A Brief Tour through the IEW Writing Units

Sep 20, 2017 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


When you teach writing with IEW®, you are constructing a solid writing foundation for your students. IEW’s writing structure is based upon nine units or structural models. But what are those models? A few weeks ago we featured a two-part blog post on how to use Teaching Writing: Structure and Style as a solo resource (Part 1 and Part 2). Today, however, we want to focus a little more on what each unit actually teaches.

Unit 1 (Note Making and Outlines) is the only “non-writing” unit and teaches students how to create an outline from a single paragraph. Following closely upon its heels, Unit 2 (Writing from Notes) has the students using their outlines to re-create a paragraph. These units are typically addressed in close succession at the beginning of the academic year and provide the scaffolding for the IEW methodology.

Once through these foundational units, the remainder of the writing units tend to alternate between “fact-based” and “fiction” writing styles. Unit 3 (Retelling Narrative Stories) plunges students into the basics of telling a story. The structure for this unit is based on three sections: the beginning (where the reader is introduced to the characters and the setting), the middle (where the reader discovers the plot or problem in the story), and the end (where the reader encounters the climax and resolution). While still structured, the outline has a slightly freer format in that it is formed by the student asking and answering questions about the narrative.

After encountering the creative style of Unit 3, students move into Unit 4 (Summarizing a Reference), which is a more structured unit. In this unit students work from a single supplied source text pulled from a resource such as a text book, magazine article, or encyclopedia article to write their own paragraph(s). Students learn to distill facts based upon what they find interesting or important. This unit paves the way for the future, where students will encounter Unit 6.

Before Unit 6, though, students are introduced to Unit 5 (Writing from Pictures), where they again hone their questioning skills by asking themselves questions about their source material, in this case pictures. Not specifically a story unit, Unit 5 is, instead, considered event description. By examining the picture(s), the student decides what the central fact of each image is and then crafts an outline from which he writes his paper.

Students circle back around to what they previously learned in Unit 4 when they move into Unit 6 (Summarizing Multiple References), only with a slight twist. Instead of taking notes from one source, they learn to pull facts from multiple sources, which increases the complexity of the report. After doing that, students then funnel those facts into a single outline from which they will craft their research paper.

Unit 7 (Inventive Writing) takes a blended approach in that it has elements of both fiction and non-fiction writing. In this unit, rather than pulling facts from a supplied source or sources, students pull “facts” from their brains by asking themselves questions. The information gathered may be factual (“My Vacation at the Beach”) or fictional (“My Trip to Mars”).

The first seven IEW units are appropriate to use with students up through Grade 4. The final two writing units are a little more advanced and are usually reserved for students in Grade 5 and above. Unit 8 (Formal Essay Models) is the culminating model for non-fiction. In it, students extend their skills gained in Units 4 and 6 by learning to write introductions and conclusions to their body paragraphs and then contributing their own opinion on the assigned topic. Essay length varies, and students learn how to structure their writing to address both short (four or five paragraphs) and longer essays (more than ten paragraphs).

The culmination of the fictional models is Unit 9 (Formal Critique). Going beyond boring book reports, the critique injects interest by having the student not only summarize an author’s basic story line, but then also critique it by arguing whether it is good or not, and why. The model can be used for critiquing novels, movies, poetry, and plays.

We hope this post helped you better understand what IEW’s nine writing units are all about. If you would like a deeper look at each unit and where to find sources to use as you teach, check out Jill Pike’s article, “A Practical Application for All Nine of the IEW Units” There you will find more detailed information and background about the units from an Accomplished IEW Instructor and author. And as always, feel free to contact us with any questions.


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