The Making of Fix It!: IEW Author and Grammar Guru Pamela White

Mar 03, 2017 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


Pamela White is IEW’s “grammar guru.” Author of the popular Fix It! Grammar series and IEW’s online department head for Level C classes, Pamela recently sat down with us to talk about how she came to share her expertise with IEW and how Fix It! came to be.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your family?

I live in Tennessee and have two grown children. My daughter has been married for a little over a year, and I have the best son-in-law ever. My son is working in California and is really the reason I started IEW because I struggled to teach him how to write.

How and when did you first discover IEW?

I was an English teacher professionally and stopped teaching in order to have kids. When it came time for them to go to school, we decided to homeschool them mainly because we were concerned they would be bored. My husband felt strongly that he didn’t want them to be bored in school.

I thought that the difficult subjects would be things like math and science because I was an English teacher. I never worried about English. I figured that would be easy! We did okay up until my son was in fourth grade. By that time, I realized that he had serious challenges with writing, and I had no clue how to teach him. After we had tried what seemed like every writing product on the market, a friend of mine recommended IEW, certain it would really help. But even after that recommendation, I avoided it because I didn’t see how it could be that different from the rest of the products out there, and it seemed time intensive. I was stubborn.

A year later, my friend mailed me the first of the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style VHS video tapes. That was a long time ago! I put the tape in the machine, and within fifteen minutes, I was hooked. I thought, Wow! This really is different! I was so amazed by the common-sense approach and the brilliant techniques, tools, and strategies. I started my son on the program right away, and immediately we saw a huge difference.

So what originally inspired you to write the Fix It! Grammar books?

That actually had its origin long before IEW. My first teaching experience was when I was a graduate student at Vanderbilt. I was frustrated because I could see that these students were pretty intelligent. They had memorized the rules, but they weren’t applying them well. I knew that there was a huge divide between memorizing grammar rules and being able to apply them in language. There was a disconnect, and I wanted to somehow bridge that.

Initially, I decided to close the gap by assigning them the responsibility of looking up three to four grammar rules from every assigned paper by searching for them in their grammar handbook. That was to some degree helpful, but the students hated it, and I didn’t enjoy grading it! I kept looking. I think it was after I had started IEW and found Grammar with a Giggle that I got inspired to write my own stories for editing practice. After I had written a couple of them, I contacted Andrew Pudewa. I don’t remember how the conversation went exactly, but he was already thinking of doing something like that, only with an IEW slant to it. He said, “Would you be interested in taking on the project?” And I said, “Yes!” It sounded like great fun, so that’s how it all began.

What’s the biggest advantage for students using Fix It!?

It replicates more typical speech patterns than grammar programs usually do. Students are dealing with real speech by looking for mistakes embedded in sentences, which is what we want them to do in their own papers. It takes away the anxiety of having to look at their own paper because now they’re looking at somebody else’s. So it’s more like a detective hunt. Kids can have fun searching for the mistakes in somebody else’s writing rather than their own. That’s one big advantage. The other big advantage—I’ve just heard this from so many families—is that it replicates the method that assessment tests use. I’ve had so many students tell me that when they take the SAT or ACT (which are really the only achievement tests that matter) that having done Fix It! made a huge difference with how well they performed. I am happy to know that it does help them quite a bit with those tests.

What is the most rewarding thing about being an IEW author?

I’ve taught IEW to probably about three thousand students with a wide variety of ages and abilities. Along the way, I’ve gleaned many different tools, techniques, and tips to help them become more successful. As an author, I get to incorporate the elements I have learned over the years into my books, and I love that! So I think that’s probably the part that is the most rewarding, along with the feedback that I get from students about how much Fix It! has helped them.

I am a staunch advocate of IEW. I would say that IEW outshines any other writing system that I have come across. That’s true for strong students, weak students, and students everywhere in between. It really is an utterly brilliant system. I have such confidence and faith in it.

We hope you enjoyed learning more about Pamela and her decision to develop a grammar program that really “sticks” in students’ minds. And we are so glad Pamela decided to give IEW a try all those years ago. She has positively touched so many lives, and we are thankful for her expertise. 

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