Emphasizing students need to learn proper grammar can sometimes feel like we are talking about 20th century skills because, in this day and age, we seem to focus on STEM, the 4 Cs and 21st century technology skills. I appreciate the importance of all these topics, without a doubt, but being able to communicate effectively through writing is truly a basic life skill every person in this world needs. Being able to utilize good grammar is absolutely essential. The way to master the rules of grammar is to practice, really not any different than mastering any other skill: practice makes perfect.
As an English teacher, turned tech integrator, turned education blog editor, NoRedInk encompasses everything I love in life- which is exactly why I jumped in and registered my students last year. I know I love to diagram sentences but I am realistic enough to recognize that I am not going to hear cheers from the majority of my students when I say, “take out your rulers guys, it’s time to find those subjects and verbs!” Luckily, former teacher, Jeff Scheur is helping change the student reaction to hearing it’s time to practice grammar with his creation NoRedInk.com. Recently, a new round of funding has enabled Jeff to further the reach of NoRedInk, that started in 2012. This year NoRedInk will stay free and add even more categories to the library for students.
Practicing different categories and rules of grammar is not new. We all remember the endless worksheets it took us to master the difference between “to, too and two.” But when students are just inundated with dry and boring worksheets or workbooks, the fun is quickly sucked right of writing, making it just a chore to quickly get done. NoRedInk is meeting students where they are at and making it fun to practice grammar.
Teachers can register their classes for a NoRedInk accounts and will then be able to track each student’s progress. Teachers pick the category, the number of practice questions and can then assign a quiz, once students finish practicing. In the end, teachers collect data from each student and immediately know who has mastered the concept and who still needs help.
Students, on the other hand, are less concerned with the data and more into enjoying the experience. NoRedInk is where Madlibs meets the grammar workbook and students get to personalize their learning. Before any grammar practice begins, students customize their NoRedInk account. They scroll through inventories of music, sports, movie stars, and book titles and check their favorites. They enter the names of their friends and family before they even think about grammar.
Once the interest inventory is complete, they students start practicing the grammar concept their teacher has selected. But their practice sentences can no longer be photocopied and handed out to everyone in the class- now they pop up completely tailored to the interests of the individual student. The student who loves basketball is now analyzing sentences with Dwayne Wade as the subject, while the next student is giggling because they have to figure out what verb agrees with the subject “Justin Bieber.” But the fun doesn’t stop there. Students can work independently with NoRedInk because clear explanations and hints are available with just a click for any sentence. Students who don’t understand don’t just have to guess until they get it right, they can click on the explanation to learn about why the answer is right and then can continue to practice until they feel ready to take the quiz.
For me, NoRedInk is an incredible blended learning tool for grammar that hooked my middle school students immediately and inspired them to practice grammar more regularly and consistently than years past. Students using it all over the country have solved over 33 million questions, and NoRedInk has already reached over 12,000 schools. I am very excited to hear it will be staying free all year while releasing one new grammar category every week in September. NoRedInk will continue to release completely free features and is definitely a tool that can help students enjoy and strive to strengthen their personal writing skills.
Have a suggestion as to which grammar category NoRedInk should add next? Offer your feedback here.
NoRedInk is a LearnCapitol portfolio company where Tom is a partner.