“Motivated to Write”: Tutor Testimonial from Kathleen Van Every

Oct 21, 2019 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


The month of October marks National Learning Disabilities Month as well as Dyslexia Awareness Month. This year on IEW’s blog, we are commemorating these events in a number of different ways. Throughout the month we will be sharing some of our previously published blog posts that focus on special education. Additionally we will be featuring a few testimonials given by tutors who work with students who have special learning needs.

Today’s testimonial was written by Kathleen Van Every. She works with dyslexic students out of her home and online as a Barton Tutor. Along with with her Barton training, she is also accredited by IEW as a Registered Instructor. Kathleen recently shared her experience using IEW materials with one of her students, renamed for this piece as “JR.” Continue reading to learn more about how she has found success with IEW.

I have been working with JR since 2016, when he was in fourth grade at a Montessori school. At that time I was a tutor with a local Orton Gillingham-based reading company. JR was struggling with reading and writing, and I worked with him on reading for about two years.

We began IEW in sixth grade after JR had gone as far as he could in the OG program and was reading fairly well. Using Student Writing Intensive, Level A,** we progressed slowly. JR, in addition to being severely dyslexic with regard to spelling, also has terrible dysgraphia and inconvenient ADD. The Montessori school was giving him no structure, so he switched to a premier private school which also didn’t offer any meaningful guidance on writing. He is verbally gifted, but capturing thoughts on paper was excruciating for all of the above reasons. Effectively communicating or even being organized on paper was impossible.

Our journey has been very slow, but we have seen huge improvement through using SWI A and part of the Student Intensive Continuation Course A.** Utilizing technology such as voice to text has also been a lifesaver.

Initially JR did not want to write because he had no idea what to do when confronted by a blank piece of paper. But as each unit unfolded, he became more and more confident in his ability to find key words, return them to a sentence of his own making, insert the dress-ups, add the topic-clincher, and check off the items on the checklist.

I believe JR has experienced success with IEW for a number of reasons. Firstly, the way IEW separates complexity is appealing. The sheer joy of checking off even one dress-up and thinking, ”I was able to do that! Yes!” was obvious. He no longer dreaded writing. Secondly, the clarity that comes from using the checklist is helpful. Finally, the other aspect of IEW I love to emphasize is how each structural model can be applied across the curriculum. JR was able to take the structure he learned from each unit and place it on top of existing school assignments to succeed. That excites me. Its usefulness beyond mere exercises can’t be denied.

At one point, JR was required to write ten journal entries about his summer activities and summarize each chapter of a long book. Because we had invested time in Unit 7: Inventive Writing, he was able to produce amazing vignettes on everything from a slip and slide experience to traveling on a plane for the first time. He was motivated to write twelve journal entries! Finally he believed in his ability.

Fix-It! Grammar has also played a big part in his success. He completed the first book and half of the second book before we took a break to work more intensely on Barton. I can’t say enough positive things about Fix It. The subtle effect from steadily completing each week’s assignment provided a solid baseline of grammar which undergirds everything he writes now.

I look forward to resuming IEW as soon as he finishes Barton Book 4*. Meanwhile, he is still using what he has learned from IEW to complete his assigned writing in other classes. This pleases me.

*Susan Barton recommends tutors delay introducing IEW until after a student has completed Level 4 in the Barton program.

**The Student Writing Intensive series was discontinued in November 2019 and replaced with the new Structure and Style for Students program.

We are so excited to hear of JR’s success with IEW! Thank you to Kathleen for sharing this encouraging story about her student.


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