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Don’t Teach with Grammarly®

Keep Grammarly out of the Classroom

Don’t Teach with Grammarly

I hesitate to summarize what Grammarly® does because everyone has seen one or more of its ubiquitous ads. Most of us have clicked “Skip Ad” hundreds of times on YouTube to avoid the Grammarly® advertisement. But let’s allow a quick explanation for the uninitiated: The Grammarly® Chrome extension and Microsoft plugin automatically detects and helps correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice, and style mistakes (in the premium version) in writing. Sometimes a short instructional lesson is included. The new version also provides a plagiarism detector. Two versions are available: the free program with limited utility and the premium program with advanced features.

My take is that the artificial intelligence largely does what it claims to do. And I would say it catches more errors than the Microsoft Word® spell and grammar checker and Google Tools. Moreover, were I writing for my business (I am), I would use the extension and recommend it to others as one tool in their writing toolbox. In fact, I ran this article through the free version of Grammarly® and it caught both spacing errors and a few typos. Thanks! I happily ignored its displeasure with my intentional fragments.

So, if Grammarly® does what it advertises, why shouldn’t teachers teach with Grammarly® and encourage their students to use the program with their writing assignments?

To buy-in to my advice, teachers will need to somewhat buy-in to my premise. I freely admit that not all will. My premise is that teachers have stuff to teach that kids need to learn and that our students simply don’t know what they don’t know, but teachers do, should, or could know to help students improve their writing. Following are my five reasons not to teach with Grammarly®.

1. Don’t teach with Grammarly® because it promotes incidental learning.

Merriam-Webster provides these synonyms for incidental: accidental, casual, chance, fluky, fortuitous, inadvertent, unintended, unintentional, unplanned, unpremeditated, unwitting. I align my teaching (and parenting) much more with the incidental antonyms: calculated, deliberate, intended, intentional, planned, premeditated (https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/incidental).

Now this is not to say that we don’t learn incidentally. We certainly do. When a child touches a hot stove, she learns to avoid doing so in the future. However, when a parent and child are standing in front of a hot stove, I expect the grown-up who knows better, to say, “Don’t touch that hot stove,” instead of waiting for incidental learning to take place.

My point is that using Grammarly® to teach your students to improve their writing reinforces incidental learning. Incidental learning makes no connection to prior learning. Incidental learning limits learning to what students have known, have experienced, and what they write. Incidental learning keeps writers in the boxes of their own previous experiences. It’s Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.

My take is that teachers should largely dictate what students learn in their writing to get them out of their boxes. Teacher expertise in how to teach writing should drive instruction, not the student writing itself. Teachers know what students know and don’t yet know; teachers know how to build upon previous instruction and extend learning; teachers have the informed judgment to teach Paula this and Percy that; teachers can be selective, prioritizing what needs to be learned and what can wait for another day. Teachers have a plan to get student writing where it needs to go. A teacher would never lead students on a treasure hunt, walking willy-nilly in search of incidental clues to where the treasure is located. Good writing teachers know how to read the treasure map and guide their students to the big red X step by step.

2. Don’t teach with Grammarly® because it limits assessment data.

When students use Grammarly®, they will have fewer writing errors, but this comes with a significant cost. Students’ rough and revised drafts are important sources of formative assessment. By using Grammarly®, teachers will not see the patterns of mistakes that their students are making. The Grammarly® feedback is limited to numerical data e.g., number of grammatical and number of spelling errors. Because no record of writing issues is maintained, the teacher will not be able to identify issues which need to be taught to the class as a whole or to the individual student.

I’ve read numerous testimonials from teachers claiming that requiring students to use Grammarly® saves them grading and correction time, and that their students’ use of the program frees them up to concentrate on writing content, not the trivial issues of typos, grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling. Yes, reading a paper with these errors can set off English teachers’ collective obsessive compulsive desires to fox what is broken; however, this comes with the job description and does require feedback to change student behavior and work ethic. The ostrich head-in-the-sand approach that assumes that these deficits do not inhibit writing (a false assumption) and aren’t important to master have largely been discounted in writing research.

3. Don’t teach with Grammarly® because it reinforces the fallacy that writing is about being correct or incorrect.

Grammarly® does a fine job at error detection and correction. However, its limitations and scoring reinforce the notion that if writing contains no errors it must be good. Anyone who has tried no calorie ice cream knows that this is not the case.

