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Need feedback on 3rd grader using IEW


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I would *love* have your honest feedback about my son's writing. Quick background--his writing was stalled for 2 years. He hated it. As a result, I hate teaching it. It was the first thing to not get done when life was busy. Nothing seemed to get us out of the rut until we started IEW at the beginning of this year. We are going through the program very slowly and plan to stick with it for a couple of years, then perhaps do a little Kilgallon, and my long-term goal is WWS maybe around 7th-ish grade. This is the first non-IEW writing assign he's had this year. I had him form a word bank then develop his key word outline and write the paragraph.


"Cardinals like trees and they nest in trees. Cardinals can fly and they have crests. Cardinals desperately swallow seeds and fruit. Cardinals feed their young insects. Cardinals are bright red birds."


When I read it, I just see the overly repetitive style, a big stretch to get his adverb in there, and awkwardness in "young insects." I was disappointed to read this because I thought we were finally making good progress. What are your thoughts? Am I expecting too much from a 3rd grader? Should I address any of these issues or just wait for his writing to mature over time? He loves IEW and actually enjoys writing now. Should I consider changing or stick with it? I'm truly clueless about what is typical for a 3rd grader's writing. I desperately need honest feedback from more experienced homeschoolers. (There's no need to censor your comments--just please tell me what you think and recommend.)

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How old is the 3rd grader? My daughter who is by regular school definition 2nd grade, but I consider her 2nd/3rd grade. I don't have much experience with other 3rd graders.


Also, was this a first draft or after revisions? - That can make a difference in the assessment of it.


What I see is spelling that is accurate. Interesting facts about cardinals.


I agree that it is repetitive (is that something you've been working on? If not, how would the child now that the repetitive nature is a problem?). My child writes similar types of repetitive sentences. The biggest area of concern that I have is that there is not an opening/topic sentence nor a closing sentence and the ideas don't flow easily from one to the next. The reader has to work hard to make sense of the order.


Have you tried using "self editing checklists?" My daughter is working through a lit unit of MBtP (7-9 level) and they use self editing checklists for the "longer" assignments. My daughter, after reading through the checklist and grading herself went back and changed some words, and adjusted the structure a bit. She didn't adjust everything I'd like to see adjusted, but she did recognize that some things could use improvement and she was able to figure out how to do that (in a simplistic 3rd grade way).


MBtP's checklists also vary a bit by assignment. So, in some cases it focuses on making sure you have 3 main points, and others focus more on organization and structure, and others it focuses on "voice." So, each assignment has a goal and that's the primary focus for improvement.


I don't know if I helped you know more about this assignment in particular, but I thought I'd share some ideas that have worked with us recently. And the paragraph sounds very similar to something my 8.5 year old (language advanced, but really doesn't like the physical act of writing) daughter would do.

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How much practice have you done with IEW's Unit 4, Topic Sentences and Clinchers? With repeated practice I would expect my 3rd grader to have a topic sentence and clincher about cardinals. If you had a topic sentence and clincher, several different sentence openers, and most of the dress-ups and some decorations, the paragraph above would be completely different. My suggestion would be to slow down with each of the units until he's able to produce a paragraph fluently. You might have to teach each dress-up, decoration and sentence opener separately, while just working on writing sentences individually.


One of my favorite things to do to reinforce the decorations and dress-ups is to put each one that has been learned on an index card. I write a simple sentence on the board, "The boy came." My kids pick one card at a time, and change the sentence accordingly. The sentence "The boy came." might change to this : Because spring break was ending, John, who traveled to sunny Hawaii, tearfully traveled back to his home in Gloomy, Glendale, like a prisoner to his dungeon. (This one sentence includes the because clause, strong verb, who/which clause, -ly word, quality adjective, a little bit of alliteration and a simile.)


I have noticed in doing this my kids sentence structure, vocab, and creative expression have improved dramatically, even when we are not working on an IEW assignment.


Hope this helps.

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Thank you both! Opening and closing sentences weren't even on my radar screen, so I'm glad you both mentioned it. I'm starting to wonder if I need to give IEW more time. We have gone very slowly--one little baby step at a time. We also only do one paragraph every couple of weeks, but I think we need to do writing more frequently even if we are still doing little baby steps. My son just watched the video to introduce Unit 3 yesterday, and this paragraph was written before that. It sounds like we're not far enough into the program to get to the topic sentences and clinchers.


I've never said anything to him about repetition being undesirable. When he does the IEW assignments, I don't see him write that way. This produced a very different result. I may try another similar assignment again in a few weeks and see whether it is similar. He follows a checklist for dress-ups, but I just realized that it looks like he still managed to miss some in the above paragraph. I need to watch that more closely. The ones he used seem very forced and awkward. I like the idea of using index cards and focusing on one sentence at a time. We'll do that, and then try another independent paragraph.


If anyone else has thoughts on this, I'm still listening. :)

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