IEW History-Based Writing Lessons

One of the most effective ways to teach is to integrate as many subjects as possible. With History-Based Writing Lessons from Institute for Excellence in Writing, you can easily teach writing skills while reinforcing the topics your student is studying in history.

My 15-year-old son, Devin, recently began using U.S. History-Based Writing Lessons, Vol. I: Explorers to the Gold Rush. This writing course would certainly provide a solid follow-up for students who have completed IEW’s Student Writing Intensive; it could also be taught as a stand-alone course, provided the teacher had completed Teaching Writing: Structure & Style (IEW’s “teacher training” course).

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About U.S. History-Based Writing Lessons

In this volume of U.S. History-Based Writing Lessons, all nine IEW writing units are covered. There are two or more lessons covering each unit, for a total of 34 lessons.

Most lessons begin with an activity designed to teach a particular writing structure or stylistic technique. Composition, grammar, and vocabulary are also included, all while writing about American history.

The teacher’s guide includes step-by-step lesson plans designated for grades 4-6, junior high, or high school. For each age group there are different checklists and assignments. One of the best parts of teaching writing with IEW materials is that the source text is included right in the book, allowing the student to focus on implementing the writing structures and stylistic techniques being taught.

The student book contains lesson pages, source texts, blank outlines, and checklists for each assignment. In addition, the book contains sample compositions by other students and vocabulary cards for learning new words to use in writing assignments.

Overview of a Lesson in U.S. History-Based Writing Lessons

Let’s take a look at Lesson 3 to demonstrate how the History-Based Writing Lessons are set up. The teacher’s guide includes detailed plans for the lesson, including helpful tips to keep you and your student organized and on track throughout the course.

According to the lesson plan, the teacher and student will read pages 19-20 from the student book together. After reading the lesson and the included source text, the student fills in the blank keyword outline. Some students may find it particularly helpful that the blank outline and word idea lists are included directly after the source text.

Sample page from History-Based Writing Lessons

Next the student writes the rough draft, working from the key word outline and word idea lists. He also completes the rough draft  checklist, also included in the student book, to ensure that he has completed all the requirements for the assignment.

Sample of rough draft for IEW writing lesson

Finally, students are directed to cut out vocabulary cards and learn them for the next lesson.

This draft from Lesson 3 is completed in Lesson 5, after the “who/which” clause in introduced. However, students who have already worked through the Student Writing Intensive are given the option of finishing the assignment immediately, which is what we opted to do. I helped Devin proofread and correct his rough draft, and then he rewrote the paper for a final copy.


In 1607 a group of English merchants sailed to the New World. They landed in Virginia in a town they called Jamestown. It was a swampy wilderness. Because they were lazy Englishmen, they didn’t know how to work, so they struggled for survival. Sadly, within a few months, almost half of them died. The settlement would not have survived without Captain John Smith. He knew how to trade and keep the peace with the Indians. He wisely said, “He who doesn’t work doesn’t eat.” The men didn’t find gold but they did find tobacco. They sold it by the ton to England. Jamestown is still in Virginia today. It is famous for being the first permanent English settlement.

Things to Consider

  • We found U.S. History-Based Writing Lessons to be somewhat more difficult to implement than Student Writing Intensive. I think this is primarily because we didn’t have Mr. Pudewa teaching the lessons via DVD as we did in SWI. 
  • Because this course incorporates grammar and vocabulary, it could be a very effective tool for teaching and reinforcing language skills.
  • Working through these lessons would be an excellent addition to any study of U.S. history.

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  1. This is the third time I’ve been to your site. Thnx for explaining more

  2. Shannin M says:

    Thank you for posting this. My son and I are working through the SWI (now called something else). I found your paper which includes sections for him to write out -ly adj, and strong verbs very helpful!
    -Shannin Moreau