The quantitative scores that the program assign for writing submissions are a poor substitute for balanced scoring rubrics, and teachers who use the Grammarly® scores as feedback or as part of the students’ assignment grades have noticed how students adapt. Less risk-taking in terms of vocabulary and sentence structure. Less complex syntax. Fewer complex sentences. Less creativity.

Besides, teachers know that good writers often intentionally disobey rules of grammar, mechanics, and sentence structure. Writing is both science and art. English has flexible grammar and mechanics rules to meet the needs of its writers, but artificial intelligence is not helpful in contextualizing usage. For example, serial (Oxford) commas are demanded in certain writing genres and style guides, but are unacceptable in others. The rigid rules of computers often need to be adapted to human variables. One example should suffice from author Joel Burrows.

The first classic I threw into Grammarly was chapter one of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. And oh boy, Grammarly® did not like that. The program gave this chapter a woeful performance score of 69/100. The performance score “calculates the accuracy level of your document based on the total word count and the number and types of writing issues detected.” Grammarly informed me that this chapter contained 118 spelling mistakes, 160 cases of incorrect punctuation, and 44 grammatical errors. The app also claimed that this masterpiece has 28 “wordy” sentences – which Grammarly® notates as “writing issues” (https://thewritersbloc.net/we-need-talk-about-grammarly).

Teachers who encourage or require students to use Grammarly® often say that they are equipping students to write independently and use valuable tools. However, students tend to over-rely on the editing features of this program and unquestioningly accept corrections (even when they are ill-advised).

Finally, although corrective writing feedback can certainly be valuable, Grammarly® is extremely black and white in its corrections. Some teachers have gone so far as to describe its grammar and style comments as “arrogant.”

4. Don’t teach with Grammarly® because it creates lazy and tech-reliant writers.

Good teachers know that doing too much for a student is doing too little to help them learn. Teachers who heavily edit rough and final drafts, like copy editors, spoon feed students and make them teacher-dependent. Teachers who require students to use Grammarly® are merely transferring that dependence to a machine. Grammarly® is addictive. Students begin to rely upon Grammarly® and its suggestions and stop thinking for themselves.

For example, when a student continues to write “beleive” and can simply click the correction in Grammarly® or other spell checkers, the student will never learn to apply the before e spelling rule. Correcting is not teaching. Now don’t get me wrong, I do favor some corrective response, but only when coupled with in-depth instruction and accountability for learning.

In writing, practice makes perfect. Revision and editing are the tough stuff of writing practice, but Grammarly® and its quick fixes reduce and limit that practice. Using Grammarly® to correct spelling, mechanics, usage, and grammar robs students of the learning experience. When something is “done for them,” they don’t have to know why the issue needs correction or revision. So, students will continue to make the same errors in future compositions. Plus, using Grammarly is a poor substitute for proofreading. Grammarly® can only check what’s there. It can’t proofread for content inconsistencies, connections, train of lot, line of argument, omissions, etc.

5. Don’t teach with Grammarly® because it provides only minimal writing feedback and some of that is incomprehensible for students. Let’s take a look at an example from the Grammarly® website. We’ll focus on the first sentence: “If you would have told me a year ago that today I would have finished a marathon, I would have laughed.”

Grammarly Example from Website

As I’ve noted, the focus of Grammarly® is error detection and correction, and in this example it does a good job highlighting and correcting the writing issue. Much better than either Microsoft Word® or Google Tools:

However, the Grammarly® explanation of the writing issue is scant and largely incomprehensible for most students. The phrasing, “unreal conditional” is confusing and it assumes knowledge of the conditional mood that most students do not have as prior knowledge, but do need to learn. Additionally, the suggestion, “Consider changing the verb have to a different form” assumes a sophisticated understanding of not only verb tense, but also of verb forms. Correct advice, but not helpful advice. Students won’t learn much, if anything, about the conditional mood and forms of the “to have” verb from the Grammarly® writing feedback. Would your students take the time to google “conditional” and “to have verb forms” to understand the writing feedback? No, they will simply accept the correction, had, and move on. Students will make the same mistake the next time (which may be on the next writing assignment or weeks later). Simply put, Grammarly® does not teach.

