Preparing to Live-Teach Structure and Style for Students

Sep 01, 2021 | Posted by Jennifer

Over the summer I have been looking forward to teaching my writing classes. This year, one of the classes I am teaching is Structure and Style for Students Level 1B. It’s a new one for me, and I’ve been very excited about working with my students. There’s a lot of great content this course explores, and I’ve been chomping at the bit to get started.

I am live-teaching the course, which means that my students come to me, and I am the one presenting the lesson. I know there are many other teachers out there who are approaching this course the same way, so I thought I’d share how I prepared to present the first lesson, which I just did today. I am delighted to say that we all enjoyed the class: teacher and students. I can tell it’s going to be a fun-filled year of writing and learning.

I began preparation early by making sure that my students had their materials ordered and ready to go for our first day. Students simply need the Student Book for whichever level of Structure and Style for Students is being taught. Before our  first class started, students assembled their binders. Beyond assuring that the materials were on hand, I really didn’t have much to do until the day before class began other than to follow the directions in the Teacher’s Manual that showed me what part of Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (TWSS) should be reviewed (see inset image). I’ve worked through the TWSS course several times, but I always manage to pick up a helpful reminder or a new tidbit of information.

Yesterday I scheduled a bit of time to watch Andrew Pudewa present the first lesson to his class. I logged into my IEW  account, went to “Your Account,” and located the SSS-1B Video tab. Having my Teacher’s Manual and a writing instrument nearby, I started the stream, making notes directly into my manual points I wanted to cover with my students. Not being a naturally funny person, I even went so far as to note down the jokes he used!

As I watched, I noticed that he took plenty of time to discuss the source text with the students. In this particular course, the very first source text is about the blue-ringed octopus, a cute but deadly denizen of the waters around northern Australia stretching north to Japan. I noted that Andrew pulled up a map to show students where these fascinating creatures live. I noted that he paused to define potentially problematic vocabulary words, such as camouflage and neurotoxic. I even made a note about problematic spellings, such as  the word numb. By the time I finished the video, I had a great grasp of how to teach my students and felt confidently prepared.

Because it was our first class and I had brand new students, I opened with an icebreaker before having the students do a 15-minute freewrite as Andrew Pudewa had done with his class on the video. Once those were done, I shared with my class a photo of the tiny octopus in its colorful glory. Several students oohed and ahhed and declared they wanted one as a pet. More about that later. After enjoying the cuteness, we read the source text together. Like Andrew modeled, I frequently stopped to involve my students in the discussion to verify that they were comprehending and engaging with the source text. 

During this discussion I also displayed a map of the world to show the animal’s domain, just as Andrew did on the video with  his students. To make the subject even more relatable, I shared a short YouTube video of a young lady’s amazing encounter with a blue-ringed octopus. Watching her, ignorant of her extreme danger, handle this deadly animal felt especially shocking because of what we had just learned in the source text! Finally we tested our outline by alternating turns speaking each line of notes in complete sentences. Our key word outline looks a bit different than the sample one in the Teacher’s Manual as is to be expected. The student sample you see here represents a combination of our class’s efforts along with the student’s personal work outlining the second paragraph of “Carnivorous Plants.”

It was a great first class. How do I know that? I had engaged, smiling students. One of my students, brand new to IEW, even showed her mom what she had learned in class and shared the video with her. Her mom texted me later in the day to share her daughter’s excitement with me. Truly, a student excited about what she is learning in your class is pretty much the best thing a teacher can experience.

Using the method of watching Andrew teach his students first, I’m prepared for my next class. In fact, I can’t wait! This is going to be a great year exploring writing with my students using Structure and Style for Students. I feel like I’ve got a secret key to success: Andrew’s modeling and mentoring that I receive from the videos. Yep. I’m feeling good. It’s going to be a great year. For some reason, however, everyone decided to let the blue-ringed octopus remain in the wild. Wise choice.

Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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