IEW SSS level A

Too Repetitive??? Discover IEW SSS Level A: 1A vs. 2A (V)

Get ready for another exciting chapter in my IEW review journey! Today, we’re diving deep into a thorough comparison of IEW SSS Level A Year 1 and Year 2. Wit this, I want to address a common fear of parents when talking about Structure and Style curriculum. Is it too repetitive?

Since we’ve completed both years of level A, I felt the need to stop and compare these because I now have a fresh and clear overview of the whole setup. And hopefully this comparison will help shed some light on the reasons why SSS repeats units and revisits concepts.

If you’ve missed my previous articles:

Buckle up, because by the end of this read, you might just snag a chance to win one of two fabulous $50 gift cards for the IEW shop. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this!

Too repetitive? – IEW SSS Level A Year 1 vs. Year 2 comparison

The first level of IEW’s most acclaimed writing curriculum, Structure and Style for Students is level A. This level is split into two years and it covers grades 3-6.

Is IEW’s Structure and Style for Students too repeptitive? Or is there something more to the story?

IEW has many of the same units repeating throughout their levels and years. An SSS unit is in fact a structural model. These repeat because the goal of this program is to bring kids to mastery through explosure, to have them revisit concepts until these become second nature. But it’s different, because each time they revisit the concept, it goes deeper, adding new layers of knowledge to the table.

So is Structure and Style for Students too repetitive? Read to see if a comparison between 1A and 2A helps you decide for yourself.

IEW SSS level A is it too repetitive 1A vs 2A

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Our rating:

Grades: 3-6

Style: homeschool writing curriculum

Type: Secular/Neutral

Components: Video lessons +Teacher Book + Student Book + online printables

Do you prefer watching a video instead of reading? Then you might like my YouTube video instead:

What’s Inside a SSS Basic Package?

Level A of Structure and Style for Students is designed for students in grades 3-6 and is split into two years of instruction.

Now, here’s an interesting thing about IEW: they don’t place children in a specific level solely based on their grade. Instead, they consider the child’s writing and reading ability to ensure they start at the appropriate level. So, when it comes to SSS, always begin with Year 1, regardless of the level you choose. This personalized approach ensures that your child receives the instruction and guidance they need to thrive.

IEW is very well-organized and it makes the writing instruction a smooth process for both kids and parents.

Picture this: with each box, you get 24 weeks of step-by-step instruction that guides you through a structured homeschool writing curriculum. You’ll have access to engaging video lessons, either online or via a DVD set, a teacher’s manual, and a student packet. The online resources offer a lot of useful printables, a handy 30-week schedule, and helpful student samples.

We’ve looked at the components of an SSS package, but here’s a quick overview:

  • a video code card to access the online videos (or a DVD set if you choose that option)
  • a setting-up-your-binder leaflet
  • a student binder with tabs and extra large papers for combined key word outlines
  • a student packet with the instruction for students, including source texts, stylistic techniques and structure sheets, checklists, and more
  • a coil-bound teacher book with all the information for teachers or parents to help support their children. The pages in the teacher’s book mirror the ones in the student packet and the information is all provided on the margins, including notes from the video classes.
  • online access to various resources, including a 30-week schedule, student samples, or checklists with points (details on the blue page at the beginning of your teacher’s manual)
Copy of Untitled Design 5

I love how cohesive the whole package is, from the sturdy box everything is shipped out in, to the coordinating colors and covers. I know you’ll say what’s inside matters more and I assure you the inside is as well-put-together as the outside.

Color codes for Structure and Style for Students:

  • Green – elementary grades 3-5
  • Blue – middle school, grades 6-8
  • Purple – high school

The student book and teacher book are both printed in black and white. There are some colored pages with structural and stylistic techniques that can be used for quick reference.

While there are no colorful images or busy pages, the whole content of SSS is very well planned to introduce kids to writing compositions and essays in an incremental manner that doesn’t feel overwhelming.

