How a Hybrid School Found Success with IEW

Nov 04, 2016 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team

Louis Lemmon: Hybrid School Administrator

Founded in 2005, Lake Pointe Academy is a K–12 University-Model® school of approximately 195 students. Louis Lemmon served for two years as a teacher, and then began serving as head of the school. Discovering IEW while homeschooling his oldest two children, Louis was excited to see that the school had already decided to use IEW materials when he was hired by the academy. Enjoy Louis’ insights and discover how Lake Pointe has implemented the Structure and Style™ Writing Method, giving students the tools they need to become confident and competent communicators.


What are some of the biggest changes in your students since implementing IEW?

Well, I would start with the results. Our graduates who go off to college are usually thankful that we have taught them to write because when you get to the college level, that’s all you do. You have to be able to write quickly and clearly. I think that it is very telling that especially in the freshmen year their professors are so delighted to have something that is just—readable. They can make sense of it. The freshmen professors at a lot of universities where our kids are going apparently are not getting that.


After implementing IEW did your teachers’ perspectives change? Were they more open to IEW?

As far as change, there was an initial resistance from teachers who wanted to teach writing their own way, but I can honestly say now that we have a writing program: a comprehensive working-in-unity composition program. Having such a program makes it easier for everyone, both students and teachers, and that is a good place to be.

I would say this about teachers: Until they understand, they don’t understand. IEW is a program. Once you learn it, you can teach it under a tree in Africa. You don’t have to have a wealth of materials. For the brand new teacher, that’s a little intimidating. They have to learn the program. Many teachers back in the early days treated composition as a commodity—that any way would lead you home. The problem is that from a classical approach, we are looking to simmer our students in a bath of composition approaches in every grade until they have mastered it. So I can’t have a teacher that is going to use different terminology. Having shared terminology has really been effective in moving a student from grade three into high school.

Another thing we have realized about IEW that has changed the way we use it is that it is more than just a composition program—it is a thinking program. To be able to brainstorm key word outlines to answer questions such as, “How do you say all that in one word?” is an invaluable skill.


How do you train your teachers? Through DVD or live training?

Both. In other words, the handiness of the DVDs is that we can give those to a teacher and say “watch these over the summer.” I would say that is more prescriptive, but the real training comes person to person. When experienced teachers answer questions and also point out the most important aspects, that’s where the real training has been. Our largest problems have come when teachers view IEW as something to turn to when it is convenient, when the reality is that they need to teach this program.


Do you use theme-based books?

We are on a three-year history rotation, and we have been working to integrate our whole system. Right now our history and our science are integrated. The theme-based books allow students to read articles that are in the same time period and write from them. This allows us to immerse students in a specific time period.


Do you do parent training?

We do a lot of parent training. If you don’t understand the program, it can be very frustrating as a parent. Parents often have a strong opinion on composition. And there are some great writers out there as parents, but they don’t know how to teach it. That was my situation. I was a professional writer, but I couldn’t teach my own children composition without making them cry. I assumed that since I had a gift in it that I could teach it. But I had no systematic approach. What IEW does is it gives a fairly objective systematic approach. However when parents don’t understand this, they can get pretty frustrated, which is why we have such extensive parent training. We have a four-day training course for new parents every summer, and quite often we will invite parents to come in and observe a class when we are introducing a new unit.


What are the top three reasons for using IEW?

It’s consistent. It’s objective. It’s systematic. Consistency allows students to do more heavy thinking because they are familiar with the terminology that is used. It is objective since parents can easily see why a child fell short or how the child didn’t follow the instructions. We teach kids things in one grade level which are used in the next, so it is very systematic.


What is some of the feedback that you have received from your teachers?

Well this is the first year where we have had almost all of our teachers coming back (all except first grade). So I believe we really have a chance to stand unified this year. Teachers really understand what they are teaching now and that it does lead somewhere. They are working together to share ideas. For example, English teachers are talking to science teachers and showing them how to incorporate IEW into science as well. Hopefully the next step for our school is to have all of the teachers in various subjects equally excited about IEW.


Serving families for a decade, Lake Pointe Academy continues to emphasize the importance of teaching students to write. Teachers at Lake Pointe are collaborating with fellow teachers of other disciplines, sharing how IEW could be used in their classes.

Just imagine for a moment what could happen if your school integrated writing into every area. What would that look like? History teachers could assign a compare/contrast essay using two major influences in world history and students could produce a thought-provoking essay. Science teachers could assign a report on the heart, and students would know how to research, organize, and produce an interesting and well-done report. Every teacher could ask students to write a summary from their reading and assign an essay, story, or report, and students would know how to accomplish the task. And imagine the thinking skills created from all this contemplation and writing!

What is our goal at IEW? Our mission is to equip teachers and teaching parents with methods and materials which will aid them in training their students to become confident and competent communicators and thinkers. We are excited that so many hybrid schools share that mission. How about you?


IEW® is a trademark of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, L.L.C.
Structure and Style™ Writing Method is a trademark of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, L.L.C.

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