Adjust the Checklist to Sharpen Students’ Saws

May 16, 2024 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team

The school year is nearing the end, and summer is close at hand. Teachers and families alike eagerly anticipate a chance to slow down a bit to relax and renew. A recent IEW® blog described summer as the ideal time for teachers to Sharpen the Saw® through rest, renewal, and reflecting on the previous school year to explore ways to improve instruction. For teachers and teaching parents, this includes fostering a learning environment that Anna Ingham called “meeting students at their point of need.” Whether your students are new to Structure and Style® methodology or have previous experience, they will move along their individual pathways toward growth and continuous improvement. How can you help them on this journey? 

Andrew Pudewa affirms that writing is a skill that “must be learned by practice, by doing. And like a music teacher, a writing teacher must understand the pathway: i.e., given this student’s ability now, what is the next step?” Knowing how to customize your writing instruction prepares you to meet each student on the pathway and provide the scaffolding and coaching he or she needs to become a proficient writer. Teachers need workable strategies to make the necessary adjustments and determine the next steps. Andrew recommends that teachers adjust the checklist, which not only meets students’ needs but keeps them engaged and motivated. 

Customizing a checklist to your students’ experience and skills can be easily accomplished for any grade level. Start with the checklists that come with the provided lesson plans in your IEW materials (Structure and Style for Students or theme-based writing lessons). Once you have observed your students and graded their first few assignments, identify the students who may be ready for more challenging requirements. For example, your current lesson’s checklist has a strong verb on it, and some of your students are inserting strong verbs easily. Require those students to choose verbs that not only show strong images and feelings but also enhance the paper. As Andrew says, “Use words intentionally and carefully, not repeatedly and accidentally.” Once students are inserting them correctly, you can give them a customized intermediate checklist with the next stylistic technique. In our example it would be the because clause. Make sure you teach the new dress-up before you place it on their checklist.

When you feel comfortable with two checklists for the class, you could add a third checklist with more challenging style requirements for experienced IEW writers. For example, if the intermediate checklist has a strong verb on it, the advanced checklist could have dual verbs. If the intermediate checklist has a clause, the advanced checklist could have an adverb teeter-totter. Make sure you teach the new style requirement to this advanced group before you place it on their checklist.

For most classroom teachers, three checklists for each assignment is manageable. Start with two, and when that becomes easy for you, add a third. You can read more about the importance of the checklist in students’ mastery of the Structure and Style method and gather some teaching tips for happier students in the blog post “IEW’s Checklist – Supporting Student Success.” 

IEW has made it easy to customize your checklists using the Online IEW Checklist Generator™ which comes with a Premium Membership. To access the Checklist Generator, log on to your account, and from the list of menu items on the left side of your Dashboard, select Checklist Generator. The linked blog post above includes a video of Andrew Pudewa demonstrating how to use this invaluable tool and lists other suggestions for individualized learning. 

In his article “Marking and Grading,” Andrew writes that teaching at the point of need means “discovering what the students’ challenges, weaknesses, or misunderstandings are, and then finding or designing activities that will address those problems. Therefore, the first step toward motivating students to do their very best is to keep them motivated to try, and to learn, and to try again.” 

The IEW team sincerely hopes your summer is filled with rest and renewal. As you turn to sharpening your saw, remember that we are here to support you. Should you have a question about adjusting your students' checklists or other questions about IEW and the Structure and Style writing methodology, schoolteachers can contact their Educational Consultants. Teaching parents, tutors, and other homeschool instructors can contact customer service

by Jean Nichols

Sharpen the Saw® is a registered trademark of Franklin Covey Co. which does not sponsor, authorize, or endorse this article.


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