Off to a Strong Start: Preparing for Writing Instruction with Structure and Style

Aug 04, 2022 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team

Arranging desks, unpacking new textbooks, and dusting off classroom libraries in a freshly cleaned classroom gives even the most seasoned veteran a happy feeling of anticipation for the year ahead. Making a new start each year is one of the great joys (and best-kept secrets) of being a teacher, isn’t it? But before you get too busy with these preparations, back-to-school meetings, and staff development sessions, we’ve collected some recommendations to help you get your writing instruction off to a strong start this year!


Sharpen your skills.

If this is your first year using IEW, get acquainted with the IEW instructional materials your school has chosen. The blue page at the front of your teacher’s manual describes the e-resources that come with your manual and directions to download them from the IEW website. Read through the introductory pages at the front of the manual, which include information about the writing course, a Scope and Sequence chart, suggested schedules, and directions to prepare the student materials. Your teacher’s manual also describes options to adapt the suggested daily lesson breakdown for both hybrid and full-time schools.

Do you need a refresher before teaching the beginning units or stylistic techniques? View TWSS discs (or streams) 1–4. If you haven’t yet completed the Practicum Assignments, we urge you to do them. Read about the value of doing these exercises here.

If you are a veteran of Structure and Style, did you set some new goals for this year? Consider including the following:

  • Use a variety of source texts for writing, including your content area textbooks, File Box Source Texts*, library books, or educational or informational articles from online sources such as, NEWSELA, or National Geographic Kids.
  • Customize your checklists to meet the needs of students by taking the process up a notch for students who are ready for more or down a notch for those who need more time.
  • Fine-tune your students’ use of stylistic techniques by modeling stronger choices for dress-ups and sentence openers as well as grade-level appropriate academic vocabulary. The goal each year is to move your students along a pathway from awkwardness to greater confidence with careful coaching. As Andrew Pudewa says in his article “So… So … Awkward,”

“Solid growth requires a constant feedback loop between a student and teacher who share in a process of listening, modeling, coaching, trying, listening, modeling, coaching trying, etc.., thereby developing the skills needed for independence and mastery.”


Reserve some wall space.

When I was teaching, I often felt compelled to have my classroom completely decorated before the first day of school. Once I started using Structure and Style, however, I soon understood the value of keeping a large portion of my walls free so that I’d have a place for my posters, word lists, banned words, and other visual reminders for the students to access easily. Don’t forget to leave some room to showcase your students’ writing!

If you’re a primary teacher, you need room to build your Sound City display as the year progresses (see Appendix 5 in your K–2 Classroom Supplement for a description of Sound City). Create your own visuals or use our Primary Posters and Printing with Letter Stories Classroom Cards. The photographs show two excellent examples of primary writing walls at Adams Christian Academy (Wyoming, MI) and in the Keeneyville School District (Hanover Park, IL).


Organize a system for saving student work.

How will you archive finished student compositions? If you teach just one class, a three-ring binder for each student works best. If you teach multiple classes, you might prefer to use plastic file crates to save space. Designate one crate for each class with a hanging file folder for each student. Once a composition is completed and graded, students staple the key word outline, rough draft(s), and final draft with the checklist on top and file it in their binder or hanging file. If you’re short on space, you can scan and save digital copies of student work.

Portfolios provide artifacts to use throughout the year as evidence of progress to students and parents. They can also be used as student work samples for teaching mini-lessons on revising and editing, for planning instruction, for compiling a classroom Magnum Opus, and for submitting to IEW for accreditation at the Certified Level.


Take a “Before” picture.

Plan to administer a baseline writing sample during the first week of school to use as a “Before” picture of each student’s writing. Possible topics include “What is your favorite subject in school and why?” or “Describe the most enjoyable thing you did over the summer vacation.” File them in student portfolio binders or folders. Have students pull out these “Before” snapshots periodically during the year to compare to a current piece. Share them with parents at conference time to show progress and at the end of the year as evidence of their growth as writers.

These are just a few suggestions to help you get your year off to a strong start. Be sure to follow IEW’s blogs, podcasts, and webinars to keep motivated and stay on target for a great year!

The Schools Division team is here to assist you through providing information, coaching, and support every step of the way. For more information, visit, email, or call 800.856.5815.


Jean brings 34 years of classroom experience to IEW, having taught grades 1–6 in New York, Virginia, and in California, where she taught sixth-grade language arts in the Rocklin Unified School District. She was introduced to IEW in 2001 when a colleague shared Student Writing Intensive videos at weekly school staff meetings. As a result of student progress and teacher enthusiasm at her school, RUSD brought Andrew Pudewa to Rocklin many times over the next several years to train district teachers, resulting in improved student writing and test scores district-wide. Named Rocklin’s “Elementary Teacher of the Year” in 2001, Jean was also included in the 2004 and 2005 editions of Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.

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