IEW SSS Level A Year 1 vs. Year 2 Comparison

I’ve heard a lot of parents shy away from the program fearing repetitiveness because they see that all the levels will cover the same units. The units in SSS are basically structural models that IEW will revisit each year – since it’s a mastery-based program that aims for mastery through exposure.

To put things in perspective, I will compare what’s covered in IEW SSS Level A (1A and 2A) from the point of reading levels, structure and style, and even the checklists, so you see the incremental approach IEW is taking.

I’ll start by quickly outlining the similarities and differences before diving deeper into the details. Let’s go!

Similarities between SSS Level A Year 1 and Year 2 – Overview

The IEW SSS Level A Year 1 and Year 2 are like two peas in a pod. They share key elements that lay the foundation for writing success, but they also build upon each other in an incremental manner.

Both year 1 and year 2 of IEW SSS Level A program share several fundamental components that we’ve covered above, offering lifetime access to 24 weeks of video instruction, teacher and student books, and more.

Year 1 and Year 2 both cover some common structural units and stylistic techniques, allowing students to build a solid foundation in writing.

But the program offers much more! Think optional literature suggestions for both years and helpful grammar tips if you pair it with the corresponding IEW’s Fix It! Grammar.

It’s the perfect recipe for a top-notch language arts education!

IEW SSS Level A comparison year 1 and 2

Differences between SSS Level A Year 1 and Year 2 – Overview

Now, let’s talk about the interesting stuff—the differences between year 1 and year 2!

First off, the targeted reading level varies. Year 1 caters to 3rd-5th graders, while year 2 is aimed at 4th-6th graders.

The structural side of the program also takes a unique twist between year 1 and year 2. While they both cover most of the same units, the allocation of weeks for each unit shifts gears. Year 2 cranks up the writing goodness by introducing not one, but two additional units as well: Unit 8: Formal Essay Models and Unit 9: Formal Critique. Talk about leveling up!

Oh, and the stylistic journey? It’s a rollercoaster of literary thrills! Year 1 plants the seeds with six dress-ups and one sentence opener. But guess what? Year 2 goes full-mode by unleashing four powerful sentence openers. It’s like discovering a secret arsenal of writing techniques that’ll make your child’s words dance off the page.


In terms of reading levels, both Year 1 and Year 2 of IEW SSS Level A offer cross-curricular source texts that are engaging and suitable for young readers. However, these texts can be easily replaced with alternative texts from the Writing Source Packet if you prefer to work on different materials that align with your child’s reading level and interests.

The source texts included in both years cover a wide range of genres and subjects. They encompass non-fiction articles, biographies, informational texts, stories, fables, myths, and even recipes.

These texts, meticulously adapted for young minds, span across a diverse spectrum of subjects, from the wonders of science to the realms of literature. This ensures that kids will stay curiously engaged.

Both Year 1 and Year 2 of SSS Level A also incorporate writing exercises based on creative prompts or pictures. These activities encourage students to not only read but also respond creatively through their own written compositions. Kids are given the opportunity to apply their comprehension skills, tap into their imagination, and practice expressing their thoughts and ideas effectively.

As students progress from SSS Level 1A to 2A, there is a slight increase in reading difficulty and the amount of text they need to analyze. While the difference may not be immediately noticeable, it becomes apparent when comparing the texts assigned for both levels. I added a side-by-side comparison below for the reading levels in 1A and 2A. Both have Week 1 and Week 19 pictured for reference.

In SSS 1A, children are required to read and summarize a smaller volume of text. In 2A, they are presented with multiple pages to read and summarize for the same units. This slight shift in text length challenges students to engage with more extensive content and enhances their reading comprehension abilities.

SSS 1A – Week 1

SSS 2A – Week 1

SSS 1A – Week 19

SSS 2A – Week 19

➡️ STRUCTURE – Units covered in IEW SSS Level A (1 & 2)

IEW SSS Level A provides a comprehensive exploration of writing structures through its nine units (each unit is a different structural model). In both years, students encounter a diverse range of writing formats and develop essential skills to enhance their written communication.

