A Practical Application for All Nine of the IEW Units


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Learn how to integrate all nine units into writing assignments in your other subjects.

This bird’s eye view will help you see how IEW integrates into your schoolwork overall. The nice thing about IEW is that instead of presenting nine hundred writing styles, you get nine units suitable for handling any prompt that is given to you. The trick is learning to recognize which unit your prompt requires. Below is a quick key for writing using the structural models presented in Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (TWSS).

Teaching through the nine structural units can be very fun. Plan on spending about a month on each unit and then move on. Repeat the process every year, going deeper each time. Early elementary students may only get through Unit 7 in their first year. Watch the appropriate portion of the TWSS, and do the practicum as directed on the disc. Then create a similar assignment for your students, and do it with them over and over, helping them as much as necessary until they can do it by themselves.

The style portion of our methodology is taught as you go through the structural units. Do not feel like you need to teach all the dress-ups and sentence openers while teaching Units 1 and 2. Style is like the spice shelf in a kitchen. The chef needs to eventually learn what all the spices are and how to use them, but you don’t need to know how to use them all to make a pretty wonderful chili. Also, since not everyone likes to use every spice on the shelf, once you have tasted and understood them, you might not use them all in your own writing. But if some “recipe” (such as a picky college professor) calls for a special one, you’ll know how to use it. Units 1 and 2 These units are the gateway into the IEW method. Unit 1 shows students how to create an outline from a single paragraph and Unit 2 shows them how to take that outline and re-create a paragraph. These units are there to get the kids started and are easy to learn thus helping even the most writing-phobic student to begin. But don’t be tempted to stay here, the best is yet to come! Suggestions for Unit 1 and 2 paragraphs for outlining

  1. "Articles and Stories for Units 1 and 2" (part of the Writing Source Packet)

  2. Choose paragraphs from your student’s readers, science text, or history book.

  3. Weekly readers or other student magazines often have great paragraphs for outlining.


Unit 3: Retelling Narrative Stories
This unit teaches the basics of telling a story. You take a very simple fable or tale and reduce it to its basics: beginning, middle, and end. The beginning is the characters and setting, the middle is the plot or problem, and the end is the climax and resolution, often coupled with a moral.

Unlike the non-fiction units, the outline for narratives is more free-form with the notes being answers to questions (who is in the story, what do they say or think, etc.) While constructing your story, you can use the outline rather loosely while adding in or leaving out and rearranging at will. There are no perfect delineations between what goes in each paragraph, leaving much to the style of the writer. Some people love this free-form flow, while others hate its flexibility, complaining, “But what is the right way?” Once either the teacher or the student (or both!) are willing to get past this desire for strict order, this unit can become quite fun.

The beauty of this model comes in standardized tests where your students are given a prompt for a story, e.g., “Imagine you are in your backyard and you find an object. Write a story about that object.” Ugh! But with this model, your students can mentally scan through the many stories they already know and tweak them to match any prompt. For example, I imagine that I found a stick. What stories do I know with sticks in them? Let's say I chose “The Three Little Pigs.” I could make a story about three little mice building their houses to protect them from the cat. One built out of bird feathers (leftover from a previous victim), another out of leaves, and the third out of sticks. But it didn’t work. The cat knocked the stick house down too and ate them all, hence the loose stick I found in the yard. The conclusion? Good kitty!

Unit 3 Assignment Ideas

  1. Rewrite a fable, fairy tale, or myth. Change the characters and setting if desired. IEW has a set of stories available as an e-book: "Story Sequence Sources for Unit 3" (part of the Writing Source Packet).

  2. Retell a key story from history.
  3. Retell a part of your reader.
  4. Summarize a longer story, focusing on the key conflict.
  5. Tell a family story.
  6. Personify some item from nature, and use your story to describe how nature works (e.g., a water droplet going through the water cycle, a piece of food traveling through the digestive tract, a germ making someone sick, etc.)


Unit 4: Summarizing a Reference

This is great for any quick report when you are working from a single source (such as a textbook chapter, encyclopedia article, or magazine article). Read through the five stages of report writing as described in Units 4 and 6 of the TWSS syllabus. Unit 4 explains stages one to three while Unit 6 continues with the remaining stages. Unit 4 Assignment Ideas

  1. “What does this chapter/article say about _____?” 
  2. Use a Unit 4 assignment in place of end of chapter quizzes.
  3. Write an A–Z of history or science over the course of the year to sum up things learned. You can do this in order, or let your students pick letters at random. (But over the course of the year all must be used.) IEW offers a packet of “mini-books” which are ready-made source texts for report writing.

Note: Be sure to give the assignment in number of paragraphs. “Write 1 (or 2, or 3, etc.) paragraphs on what you find interesting or important in this document.” Beginning students will collect a jumble of facts and string them into a paragraph. Older, more mature students should be able to choose topics on which to write.


Unit 5: Writing from Pictures
This is a great model for using any picture as a writing prompt. For each picture, you simply ask, “What is the central fact?" I.e., What is happening in the picture? After noting this, you simply expand on that concept by asking the famous questions: who, whatwhen, where, why, and how.

