Let’s face it—many people are reluctant writers. Memories of school essays all marked up in red still send shudders up and down their spines. And…many non-Language Arts/English teachers resist holding students accountable for proper English usage in their class assignments because they do not feel comfortable correcting grammar. In fact, many do not assign writing tasks at all because they dread reading poorly written pieces. However, literacy standards are now everyone’s responsibility, not just the Language Arts teacher’s.
A middle level team must stand together and insist that students use their best writing skills in all classes and be willing to return work to students to revise and edit when the work is sloppy. My previous post suggests that team teachers identify and address the most egregious grammar mistakes their students are making.
Here is a second strategy teams can use to help your students become better writers. Another “tool” so to speak. It is Grammarly, a web-based grammar checking site. Now, for the most part, the whys and hows of proper grammar use are taught in the language arts classroom. However, there needs to be a reinforcement of proper usage across the curriculum. Grammarly can help in 3 ways:
1. Students can upload their work to the site and have it checked. Grammarly tends to catch more spelling, usage, and style errors than Word. In addition, it checks for plagiarism. Students can double check their work in science, social studies, math, art, or any other class. They receive digital feedback on what they need to correct before passing in the assignment. The teachers can then concentrate on reviewing the accuracy of the content rather than being totally distracted by misspellings, double negatives, or incorrect verb forms.
2. Using the extension on Google Chrome, students can get immediate feedback when they are working on online writing assignments. Think what a boon this feature would be for your English language learners and students with writing and processing issues!
3. The Grammarly Facebook page has an endless supply of clever and funny images related to literacy. Use them in your instruction. Humor helps us remember!
4. Here’s a bonus for the teachers on the team who just love to talk grammar. Grammarly has a great blog where they can read about such topics as animal idioms, words that get confused, email etiquette and cats in literature.
As a team research Grammarly and see how this site might be useful to you. Obviously the students need easy access to digital devices. Check out these web pages:
2. An article from Forbes Magazine: http://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2012/10/21/i-dont-tolerate-poor-grammar/
3. A quick overview of Grammarly video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=No0IPf98UaQ
Next, you will need to talk to your tech folks and probably your administration. Grammarly is free, however, students do have to have accounts. Secondly, if you use the Google Chrome extension, it does need to be installed on the school’s computers. At the very least you can demonstrate how the website works so students can use it at home.
As a team, you need to use Grammarly for a bit to feel comfortable with its functionality. When you are ready to share it with your students, build in time to show them how to use it. Point out that it will explain what the mistake is so that they can learn from their own errors.
What I like about Grammarly is that it is tool that students can use in many situations—in and out of school. And no, tools like Grammarly do not make us lazy about being aware of usage and spelling. They help us fine-tune our skills. Probably 95% of us make grammatical errors in our everyday speaking and writing. I have reliable writing skills, but when I use Grammarly (like right now), it always picks up errors that I miss during my revising and editing process. It’s not perfect, but teaching students to use it effectively will help them become better writers—in all of their classes. Also, it is a great tool for teachers to use to double check communications they send home to parents. Check it out: grammarly.com/grammar-check.