How To Use Notebook Pages To Write An Essay Using the Institute for Excellence in Writing System

Writing an Essay Using IEW and Notebook Page

The last few Weekly Wrap-Up posts have included my son’s notebook pages as part of his history and literature study. I explained that he uses these notebook pages to start write more formal essays and I thought you might like to know how he does that in a more step-by-step way.

He is a great note taker, partly because he is able to digest the information but also because we worked on it as part of the Institute of Excellence in Writing(IEW)  lessons. In the IEW system, the student takes these notes and organizes them in what they call a “key word outline”. The student then takes that key word outline(KWO) and makes a first draft of their essay. At first they have a checklist of “dress-ups” that they use to make their writing more interesting and varied. The checklist reminds them to vary the opening of the sentences and to use various types of words. These steps are easily accomplished by first taking notes on notebook pages.
Notebooking Page Notes for Essay
Now that my boys are older, they have incorporated the IEW system into their weekly writing without much extra effort. Using notebook pages gives them a way to easily keep the main ideas in one place as they read and then narrate what they glean from their reading. (You can read my complete review of IEW on Curriculum Choice.)

Steps for Writing A More Formal Essay Using Notebook Pages

1. After reading, the student sits with pencil and notebook page to write the main ideas and thoughts. They can write quotes as well. (noting page number for future reference). I don’t give my boys any direction on what to write so they need to read and think about how they can summarize the section in their own words.
High School Notebook Pages (7)
Make sure to keep track of sources for the bibliography. This was an essay on alternative energy.

2. If you are writing an essay that will incorporate more than one source or more than one topic, make a notebook page for each source or topic. For instance in my son’s Ancient History course, he is going to write a formal five paragraph essay on Greek thinkers. He makes one notebook page for each person he is going to feature…probably three. Each notebook page will then be the basis for one paragraph in his essay.

High School Notebook Pages (5)
Quotes are easily recorded on notebook pages for inclusion in their final essay.

3. Once they have their notebook pages written, then the student can make a key word outline. In the beginning I would give by sons a template to fill in from the IEW plans. Basically, they are taking the items they wish to talk about and boiling them down to a few words (6 or 7).

4. Take the KWO and write the essay body. Using the keyword outline forces them to write the information and ideas in their own words….love that aspect of IEW.

5. After writing the body, the student can go back and write the introduction, conclusion, and title.

6. When I assign a longer essay (usually two times a year), my boys then make more notebook pages as they keep track of their information. IEW teaches what they call the “super essay” which is basically three five-paragraph essays linked together. For a super essay, it is not unlikely that there will be 10-12 notebook pages made in preparation of the key word outline.  The system is slick and easy to master once you have the basic tools.

Ready for some examples?

Gather notes on different aspects of a topic and then write a research report.

High School Notebook Pages (10)High School Notebook Pages (13)
High School Notebook Pages (14)High School Notebook Pages (16)
These pages became part of a super essay on the Antarctic.

High School Notebook Pages (17)High School Notebook Pages (8)
Buddhism Notebook Pagehistory 4
These became an essay on world religions.

If you would like to read more about how we use notebook pages in our high school courses, you can click over to my page on Squidoo: Notebooking For High Schoolers. 

I also have a tab at the top of the blog where I list all the sources for notebooking pages that I use in our homeschool. Many of these we have had on hand throughout middle school.

Free Notebooking Pages Sampler
I also highly recommend the Treasury Membership available at
(I am an affiliate for and receive a small commission if you click my links….just so you know.)

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