If you have three pictures, you do the central fact and details on each picture, one paragraph per picture. If you need to write three paragraphs on ONE picture, you simply do the thing on the one picture, then imagine what the next picture would look like and write on it, then what another consecutive picture might portray and write on that. You could also do one picture prior and one picture after, whatever you prefer. Unit 5 Assignment Ideas

  1. Purchase a packet of “Pictures for Writing” for ready-made lessons.
  2. Take a cartoon from the newspaper, white out the words, and write.
  3. This can be useful as a chapter test if you would like. Simply choose three pictures in the text book and have your students write a three paragraph report on those pictures.

  4. Take a photo from the family scrapbook to inspire some writing.
  5. Have students draw pictures for inspiration.

Unit 6: Summarizing Multiple References
This unit builds on Unit 4 by increasing the complexity of the report. Instead of “what does that ONE reference have to say about ____,” you’re asking “what is the general consensus about ___________.” All grade levels need to learn how to take several references, choose topics, and write a report using details from a variety of sources. These can be anywhere from a short five-paragraph report to a multi-page research paper. Thus, this unit is a good one to introduce introduction/conclusion methods.

Unit 6 Assignment Ideas

“Write a ___ paragraph report on China, planet Mars, history of flight, etc.” Your student should not write everything they can find about the subject, just the number of topics necessary to create the number of paragraphs you assigned. They simply pick the portions that are interesting or important to them located in the sources available. You don’t have to teach footnotes right off the bat. Teach the bibliography first and slowly work your way into requiring footnotes.

You can also use this Unit when notebooking as you can write a variety of paragraphs on related subjects from various sources. For instance, if you read a book like Johnny Tremain and wanted to do a study on the Revolutionary War, you could create a notebook and do paragraphs on silversmithing, Paul Revere, printing, Ben Franklin, various British generals, muskets and how they work, a map of Boston in 1776, etc. (Notebooking works with Unit 4 too.)


Unit 7: Inventive Writing
This unit is really more of a confluence of fiction and non-fiction writing. The key is taking information from the brain and organizing it on paper. It can be factual (“My Grandmother”) or fictional (“My Pet Monster”).

The “My Dog Model” described in the TWSS syllabus is the picture for creative writing. You choose three topics, come up with details, and then finish it off with a intro/conclusion.

Unit 7 Assignment Ideas

  1. Use the idea list in the Unit 7 section of your TWSS seminar workbook.
  2. Check out this website for scores of prompts suitable for multiple ages: http://mrswarnerarlington.weebly.com/uploads/6/9/0/0/6900648/prompts_blowingaway.pdf

  3. Have your student write what they learned in history today (from their brain). Could also be what they liked about the story, response to a movie or TV show.

  4. Rewrite a fable, etc. in the voice of another author (Dickens, Shakespeare, King James Bible, etc.)

Unit 8: Formal Essay Models
This is the crown of “non-fiction” as you take what you have learned and add your own opinion to the piece. An essay can be any number of paragraphs from five to hundreds. The famous “thesis statement" that everyone is looking for is simply the point of your paper in one single sentence and usually is located either at the beginning or the end of your introduction. The rest of the paper is the proof of what you are trying to say, and your conclusion can be a restatement of your thesis statement underscoring your most powerful argument.

The Elegant Essay goes into depth on essay writing, diving deep into writing strong thesis statements, methods to organize body paragraphs, and an arsenal of introduction and conclusion techniques. Use it any time after 8th grade.

The Formal Essay Models provide a way for the evaluator to see what information is in the writer’s brain. When writing an essay, you might need to do some study to get some information in there before you can actually write something.

Unit 8 Assignment Ideas

  • What is your opinion on…
  • What is important about…
  • Which is better…
  • What is the reasoning behind…
  • What is the central premise…
  • Compare this and that.
  • Contrast this and that.
  • Persuade me what you think about....

Unit 9: Formal Critique
The final result of the fictional models is the formal critique. These can be glorified book reports where the writer simply summarizes an author’s basic storyline and then critiques it: determining if it was good or not and why. The why part can get into detailed literary analysis where you examine character development, use of literary devices such as irony or foreshadowing, exploration of theme, etc. It is purely subjective, so goes into the fictional model.

Use this model for book reports, movie reviews (It's one way to get something positive out of going to the movies!), or full-blown literary analysis. Just be sure to assign it before the fact so they can take appropriate notes.


Writing about Literature
Teaching the Classics is great for helping students at any grade level learn how to understand literature more deeply.

Andrew Pudewa’s “Response to Literature” talk provides additional models for writing about literature.

Windows to the World: An Introduction to Literary Analysis is perfect for teaching formal literary analysis skills to high school students.

Final Words
I hope this overview helps you see that you really don’t need to be confined to writing lessons prepared by curriculum publishers. Learn the models and then pick any one of them to create an assignment to cement learning in your student’s mind. If you go through the Structure and Style for Students, you will have been taught all nine units and experienced a variety of assignments in each one. You'll be pretty well set for teaching any kind of future writing.


Jill Pike
Forum Moderator
Institute for Excellence in Writing


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