Today we add to our growing collection of articles about education. We're discussing the topic of writing, and why we use IEW here at SLO Classical Academy. Our Associate Director Troy Wathen shares the following:
Most of us have a difficult time remembering some experiences that we had in our early years. Our memories come more in flashes of emotion than in clear recollections. One of my memories of school centers around a fairly common encounter—the dreaded, “Tell what you did this summer” paragraph. I have very fond thoughts about my summers when I shed my shoes and lived for three months in flip-flops and bare feet, playing hide and seek, waterskiing with my family, and camping at San Clemente. I can’t say that I lacked in fun summer activities about which I could write… so why did that one paragraph strike fear in the heart of my 3rd grade self?
My adult theory, now that I can look back on those events with a more critical eye and a little bit more understanding of how human development works, is that I lacked the tools necessary to organize my thoughts. I never lacked the content. This is why a comprehensive and graduated approach towards writing is absolutely vital for writing success. Activities such as developing a key-word outline and organizing thoughts into topic, support, conclusion are needed. Writing is clearly an art, but it is also a skill. As with most arts, the beauty is seldom conveyed through sheer creativity. That creativity must be supported by those complementary skills. Looking back, this is what I lacked. I didn’t have the scaffolding essential to meet that simple assignment.
There are many programs that can be used to develop good writers. We have chosen to use the Institute for Excellence in Writing to build that foundation for our students. In a recent article, Andrew Pudewa, the writer of the Institute for Excellence in Writing program, points out that in modern education most schools attempt to teach writing (a skill and art) as if it is information. He says, “The skill of teaching concepts through discussion and the art of teaching skills through coaching can be easily lost somewhere between the Scantron© form and the PowerPoint file.” Similar to other “arts” such as music, dance, baseball, and ceramics, skills are developed through coaching, practice of isolated skills, putting those skills to work, more coaching, more skill development, the combining of multiple skills, with a spiraling cycle of improvement right alongside more refined coaching and isolated skill practice.
In a previous blog I discussed the value of modeling our children’s writing after other great writers. This is also what developing artists, musicians, and athletes do. They study the masters, they watch game films, they analyze technique, and they work to bring the insights gained into their own art. Having beginning writers just write may sound like a great idea, but the reality is that great writing requires years of good coaching with a systematic approach such as IEW and continual analysis, practice, refinement, and more practice. I have seen the fruit of this type of training in graduates of many classical schools. They go on to become the writing tutors at their colleges, making good money in their first year. They are the ones skipping freshman writing because it is covering concepts they mastered in junior high. The difference between them and their peers is that they have been given the gift of a singular approach that recognizes writing as a long-term skill and artistic development process. The result is precision, beauty, and elegance in the product.
Thank you, Troy! Although the end of the school year is near, it’s nice to be reminded of the many sound reasons why we are using this exceptional writing program. Parents, we hope you have seen the benefits of IEW in the growth of your student’s writing over this past school year!
If you would like to read the Andrew Pudewa article referred to, you can view it here: The Art of Teaching a Skill, or The Skill of Teaching an Art. This was recently published in the 2013 Institute for Excellence in Writing catalog, and is worth reading!
(If the above link does not work, you can view a scanned pdf of this article here.)
Have you noticed an improvement in your child’s writing this year? Please leave a comment below and share how IEW is working for you at home.