Teaching Writing: Structure and Style

Andrew Pudewa
Institute for Excellence in Writing
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My daughter, Emily, announced, “The kids’ class [student writing workshop] is much funner than the teacher class.” Scratch that. I am “sure” she said “much more fun.”

She was referring to the student writing workshop for Teaching Writing: Structure and Style available on DVD.

Implemented by Andrew Pudewa, director of The Institute for Excellence in Writing, Teaching Writing: Structure and Style is a two day seminar where he demonstrates to the teacher/parent how to teach writing skills to school-age children through a step-by-step process.

He breaks down the writing process into two basic categories: the structure of writing and style techniques. The structure portion includes both outlines and models of fiction and non-fiction writing.The style techniques are employed to make writing more appealing to the reader and he offers quite a variety. In other words, he teaches the teacher how to teach his/her students how to write in an organized manner that is interesting to read.

The step-by-step process is broken down into nine units: 1) Note Making and Outlines, 2) Summarizing from Notes and the Syllabus in Style, 3) Summarizing Narrative Stories, 4/6) Summarizing References & Library Reports, 5) Writing from Pictures, 7) Creative Writing, 8) Essay Writing, and 9) Critique Writing.

These nine units are developed over 6 DVDs. In addition, there are three workshops for the students to participate in for a total of 9 DVDs: 6 are instructional workshops for the teacher/parent and the last three are Student Workshops: One each for Gr. 2-4, Gr. 5-7, and Gr. 8-10+. These are workshops. Periodically, he will ask the viewer to turn off the TV and do the assignment.

Since these are workshops, he not only walks the teacher/student through the process, he also reads the completed assignments of the class or student as well. This offers the viewer an idea of what they are seeking to achieve as an end goal. This is an excellent way to show the teacher/parent how to present guidance to the student when learning how to write.

To help the viewer understand the program, crucial information is found in a Seminar Notebook that is loose leaf papers clipped in a binder, so you can add additional information and notes. This includes detailed notes, charts, outlines, checklists, models of sample student writing, and a syllabus. During the class, he points out the page numbers for you to follow him.

His target audience is for teachers of children from grades 2-10; however, even adults would benefit from the program in creating more clear and concise writing with interesting stylistic techniques.

He opens the first DVD with background information about the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style program, he then provides an overview of the program before he launches into his first lesson. Each unit builds on the previous unit. With humor and interesting stories, he holds the viewer’s attention. Because of the great number of hours, the teacher/student should not try to cram too much information too quickly in order to finish the program.

Going back to my opening line, “scratch that,” one of the points of the program is that the student should write in pen. Instead of erasing, the student is encouraged to write on every other line and cross out the errors and write the correction above the corrected word, phrase, or sentence. This is one of many tips that will make the writing process much easier for many students.

While some parents may balk at the price, they need to consider the value of the program. It is a two day seminar and it includes workshops for the student as well. Even if the teacher/parent were not to follow the program exactly, there is a wealth of information that is shared that would be helpful to the teacher/parent and student.

For example, some teachers/students may be attracted to the structure portion of the program and others to the style portion. They can pick and choose what works best for them. While it is a highly organized program, with check off lists, and a specific way of doing things, it is a program that is easily adapted.

Because it is a workshop format, instead of a lecture series, by doing the exercises, the teacher will have a greater understanding of the student’s position when learning how to write, especially the potential frustration that usually builds up and the need to allow adequate time for a good essay to develop.

Andrew Pudewa imparts a wealth of knowledge and teaching tips that can be applied to other areas of teaching. For example, once something is mastered by the child or “easy” for him/her to do, then he/she should move on to the next step.

One of the beauties of the program is that the teacher/parent does not have to come up with new writing ideas, the teacher/parent can use the material the student is already studying in history, science, or religion or the teacher can use the suggested assignments in the program.

Although Mr. Pudewa stands at the front of the classroom, he is not in any way a mere talking head. An engaging speaker, he knows the joys and the pitfalls of teaching and shares his practical knowledge with the viewers. He knows the secret of a good teacher: He interacts with the students.

While my daughters periodically popped in and out of the room while I was watching the teacher DVDs, they purposefully on their own accord (Gosh, are they my children) decided to watch the student DVD, took notes, and did the exercises. They were quite proud of their finished products. No wonder they liked it more than watching the teacher portion.

Because of the vast amount of information, I have only given a brief overview of the salient points of the program. If you visit his website, you can click on a youtube demonstration where he outlines the benefits of the program. On youtube, there is also a sample from one of the DVDs, but the constant pausing interrupts the flow of his presentation and makes it difficult to watch.

Teaching writing to children, or to anyone for that matter, is one of the most difficult tasks for a parent to do. It really shouldn’t be. But we are overwhelmed with all the grammar rules and the memories of red ink dripping all over our student essays once upon a time.

Andrew Pudewa gives teachers/parents a highly structured alternative to teaching children how to write. He does so in an interesting manner, showing students both how to organize their papers and do so with stylistic techniques that greatly improve interest. His goal is the goal of all good writing, to make it both interesting and meaningful.

Before you give up on trying to teach your child how to write, consider Teaching Writing: Structure and Style by Andrew Pudewa.

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