“A Real Gold Mine”: Tutor Testimonial from Christine Gurzler

Oct 14, 2019 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


As we continue to mark Dyslexia Awareness Month and National Learning Disabilities Month, in today’s blog post we would like to feature a testimonial written by Christine Gurzler. Christine has a private tutoring practice. Working with students, she teaches reading, writing, and written expression. She is a long-time user of IEW’s approach.

I’ve been a fan of IEW ever since I helped at a homeschool convention and sat across the aisle from Jill Pike. That was a LONG time ago—fifteen years if my math is correct. I was hooked! Everything I heard made so much sense to me. Immediately I started learning more, sharing it with my children, and smiling at the results I was seeing. A few years later, local homeschool moms started to notice that my sons could write! Oh, one couldn’t spell for beans, and the other was still struggling with reading, but when they wrote—even if someone else did the physical scribing for them—WOW, they sure could put ideas together. A few years after that, people started approaching me to see if I would be willing to teach their kids how to write. And not long after that, a few more wondered if I could help their struggling readers learn to read and spell. (I had successfully remediated my own dyslexic children with Orton-Gillingham by this time.) That’s how my tutoring practice was born. Ever since then, I’ve taught dyslexic children how to read and spell, and pretty much any student how to write. What I really want to encourage you with today, though, is how much IEW helps children who struggle with learning—and this goes far beyond just putting words onto paper.

My current roster is divided fairly evenly between dyslexic students and students who need to learn how to write. What is especially interesting about my practice is that I have quite a bit of crossover between the two. When students begin with me, for whatever the reason, they usually finish their compulsory education with me at the sidelines, cheering them on and helping where needed. I always turn to IEW methods first when I teach writing primarily because IEW teaches kids (and adults) how to THINK! In well over twenty years of homeschooling, the flagship product, Teaching Writing: Structure and Style®️ (TWSS), is still the best money I’ve spent on any piece of curriculum. The other IEW product that I find immensely useful is the Writing Source Packet, which provides handy source texts that make it easy for the instructor to create her own writing assignments for her students.

If you spend your time teaching children who struggle to learn, be that due to dyslexia, anxiety, executive functioning problems, comprehension or fluency troubles, or any of the host of items that fall under the umbrella term Specific Learning Disability, you already know that these precious kids think differently. It’s not that they think wrongly; it’s often that the neural pathways in their brains are wired differently. It’s part of who they are, who God made them to be, and not something that you can remove from them. Many of these kids need regular and explicit ongoing practice doing things that will retrain and strengthen these pathways. Guess what? IEW, especially the TWSS, really helps facilitate this. As students think through various ways to derive key words for their outlines, they are making more connections about the text they are reading. When they ask themselves questions about the text in order to formulate those key words for the outline, they are connecting what they already know to the new information presented. Searching through a text in order to find specific relevant support for a claim they are asserting helps students refine their skills in the art of persuasion. Because they have to sift through information and decide which details are important or interesting, as Andrew Pudewa would say, students learn the tricky skill of discernment.

Once the more difficult task of writing a cohesive and complete outline is finished, students have the opportunity to play with words in a way that also serves to strengthen the neural network. They can consider the connotations of various words as they land on just the right one, the one that will convey exactly what they wish to their audience. They can play with sentences, revising and reorienting their words in as they decide which opener fits their purpose best. As they go through this process of thinking out loud and on paper, they discover that there is often more than one way to put something. Years ago George Lucas related, as he was discussing an anniversary edition of A New Hope (That’s Episode IV for fans, but the first movie he released back in the late 70s.), that “films are never really ever finished; they are just abandoned.” What he meant by that is they are just revised, or perhaps reissued, with the best technology and resources that the director has available at the time. I think that statement can be applied to any of the communicative arts, but especially the ones that are published in some way, whether on paper, in a book, or as a movie. We can revise and edit our work, but we may never approach perfection in a piece—and that’s OK. The process of writing, editing, and revising is where the real reward is found. Vital thought processes help students in all of the communicative arts, not just reading and writing. All this thinking is the real gold mine that IEW’s methodology provides for your students.

Much thanks to Christine for sharing her thoughts about IEW and Teaching Writing: Structure and Style. Thinking is hard; IEW helps make it easier. If you would like to learn more about the Structure and Style approach, check out the webinar, Experience Excellence in Writing.


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