Tutoring with IEW—A Win-Win!

Sep 21, 2018 | Posted by Jennifer


IEW is taught across homes and schools all around the world. Often it is a teacher or parent who guides students through the IEW approach to writing, but tutors who meet with students just once or twice a week are using IEW to help their students as well. As a private tutor, I find great joy in helping my students achieve their best academically. But tutoring also presents challenges in that sometimes I find I am not able to spend as much time with my students as I would like. Recently we received a question from a tutor who was wondering how to help one of her dyslexic students master his Fix It! Grammar vocabulary words. If you also tutor, perhaps some of my ideas about this situation will be helpful to you as well.

  • Come up with a picture for each word. I like to get input from the student when I can, but sometimes it works best if you come up with your own image (either one that you draw or one that you source online). Create a card for it with the vocabulary word on one side along with the picture illustrating that word. On the reverse side, provide a brief definition along with the word used in a sentence. Use those cards to play games. By the way, we’ve already done this work for you in our theme-based books. All of the vocabulary cards in these books have clever blackline drawings already on them.

  • Build an online set of vocabulary word and definition cards that your student can practice outside of your tutoring sessions. One free service I have found helpful is Quizlet.

  • During your session time, act out some of the words. Adjectives and verbs are especially fun and fairly easy to mimic. Any time you can draw in multi-sensory activities and humor, you have a recipe for learning.

  • Create a word-of-the-day. Challenge your student to use it in conversation at home. I know this isn't something that you can have direct control over, but some students like to be challenged in those ways.

  • Draw in the parents and provide them with the current vocabulary list. Have them post it on the refrigerator, write the words on paper placemats, and use them in their own conversations. I try to keep it to a manageable number of words. Some parents are more amenable to doing things like that than others, but the more the parents are involved, the more likely the students will progress at a quicker pace. Something I did with my own children might be of interest to you and your parents. We would work on our "word of the day" around the dinner table at night. Each of us would make the effort to use the word in our conversation in a relevant way. Since there are five of us in the family, that is five opportunities to hear the word spoken in context. It was a sure way to generate some giggles around the table, too!

  • If you find some of the vocabulary to be not as relevant to your student, omit it. Focus on the words that you do find most relevant. That will cull your list somewhat.

Tutors work very hard to help their students succeed. Sometimes our best help comes by remaining pragmatic about all you need to accomplish during your session time. If a student receives no out of session help, it is better to learn one vocabulary word well for that week than none at all because you introduced too many and overwhelmed your student.

Using IEW to tutor struggling students can significantly help advance their language arts skills, not only in vocabulary, but also in written expression, recitation, and thinking. And by meeting students at their ability level, they make gains more quickly. It’s a win-win for all involved!


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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