This summer I received the opportunity to review one of the big deluxe grammar and writing packages that IEW sells, and I fell in love. Not necessarily with the grammar and writing itself. After all, as much as I love the programs, I haven’t made it a priority for the children to use the grammar and writing each day. What I fell in love with was the company philosophy and the ideas behind motivation and learning that I had begun absorbing from using their teacher materials and listening to the audio lectures that were included in my package. By taking their ideas and applying them throughout throughout my days with my children, I was becoming a better parent and teacher.
So, when I received another opportunity to do a review for Institute for Excellence in Writing, I jumped at the opportunity to receive three resources that IEW has developed for teachers. I received their Timeline of Classics, Teaching with Games Set and A Word Write Now.
Timeline of Classics
The Timeline of Classics is written for the parent who wants to expose their children to good, classic literature but who don’t know where to start. This book is an almost 100 page spreadsheet of containing lists of classic literature organized by time period. This might refer to classical historical pieces, like the Declaration of Independence or historical literature set in the time period like Johnny Tremain. Either way, the resources span from prehistory to modern day resources. Video and audio resources are included, and the book even gives several options for purchase of timelines and other interesting resources. Along with the pertinent information about author, title and time period, the book also includes a recommendation for appropriateness for Elementary, Middle or High School students.
I was personally overjoyed to receive this because I’ve always wanted a book of literature options that was organized by time period. I began to immediately start to look at resources for the current historical period we’re studying. We’re studying the Exodus, so I was able to easily pinpoint that Tirzah would probably be my best option for sharing a historical literature perspective on the Exodus with my children. I can easily imagine that over the years of using this resource that I would be adding notes, writing in more books and movies that I encountered and simply enjoying exploring these books both with my children and by myself. As a teacher, you could easily use this book to organize your whole homeschool as far as literature and history studies that you want to complete throughout your child’s school career.
Teaching with Games
Teaching with Games is a 2 DVD and CD-ROM set that contains 2 DVDs of Lori Verstegen teaching you how to create 20 different types of games for your children and/or students. The CD-ROM set contains an ebook of instructions, sample games, and blank game boards for creating your own games. They also sell the ebook as a spiral-bound book, and they kindly sent me a copy of that as well.
As a Sunday School and Bible study teacher, this may have been the most helpful single item that I have used in a long time. I watched the DVDs and made notes about the games as I saw them in action, and used my understanding of the flow of the games to be able to implement them in my classrooms. I have to admit that, as a visual learner, I found the DVD set, where I was watching her teach how to play the games through playing them to be incredibly helpful to visualizing it in my head as I read the instructions.
I have been creating games ever since I saw the DVD. I started with Hot Potato and No-Noose Hangman and expanded, just this week, to a rousing game of Beatitudes Bingo. I played the Bingo game over and over again with both my students at Bible study and with my children at home. As a teacher, I’ve always had a panic that I might have a few minutes that I have to kill, but now I know how to quickly step in and use time that would otherwise be wasted as time for review and reinforcement of concepts that we’ve been studying. I’ve also found that it is more fun and more relationship-building to use time for games instead of worksheets and assignments that would not yield as much learning and review.
A Word Write Now
A Word Write Now is a very nice thematic spiral bound thesaurus. I reviewed it as part of the deluxe package that I received and reviewed earlier this year, so I probably won’t be making as detailed a description as I did then. With that disclaimer, here’s more about this resource.
A Word Right Now is broken into themes. The majority of the book is taken up with character themes. These range from Cheerfulness to Envy to Obedience and many, many others. These character themes are presented in predictable patterns. These patterns are:
- Definition of the Word
- Quotes that are thoughts on the word
- An excerpt of two from classical literature using this word
- Synonyms broken into parts of speech. These include nouns, character nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs. There are additional empty spots for adding other words into this thesaurus as you encounter them.
- There is also an ending quotation called “words for” where you can see this word and/or a synonym in action.
The next section is taken up with words that describe. These are words that describe appearance, color, size, time temperature, texture and shape. There is also a section of words for movement and the senses. The final section of the book is more literary in nature, covering literary terms, devices, and transitional words. It also gives you an idea of some games that you can play using the thesaurus.
Really, for using this one, we’ve been using it during our freewriting time and in our literature notebooks. I’ve been using it to introduce new words for words that the children have been overusing in their writing. I consider it vocabulary development as we go through a section of the book looking for what the perfect word choice is in our notebooks. I also love that there are page that we can copy for creating word lists on different topics and their related words. As we continue to write, I want to be able to bring this usage to the forefront in our writing time and have the children develop their own word lists for words that they want to focus on and build synonyms with.
A Few Final Words
These have ended up being wonderful resources for me. The Timeline of Classics is something that I’ve always wanted and that I never even knew existed, so I was very excited about that one, and it’s the last history resource that I think I’ll ever need in our interest-led homeschooling lifestyle. (Well, it might inspire some buying on its own, but that’s okay 😉 )
I already had some experience with A Word Write Now, and it’s a resource that I find myself turning to as I write. It’s also a wonderful resource from the children. We love to look things up in it, and it’s really helped cement the whole idea of parts of speech and synonyms as well as being a regular resource on our bookcase.
Of the whole package though, the one thing that has immediately revolutionized the way I teach, drill and review has been the Teaching with Games. If you’ve ever had a desire to utilize games in your homeschool or in a class that you teach and you don’t know where to start, this DVD set should be your first stop. There’s no need to buy games when you can learn how to make an adapt your own to any age group or subject area that you’re teaching. This is wonderful purchase to make, and I’m grateful I have it. I’ve also turned to the CD-rom again and again already to print out templates for Bingo boards, hot potato cards and other things. This is a perfect addition to our homeschool.