Archive for July, 2014

24th July
written by admin


Gaining Ground with Online Grammar Tools

Students have access to many educational tools via their computer, but when it comes to grammar help it’s harder to find a resource that meets middle school students at their level. Popular grammar software programs, such as GrammarlyWhitesmoke, and Ginger (all fee-based) target adults and do little to help students know when to use its, it’s, who’s, whose, a lot, they’re, their and other frequent grammar pitfalls. Each year, I scour the web and Apple App Store for grammar tools that meet the wide-ranging grammar needs of middle school students. Below are my top recommendations.

WPP Online (Writing Practice Program) – Our school is fortunate to have made this program available to all students. Each student has an account with access to many writing resources. Not only can students submit a piece of writing for a computerized analysis of strengths and weaknesses, it provides a set of suggested review video lessons based errors in the submitted piece. Students have found this feature very helpful as we’ve worked on various writing assignments throughout the year. Another feature that stands out is how the video lessons are appropriately leveled for students struggling to identify a verb all the way to those who are ready to tackle misplaced modifiers. Heading into the summer break, WPP Online is a great way to review a year’s worth of grammar and writing lessons. It also has a short SAT Prep section.

noredink (free website, each student has an account connected to a teacher page) – I’ve noticed over the years that many grammar websites present a series of multiple choice type questions that struggle to maintain student interest. Many grammar websites are designed with adults in mind and often have sentences with topics foreign to teenagers. noredink uses a quick student survey to gather student topics of interest and uses those topics in their grammar exercises. This is the only online resource that I have found that provides accurate practice in punctuating sentences by allowing students to drag and drop the necessary punctuation marks into the sentence. Feedback to students after incorrect responses is written at their level. The site remembers their areas of needed practice and provides an easy to read progress chart. Similar to WPP, viewing student progress is accessible to teachers and allows them to identify key areas to focus on for future instruction.

iPad/iPhone Apps – Save your money and stay clear of the App Store. I have yet to find an app that provides something more worthwhile than picking up a paper-based grammar workbook and working through those lessons. For younger students, several apps exist, but the middle school market is wide open. The few apps (GrammarPrep) I had used with students via my iPad now appear to not work with iOS 7.  A better use of time and money would be to use the Grammar Bytes website on your iPad/iPhone. Students have enjoyed working through an increasing set of grammar issues while earning phony prizes, such as fancy cars. The explanations for the grammar rules are bit technical for middle school, but they’re concise and easy to access. This site best serves the widest range of grammar skills with each set of exercises allowing students to work from a basic level of application of a grammar rule to a very advanced level.

Grammar progress is best made in the context of the student’s actual writing, which makes WPP the best all-around resource to help make significant grammar progress. Spending just 20 to 30 minutes a week using WPP or one of the other above online resources would be an ideal way to extend and enhance the English skills of any student this summer.

If you have found a helpful online grammar resource for your middle schooler, please pass it along.