Tag Archives: grammar

Quizlet: Crowdsourcing Vocabulary

7 Nov

quizletI am jealous of my computer; it never feels stress. I do…way too often. And, way too often my stress is related to my inefficiency at providing timely, specific feedback to my students. Don’t get me wrong, I know I give meaningful feedback, but I wish it was all I ever did.

I am excited, then, when technology can help me out. When teachers outsource instantaneous feedback to a computer, the effect can be powerful, especially in areas like vocabulary acquisition. Language teachers understand that vocabulary expansion can be a grand equalizer, helping students rapidly improve other skills. Wide-ranging, free choice reading is my favorite way to help students acquire new vocabulary, but I also use some excellent web tools.

I am currently enamored with Membean (an online vocabulary system.) This post, however, is about an older love: Quizlet.

Both systems are effective ways to let technology offer timely and plentiful feedback. Each system also allows for students to engage in individualized and constructivist learning while freeing the teacher to offer differentiated, data-driven support. Continue reading

Advertisements

Jumping Jacks Teach Transitions

5 Apr

Flickr image by jasohill

When is the last time you tried to do a jumping jack? I actually do them fairly frequently. My boxing instructor is a jovial sadist, and we do calisthenics until our arms hang like fresh pasta. I also do at least one jumping jack per year to introduce transitions to my students.

I the introductory transition lesson without an explanation of WHY. Instead, I walk in the room and immediately bark at the students to stack the chairs and push the desks against the walls. I then ask them to find some clear space where they won’t hit their neighbor if they fling their arms around. (I encourage them to fling their arms and test things out.) I then tell the class I will award prestigious prizes for the MOST CREATIVE JUMPING JACK, as judged by me.

SIDE NOTE: I keep a BAG ‘O MYSTERY filled with a few good prizes (mixed CDs I’ve made…toy light sabers…a Napolean Dynamite collapsible cup) and A LOT of obnoxious junk. I regularly comb thrift stores and garage sales and keep a strict nothing-over-a-dollar-rule. The kids (I’m talking juniors and seniors) go pretty crazy over this finely curated detritus. I always hype up the prestige of getting to pull from the BAG ‘O MYSTERY, and students usually take great pride in receiving the dorkiest of prizes. One student kept a chipped garden gnome in his locker throughout his entire high school career.

Continue reading

Making Grammar Sticky With Google Docs

10 Jan


I spent many hours in elementary school diagramming sentences, parsing parts of speech on spidery branches of sentence trees. I must admit, though, I never found this procedure painful. For me the activity compartmentalized language. The parts of a sentence worked like Lego bricks, and once I understood the various “shapes” of grammar, I found enjoyment in rearranging them.

As an English teacher, then, I’ve always felt palpable guilt about the way I teach grammar…or more accurately the way I don’t. I teach it every year in every class, but my students don’t seem to do a very good job learning it. I was never satisfied with my approach or my students’ mastery of basic language rules…until I used Google Docs to have my students keep grammar journals. I leveraged technology to make students more accountable for their grammar work, but this technique could be adapted in any subject to keep an error analysis log.

The set-up of this classroom practice is simple. In the beginning of the year, I asked students to start a new Google Doc and then make at least one entry per week, on their own. I spent a portion of a class period leading a discussion on why grammar might be important to them, and I framed my expectations with this assignment description.

I walked students through the description, but I also used their own writing to guide this initial work. Prior to class, I had gone through the first writing assignment of the year and highlighted any grammar errors I found, limiting myself to ten.

Using the master list in the assignment description and their highlighted essays, each student made a bulleted list of grammar errors they were making. Using the comments features in Google Docs, I asked them to identify each error. They did NOT to fix the error; they simply labeled it. I imposed an “Ask Three Before Me” rule at this stage. They first had to ask themselves what the error might be. If they were unsure, they asked the student to their left and their right for help. If there was still confusion, they would call me over.

During the labeling of their errors, I was able to give feedback to each student multiple times, clarifying misunderstandings and formatively assessing each students writing skills. After the students completed their master lists, they chose two HOT BUTTON grammar issues, the two aspects of their writing that—if mastered—would have immediate and noticeable impact on their work. I had made notes as to which errors were made and which issues I considered the most pressing. The exit slip for that day’s class was to confirm with me which two HOT BUTTON grammar issues they had selected. I used this final check-in to ensure that each student was clear as to what he or she should work on.

I had finally realized that I needed to think of ways to put the burden of learning more squarely on the students’ shoulders. I needed a way to differentiate grammar instruction but still easily document the learning. The grammar journals via Google Docs proved invaluable.

I spent the rest of the school year teaching grammar as I most often do…using a hybrid of whole class instruction, online tutorials, and individual feedback. But, each week they were required to make at least one entry in their grammar journals. The entries were meant to be specific, personal, and honest….They did not, however, need to be long. I expected one entry to take between 20-30 minutes from start to finish, including research time.

I seldom wrote feedback. Instead, I completed quick face-to-face check-ins during class. While students were doing something else, I’d call up individuals and offer critique. I would offer suggestions for other sources and methods as well. Students also completed periodic self-assessments.

By using student-directed grammar journals, grammar concepts became “stickier.” In other words, by taking a more proactive approach, the students’ mastery of language increased. Also, because I set up multiple resources and activities, the students used varied modes to learn. They could come back to a tricky concept like parallelism many times in many ways. Through this differentiation, I found myself, less often, making repeated comments on essays throughout the year.

Because the use of Google Docs effectively organized their work and allowed me (and peers) to easily give feedback, I was more likely to come back to grammar every week. Grammar instruction stopped being a chore that we all agreed to avoid.

Student response was overwhelmingly positive. Even my most reluctant, disorganized students—the ones that always seemed to be missing or rushing their entries—eventually began to realize the value of patient, independent practice…and their writing improved as a result.

Sample Grammar Journal

Grammar Journal Assignment Description

BCDS Grammar Ning

NOTE: This post original appeared at EdSocialMedia.com

carlabramowitz

Explore with Curiosity. Create with Love

@TeacherToolkit

Most Influential Blog on Education in the UK

Robin Neal

a teacher energized by innovation and collaboration

Popsicles for Dinner

The adventures of Liza and Felix

couponbomb

A year long quest of doing stuff...

Lehrer Werkstatt

Reflections on Living and Teaching in Germany

Student Observation

every day observations from a student's perspective

Empathic Teacher

The Mindful High School Classroom

Expat Educator

Leadership and Educational Practice from Around the World

Ideas Out There

THINK. LEARN. DO. REPEAT...

So, will this be graded?

Stories from a middle school English teacher turned high school English teacher.

History Tech

History, technology, and probably some other stuff

I'm Teaching English

And trying to get better each day. Thanks for your comments!

thefreshmanexperience

Life's lessons learned from students at school...

TED Blog

The TED Blog shares interesting news about TED, TED Talks video, the TED Prize and more.

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

analyfe

the subjective perspective of an analytical optimist

Classroom as Microcosm

Siobhan Curious Says: Teachers are People Too