You’ll notice that some of the units repeat, but the time spent on each unit is less as kids progress, and the checklist and requirements for each lesson are increasing.

The program’s foundational Units 1 and 2 focus on key word outlines and retelling, establishing a solid framework for clear and coherent expression. Building upon this foundation, Unit 3 delves into narrative storytelling.

Unit 4 emphasizes the skill of summarizing, enabling students to distill complex ideas into concise summaries. Through Unit 5, students engage in writing from pictures, igniting their creativity.

Unit 6 introduces the practice of synthesizing information from multiple sources, fostering critical thinking and expanding students’ perspectives. Finally, Unit 7 encourages inventive writing, providing students with the freedom to explore their imagination and push the boundaries of creativity.

A notable difference from a structural point of view between the two years is that Year 2 introduces two more units.

Unit 8 focuses on formal essays while Unit 9 explores the art of formal critique. IEW makes sure kids have confidence in their writing ability before tackling academic writing with their last 2 units.

I love this progressive approach to writing because it ensures kids will acquire these writing skills and use them automatically when faced with any kind of writing because they’ve been exposed to them again and again.

Let’s recap:

Structure and Style for Students 1A - IEW SSS level A
  • Unit 1: Note Making and Outlines (1 week)
  • Unit 2: Writing from Notes (4 weeks)
  • Unit 3: Retelling Narrative Stories (3 weeks)
  • Unit 4: Summarizing a Reference (4 weeks)
  • Unit 5: Writing From Pictures (4 weeks)
  • Unit 6: Summarizing Multiple References (3 weeks)
  • Unit 7: Inventive Writing (5 weeks)
Structure and Style for Students 2A - IEW SSS LEVEL A
  • Unit 1: Note Making and Outlines (1 week)
  • Unit 2: Writing from Notes (2 weeks)
  • Unit 3: Retelling Narrative Stories (3 weeks)
  • Unit 4: Summarizing a Reference (3 weeks)
  • Unit 5: Writing From Pictures (3 weeks)
  • Unit 6: Summarizing Multiple References (3 weeks)
  • Unit 7: Inventive Writing (3 weeks)
  • Unit 8: Formal Essay Models (3 weeks)
  • Unit 9: Formal Critique (3 weeks)

⭐️ STYLE – Stylistic Techniques

The development of style is approached through the incorporation of dress-ups and sentence openers—the magical ingredients that transform ordinary compositions into better, more elegant writing. These stylistic gems unlock a world of linguistic prowess and effective communication.

Both IEW SSS Level A years introduce kids to six dress-ups. Let’s take a closer look:

  1. -ly adverbs: These are adverbs that end in “-ly” and are used to add description and vividness to verbs. They help bring sentences to life by providing additional details about how an action is performed.
  2. who/which clauses: These are dependent clauses that provide additional information about a person or thing in the sentence. They help add specificity and detail.
  3. strong verbs: Strong verbs are powerful and precise action words that convey a clear and vivid image to the reader. They replace weak, generic verbs and make writing more engaging and dynamic.
  4. because clauses: Because clauses are dependent clauses that provide reasons or explanations for a statement or action. They help support arguments or viewpoints by offering logical and convincing evidence.
  5. quality adjectives: Quality adjectives are carefully chosen descriptive words that enhance the sensory experience for the reader. They create a vivid picture by adding specific details and qualities to nouns.
  6. clauses: These are clauses that begin with words like “when,” “while,” “where,” “as,” “since,” “if,” and “although.” They are used to provide adverbial information about time, place, or condition, and add variety and depth to sentence structure.

