both of my children have small writing desks that are separate from our lessons, but usually come in handy. It has a draw and two containers that store colored pencils, pencils, erasers, pencil grips (which come in handy, since Bean has really dainty hands), letter stamps and ink pad, paper and a ruler. She does most of her solo writing at her desk and I believe the independent time is wonderful for her experience.  

If you use technology in your homeschool, there are two free apps you can download that are phenomenal. They are designed by All About Learning Press and are called Letter Sounds A to Z and Phonogram Sounds (available on Android and Apple devices). You can use them with this curriculum and they are even great to use with toddlers and preschoolers to introduce letters and letter sounds. We have the apps on my Android phone and on both of the children's iPad's. We use the tablets during lessons and we use the phone app while we are in the car. We have created a few on-the-go games, like "can you spot something with the "ee" sound?" or "can you find something with the "ar" sound?" They use the app to hear and repeat the sound and then they announce when they find something with that sound, like a tree or car.

The Primary Arts of Language: Reading Complete Package is available for $69.00 and the Primary Arts of Language: Writing Complete Package is available for $89.00. Both of these sets are packed with amazing materials that you can use for several years. You can use the teacher's manuals for more than one student, but you'll need separate student materials for each child.

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