Institute for Excellence in Writing’s (IEW) Following Narnia by Laura Bettis is a relatively new addition to IEW’s excellent writing resources. Structured around the books The Magician’s Nephew, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis fans will especially enjoy these writing lessons following the instructional method of IEW’s Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (TWSS).
Following Narnia consists of two spiral-bounds books: a Teacher’s Manual and a Student Book. You will need both to successfully use the program. It is intended for grades 6-8 and is roughly equivalent to IEW’s Level B. However, I think it could be easily adapted for younger or older students.
The Teacher's Manual is 107 pages and includes guidelines and notes for 31 lessons. Each lesson begins with the structure, style, topic, reading assignment, IEW unit covered, and goals and continues with helpful teaching notes and tips for that particular lesson. The Teacher's Manual is not simply a copy of the Student Book with answers given; it is an essential component to successfully teach the program and should be reviewed and referenced by the instructor prior to each lesson.
In addition to notes for each lesson, the Teacher's Manual also includes sample compositions and checklists for each unit. Several pages and worksheets are devoted to analyzing words for the optional word analysis exercises for each Narnia book covered.
The Teacher's Manual assumes the parent or instructor has access to and is familiar with IEW’s Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (TWSS). Lessons reference the TWISS disc, scene selection, and syllabus pages covering the lesson material, which I found very helpful when needing a review of the style and structure being taught. Though my son has gone through the Student Writing Intensive (SWI) for Level B, there were units covered in Following Narnia which he had not yet been exposed. It was particularlly helpful to know exactly where to find the teaching instruction on the TWSS DVDs to teach the lesson in these cases. Even though he had not previously covered all the IEW units prior to starting this program, I was able to easily teach the new material by referencing the TWSS and using the notes in the Teacher's Manual. As long as the instructor has the TWSS as a guide or previous experience teaching the IEW method, a student would not need previous experience with IEW in order to use Following Narnia.
Each lesson is designed to be taught once a week with the student assignments taking the remainder of the week. The IEW units are not presented in exact order and are sometimes combined in a single lesson, but the required structure and style for each lesson is a logical progression. The following is the breakdown for the title and unit covered in each lesson:
Lesson 1-11: Magician’s Nephew (Units 1-6)
Lesson 12-23: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Units 3-8)
Lesson 24-31 The Horse and His Boy (Unit 7 & 9, character, symbolism, and theme analysis from Response to Literature audio)
The Student Book is 135 pages and written directly to the student. Each lesson explains what will be covered in the lesson, gives some basic instruction and/or provides samples, and provides any needed source texts for the lesson. There are a variety of exercises, blank outlines, and writing guides to help the student along. A short reading assigment from the Narnia title is given for each lesson. Often times the reading assignment is not directly related to the topic of the writing assignment. The main purpose of the Following Narnia is to practice integrating IEW techniques with other subjects, and this goal is met throughout each lesson. For example, one assignment topic is about Sherlock Holmes, who is mentioned reading assignment for that lesson. Other topics relate to history or science referenced in the books. A student may study the history of evacuations and air raids, research flowers, or creatively rewrite a story told in the Narnia books.
The Student Book may be copied for use by multiple children in your immediate family. Small groups, co-ops, and classroom students must each purchase their own Student Book.
Also included with the Teacher's Manual and Student Book is a free download of the e-book (110 pages). This e-book is regularly priced at $15, but is included with the purchase of IEW's theme-based writing lesson books. This resource includes Models of Structure, Style Charts, Word Lists, Decorations, Grammar Rules and more to use as a reference when using IEW’s products.
The writing lessons were easy to implement and my son seemed to enjoy using the Narnia books as a reference for his writing assignments. I would suggest that students read through each Narnia title in its entirety once first, then reread it by following the reading assignment for each lesson. Otherwise, you may find that your student will race ahead in the book as mine did. The pace of the reading assignments is too slow for a first read through of the books, so have students read them for enjoyment first, then dive in deeper a second time for the writing lessons. I would have liked to have the vocabulary words assigned for each lesson, rather than a list provided at the end of the book so it would have been easier to remember to do this optional exercise. Overall, though, there is not much I would change. Using much loved literature as a basis for writing lessons keeps the interest high and Following Narnia does a great job of pulling in related history and science topics. We’ve used a number of IEW products over the years and they are always excellent. Following Narnia is no exception.
Samples for both Following Narnia Teacher's Manual and Student Book are available at the IEW website and also below.
Note: This review is based on the First Edition. The recently released Second Edition has the updates listed below.
Second Edition updates:
• Traditional IEW checklists have been added along with the customizable checklists.
• Incorporates more source texts from important figures from the WWII era such as Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt.
• The new edition is not compatible with the old (due to the changes in multiple lessons).