Review: IEW High School Essay Intensive

According to Pixie, my 15 year old high school freshman, the High School Essay Intensive by Institute for Excellence in Writing is very helpful.

She's never been a confident writer, and this year's freshman English essays have been a real challenge for her.  Add in the fact that she's chosen a highly competitive university as her dream goal, and she how has to prepare for major standardized exam stress.

On my end, though I've always been a confident writer, I've felt frustrated as her teacher because of the conflicting information about essay writing that's available these days.  Should I teach the basic 5-paragraph essay that got me through my standardized exams?  Or are those passé, and I should teach something more in vogue? . . . but what's in vogue enough to help her do well on her exams?

Enter the High School Essay Intensive.

Of course, IEW has been the gold-standard in teaching writing for a long time, but though I've attended homeschool conference presentations, and I've used a number of other products by IEW, I've managed to somehow not use any of their writing programs.

So this was a totally new experience for us both.

The box arrived, and it had so apparently little in it--just a case with a few DVDs  (though the case is fancy) and a 3-fold-cardstock folder with a set of stapled pages in it.

I liked the writing tips printed all over the folder, but I still kind of began to wonder . . . "What's the big deal?"

Then we put in the first disk and found out.

Yes, she is studying on our kitchen floor.  Apparently, that was the best place she could find to both watch our toddlers and do some schoolwork while I was bathing the rest of the little kids.  She told me when I came in the room that I'd just missed seeing the toddlers taking turns sitting on her head as she took notes. :)

We figured out that the stapled pages are an outline for note-taking.  The DVDs consist of taped footage of a live writing intensive session led by Andrew Pudewa himself.  Pixie simply set to work taking notes as she watched the lectures.

There is a detailed table of contents on the IEW website under the High School Essay Intensive description (click the "overview" tab if you don't see it right away).  Clicking on the "sample" tab will give you a taste of the first several pages of the handout.

There are not many assignments given.   This is not a full writing class (and it is not labeled as such).  It is mostly lecture with a few brief assignments given.  The first section includes writing a timed (20 minutes) essay before the lecture material begins in earnest (which does need to be written as the students will refer to it again later in the section), practicing outlining, and writing a paragraph at the end of the section that utilizes several of the techniques covered in the lecture.

 As yet, she has completed neither the test-prep portions nor the personal essay portion of the course, but we've looked those sections over, and we are both kind of freaked out about how challenging those essays are going to be.  However, after completing the first section of this Intensive, I can tell Pixie feels optimistic about learning solid techniques that will help her learn how to cope and how to write clearly.

Just being forewarned and forearmed is half the battle.

Going into the tests confident and prepared and with a plan will give her an edge that will help her succeed.

At approximately 6.5 hours of lecture, there are not enough hours for me to give Pixie a separate writing credit for high school, but the disk is paused while the student writes, so that is additional time.  She and I have also spent time going over her notes and having teacher-student conferences about the brief practice assignments and how to apply what she's learned to her regular writing assignments.  Based on the time we've spent so far, I estimate that by the time she finishes we can either give her a .25 writing credit or simply add the the time we've spent to her current language arts classes.

I asked Pixie if she feels the High School Essay Intensive has been useful, and she gave a resounding yes as her answer.  In her own words:

"I will definitely use what I've learned from this class in essays that I need to write.  I felt really nervous about organizing an essay before this--like I just didn't know how to put my ideas together.  Now I feel more like I can tackle an assignment without drowning.  I'll save the notes I took from this class and use them a lot."

To read more about Institute for Excellence in Writing's High School Essay Intensive, click here or on the banner below.


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