Although I have heard so many good things about the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) over the last few years, it wasn’t until a few months ago that we began using some of their materials in our homeschool. I have been impressed with everything we’ve purchased, so I was thrilled to get a chance a review three resources we’d not yet explored: the Timeline of Classics, the Teaching with Games Set, and A Word Write Now.
About Timeline of Classics
As a lover of history and literature, the Timeline of Classics by Gail Ledbetter is an absolute treasure! This 192-page spiral bound book (also available as a PDF download) goes through history in chronological order, listing resources (classic literature, biographies, plays, films, and audio recordings) that are set in each time period. The pages are single sided and laid out like a spreadsheet, making it easy to go through the details for each entry. Although the book is broken up into four major eras (Ancients, Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation, and the Modern World), each entry gives more specific years and/or subjects to correspond with the timeline, along with the title, author, and approximate age/ability level, which make it really easy to find resources to go along with what we’re studying.
(See website for sample pages, including the table of contents.)
I found it helpful that rather than separating listings by grade-level appropriateness, Ledbetter puts everything together and indicates the approximate targeted age (E-elementary, M-middle school, H-high school). I find that Ian is often able to handle literature that is indicated for older children, while still enjoying some of the easier reading as well, so I appreciate having everything in one place.
This book is the kind of thing I could see myself putting hours into creating, yet now all the work is done for me! Gail Ledbetter actually put this together herself as a gift to her children, serving both as a record of their homeschooling years and as a resource for future reference. It not only helps me plan our current lessons but also gives me ideas for things I don’t want to miss for the next time we go through our history cycle. There’s enough space in the margins to additions of my own, and I image our copy is going to get quite beat up in the years to come as I personalize it and make notes about what we’ve done or want to do.
About Teaching With Games
The Teaching with Games Set by Lori Verstegen includes both a 117-page spiral bound book (single sided pages) and a 3-disc set comprised of two workshop DVDs (130 minutes total) and a CD-ROM containing the PDF e-book and bonus materials (games and activities for teaching about alliteration and similes/metaphors using quotations from classic literature, taken from an e-book entitled Dress-Ups, Decorations, and Delightful Diversions, also from IEW).
Most of the games presented in the book and the workshop DVDs are designed to be used to help teach almost any subject. You simply take the vocabulary, concepts, facts, etc. from your current lessons and use them to create the games, allowing students to interact with the material in a way that helps with learning retention. Instructions are given for using the games in both a classroom setting with a large number of students or in at home with just mom and one student, so it’s easy to adapt them to meet your specific situation.
The book is broken up into five sections (plus an appendix):
I. “No-Prep” Games
II. Matching Card Games
III. Question Games
IV. Math Facts Games
V. “Make as You Teach” Games
The DVDs cover the games using the same sections (I and II on Disc 1, and III, IV, and V on Disc 2), so it’s easy to follow along in the book. The DVDs provide a great introduction and a way to see the games in action, but the book is the most essential part of the Teaching with Games Set. Several of the sections contain samples, so there are dozens of pages of games that are all ready to use if you’re studying those topics. Simply copy the pages and cut out the cards or game boards and you’re good to go.
As I’ve written before, Elijah our most enthusiastic game-player, so I had him in mind when I took on this review. However, Ian too was excited to try out many of the games in the book and enjoyed going through the sample games. He didn’t seem to notice (or care) that he was learning and was more than happy to be allowed to play games during “school time.”
We found several games that work well for our family right now. I especially appreciated games like “Academic 20 Questions” that allow us to review lessons in the car as we drive about town. I’ve scheduled a couple weeks in December where we’ll take a break from our regular math lessons and have some fun with the math facts games from Section IV, and we’ll be using several of the games to practice the vocabulary words we’re studying in our writing class this fall.
About A Word Write Now
The only resource we were sent that is specifically about writing, A Word Write Now is similar to a thesaurus in that it provides alternatives for writers searching for just the right word. However, rather than simply listing words alphabetically, this “thematic thesaurus” by Loranna Schwacofer groups words to make it easy for students to find what they are looking for.
There are four sections to this 106-page spiral bound book:
SECTION A – Character Traits
This section is a powerful resource for writers wanting to develop characters in their creative writing. Twenty-three character traits (from Anger to Wisdom) each are given a two-page spread that includes a definition; thoughts by the author on that trait; excerpts from classical literature portraying each one; and lists of nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs that can be used to describe someone demonstrating that trait. There is also room for students to write in additional words they want to remember to go along with each trait, as well as an open form that can be copied if the student wants to create their own resource pages to go along with additional traits.
SECTION B – Descriptive Words
Learning to include adjectives has been one of my boys’ favorite parts of their IEW lessons this year, and this section is full of helpful lists to help them find the words they want. It includes lists of words used to describe appearance, color, size, time, temperature, texture, and shape. Depending on the topic, each 2-page spread contains lists of related nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and/or adverbial phrases, as well as excerpts from classic literature and a place for students to add their own words to the list.
SECTION C – Words for Movement and the Senses
Similar to the lists in the previous section, these pages contain words for feet, hands, hearing, seeing, smelling, speaking, and thinking.
SECTION D – Appendix
The final section of the book contains additional lists such as “Transition Words Not Related to Time” and “Definitions and Examples of Literary Devices.” I especially liked the pages with teaching tips for “playing with words” to help students become familiar with A Word Write Now and to practice using the new words they come across in these lists.
I already had a copy of this book that was included in a package of materials I purchased from IEW a few months ago, but we hadn’t had a chance to get into it until now. At first I had considered passing along the extra copy to a friend, but now I’m leaning toward keeping both so that the boys each have one to use as they work on their writing assignments.
All three of these resources live up to the high standard I have come to expect from Institute for Excellence in Writing products. I know we will return to them again and again through the years as my older boys progress in their studies and as the little ones join them on our homeschooling journey. If you’d like to see what other Crew members thought of these resources or a few others from IEW, click the banner below to find their reviews.