As educators we have a lot to keep track of. Planning lessons, grading, evaluating progress, and communicating with students and parents require our time and attention. Now add to these tasks the typical responsibilities of adult living such as cleaning our homes, preparing meals, paying bills, running errands, shopping, and doing other various chores. In the midst of accomplishing these necessary tasks, we have an even more important priority—nurturing our relationships. Those are a lot of expectations! Individually each task is easy to achieve. But as we load more and more responsibilities upon ourselves, eventually our entire system might break down. What once was easy suddenly becomes overwhelming, and we begin to make mistakes or perform poorly.
In the world of teaching writing with Structure and Style®️, we can use this analogy to consider the stylistic techniques and how we should introduce them. As adults we are not always able to escape having lots of responsibilities, but there is no need to similarly burden our students. To avoid overloading our students with too many expectations and in the process demoralizing them entirely, IEW®️ created a reminder for instructors. Calling it EZ+1, it is IEW’s mnemonic that helps us remember to give our students only one new stylistic technique at a time. Students want to do what they think they can do. If there is only one challenging element on that student’s checklist, he is much more willing to attempt it. When a student becomes overwhelmed, believing he cannot succeed, he is much more likely to either refuse to do the assignment at all or simply give it a broad sweep with his pen, never really attempting to expand his skills at all. It mirrors how we as adults respond when we are overburdened in our own lives.
So what does EZ+1 look like in a practical application? In the homeschool environment it is very easy to do. Simply adjust your student’s checklist so that he is only working on one technique that challenges him at a time. To determine what that technique should be, take a look at his current writing progress. Eliminate all stylistic techniques that your student struggles with except for one. In other words, all of the stylistic techniques except for one should be mastered. A stylistic technique is considered mastered if 1) the student is able to insert it without much help, and 2) it doesn’t sound too goofy most of the time. Take your student’s checklist and either scratch off elements that he isn’t quite ready for, or if you have our Premium Membership, create your own checklists using our handy Online Checklist Generator. When one stylistic technique is mastered, add in another. Remember: Your student’s progress determines the pace, not the checklist.
The Checklist Generator shines even more brightly when used in a classroom environment, for it provides a simple way for teachers to construct custom-tailored lists for each student. One way to teach using EZ+1 is to record a list of your students, placing each into one of two or three categories. Assuming you have three categories, you will group those students who have a solid grasp of all of the style you have taught into one category. Into the second category you will place students who are managing fewer stylistic techniques confidently. In the final category you will place the remaining students. Continue to teach and model the style in your class period. This harnesses the power of the Robin Hood method of “stealing from the linguistically rich to give to the linguistically poor.” To help you keep track of your students’ progress, use a roster and checklist to track the stylistic techniques you have taught your students. As a student becomes comfortable with each new element, record it on your roster and assign the next technique. In this way, your students will be able to work at a pace that allows them to maximize their learning and feel confident that they can accomplish the checklist’s expectations.
IEW’s progression of stylistic techniques begins with the dress-ups, words that a student inserts into the sentence to “dress up” his writing. Next the student learns to incorporate sentence openers. When these are mastered, the student moves on to more advanced techniques such as decorations. It is important to not rush a student through the process. Students actually grow their skills more quickly when they are allowed to take the time they need to develop mastery. This is why EZ+1 is such a critical component of IEW.
Our lives are complicated enough. Adult or child, most of us face a daily barrage of activities and responsibilities. Thankfully this doesn’t need to extend to our students’ writing. By using a checklist that applies the EZ+1 approach, students are able to celebrate what they can do while we encourage them to stretch just a little bit further to develop their writing skills. It’s a beautiful thing to see.
IEW® and Structure and Style® are registered trademarks of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, L.L.C.
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.