As students progress to SSS 2A, they continue to build upon their knowledge of dress ups. In addition to the six dress ups introduced in SSS 1A, students are exposed to four sentence openers. While the #2 prepositional opener is common to both SSS 1A and SSS 2A, the other sentence openers are first introduced in SSS 2A. This expansion of sentence openers further enriches students’ writing style and allows for more diverse and engaging sentence beginnings. Let’s see the openers:

  • #2 prepositional opener: A #2 prepositional opener is a sentence opener that starts with a prepositional phrase. It sets the stage, establishes context, or provides additional details about the subject or action in the sentence.
  • #3 -ly adverb opener: A #3 -ly adverb opener is a sentence opener that begins with an adverb ending in “-ly.” It adds emphasis and rhythm to the sentence, capturing the reader’s attention and setting the tone.
  • #6 VSS (very short sentence) opener: A #6 VSS opener is a sentence opener that consists of a very short sentence, typically containing 2-5 words. It is designed to make a strong impact or create a dramatic effect at the beginning of a paragraph or essay.
  • #5 clausal opener: A #5 clausal opener is a sentence opener that starts with a dependent clause. It provides background information, sets the scene, introduces a contrast, or adds complexity to the sentence structure.

However, it is worth noting that the introduction of these stylistic techniques occurs at different lessons in each level. SSS 2A introduces the dress-ups at a faster pace compared to SSS 1A. Throughout the program, dress-ups and sentence openers are carefully dripped, allowing your child to master each one before moving on to the next. In SSS 2A, the pace quickens.

The stylistic approach in IEW is linear mastery, in contrast to the cyclical review approach used for writing structures. The dress-ups and sentence openers are introduced gradually, with SSS 2A introducing them at a faster pace compared to SSS 1A.

SSS year 1 versus Year 2 comparison IEW level A


Maybe the checklists offer the best perspective on the complexity of the program – a window into the evolution of IEW’s SSS program from one year to the next.

These valuable tools showcase the increasing depth of knowledge and the growing writing confidence of our young learners.

SSS 1A Checklist for Unit 7

Screenshot 2023 05 17 at 00.54.52

SSS 2A Checklist for Unit 7

Screenshot 2023 05 17 at 00.54.08

So what are we looking at?

These are 2 checklists from the same unit, Unit 7: Inventive Writing. Side by side, they reveal the progression of skills and the expectations each level has from young writers.

STRUCTURE: from a structural point of view, the initial requirements are the same, but children in 2A are required to make use of the new structural requirements of an introduction and conclusion.

STYLE: In SSS 1A, the focus is on mastering the intricacies of a single paragraph. But in SSS 2A, the kids’ writing toolkit expands to encompass five paragraphs, allowing for richer storytelling and deeper exploration of ideas.

With each passing year, there is a wider repertoire of sentence openers and dress-ups. And let’s not forget the growing list of banned words, a reminder to seek alternatives and unleash the full potential of their vocabulary.

This intentional progression nudges kids to think about writing with clarity, and to weave their thoughts into a well-structured composition.

One of the highlights of the IEW approach that I appreciate is the emphasis on editing. Before submitting their final work, our young authors are encouraged to take a step back, armed with their trusty checklists. They have the opportunity to revise, refine, and polish their compositions, knowing that true mastery is born out of dedication and the willingness to perfect their craft.

I feel that this style of teaching pushes kids to think about writing more, to organize ideas, and to edit their work. It teaches them that writing requires time and work to perfect.

Final thoughts…

The IEW SSS Level A sets the bases for better writing, no matter where your students begin. Year 1 and Year 2 take you on a journey of growth and discovery of great writing devices.

With its similarities and differences, these levels are the first keys to unlocking your child’s full writing potential.

What sets this program apart is its mastery approach, guiding our children through the writing process incrementally. They are encouraged to take one step at a time, building their skills steadily, with a sense of confidence, and without feeling overwhelmed. The linear mastery of the stylistic approach complements the cyclical review of the structural approach, creating a balanced and comprehensive learning experience.

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