The hope is that over time and repeated reminders of their errors, students will begin to internalize and produce error-free writing. Teachers know that repetition does not always produce learning, especially when the repetition is not immediately practiced. Baseball pitchers can throw thousands of pitches, but will never improve until a pitching coach carefully and skillfully analyzes the pitcher’s mechanics, suggests and models adjustments, and observes and provides feedback on the correct mechanics in repetitive practice.

Teachers know that anything worth teaching is worth teaching well. Effective writing instruction requires deep learning and significant practice.

So, if you’ve bought into my original premise “that teachers have stuff to teach that kids need to learn and that our students simply don’t know what they don’t know, but teachers do, should, or could to help students improve their writing,” and a few of my arguments against teaching with Grammarly®, you may be interested in a writing feedback tool that keeps you, the teacher, fully in charge of your writing instruction.

e-Comments

The e-Comments Chrome Extension

You can save time and provide better Google docs annotations with quality canned responses. The e-Comments Chrome Extension allows you to insert hundreds of Common Core-aligned writing feedback comments into your Google docs and slides. Comments are completely customizable. Add and save your own, including audio and video files. Our floating e-Comments menu contains four writing feedback comment sets for grades 3–6, 6–9, 9–12, and College/Workplace. You can also add your own comment sets for different classes and assignments. Read our Quick Start User Guide or watch our comprehensive video tutorial to get grading or editing in just minutes!
Download the free trial version of e-Comments on the Chrome Web Store. Use any of hundreds of canned teaching comments or create your own, including audio and video, to provide actionable writing feedback with accountability on student writing. These comments don’t just identify writing errors; they explain the writing issues and offer problem-solving approaches for revision. So much better than Grammarly®, Microsoft Word®, or Google Tools. Need an example? With one click on the floating e-Comments menu (look below right), a teacher might choose to insert all or part of the following comment (look below left) into a student’s Google doc or slide to address a student’s overuse of the “to be” verb. Now, that’s a writing tool that helps you teach and your students learn!
e-Comments Options

e-Comments Menu

e-Comments

















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e-Comments Writing Feedback

Google Comment Bank v. e-Comments

Save time and provide better writing feedback with the e-Comments Chrome Extension. Insert hundreds of canned comments from four different comment levels into Google docs and slides with just one click from the pop-up e-Comments menu. Each instructional comment identifies, explains, and shows your writers how to revise a specific writing issue in stories, essays, and reports. These comprehensive comments don’t simply flag errors; they help your writers learn.

Check out the FAQs:

  • Can I edit these comments and comments categories? Yes, they are completely customizable.
  • Can I add, format, and save my own writing comments to the e-Comment menu? Yes, and you can create your own e-Comment menu sets.
  • Can I record audio, video, and speech-to-text comments? Yes. Is there integration with Google Classroom? Yes. Can I add and save my own comment sets? Yes.
  • Can I try before I buy? Yes. FREE 10-Day Trial!

Google Classroom 2020 Comment Bank v. e-Comments

Google Classroom 2020 Comment Bank v. e-Comments

Writing Feedback

Writing Feedback

10 Reasons to Use the e-Comments Extension

10 Reasons to Use the e-Comments Extension

How Many Essay Comments and What Kind

How Many Essay Comments and What Kind

How to Save Time Grading Essays

How to Save Time Grading Essays

How Much and What to Mark on Essays

How Much and What to Mark on Essays

Writing Feedback Research

Writing Feedback Research

How to Write Effective Essay Comments

How to Write Effective Essay Comments

Insertable Canned Comments

Insertable Canned Comments

Google Classroom Comment Bank and e-Comments

Google Classroom Comment Bank and e-Comments

 

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Google Classroom 2020 Comment Bank v. e-Comments

In this article I’l demonstrate how to use the newest version of the Google Classroom Comment Bank to insert writing feedback into your students’ Google docs and slides. I’ll also save you some frustration by giving you a “heads up” about some of the problems you’ll encounter when setting up and using the Comment Bank. Lastly, I’ll attempt to prove why using my e-Comments Chrome Extension may be a much better option for most teachers working in Google Classroom.

Add your free 10-day trial of the e-Comments Chrome Extension after you discover how using e-Comments in Google Classroom is faster, easier, and far more functional than using the Google Comment Bank.

Creating the Google Comment Bank

After opening a student assignment in Google Classroom, click the Comment Bank icon in the upper right corner. The Google Comment Bank is empty, so teachers will need to type in their own comments or copy and paste a list of comments. Unfortunately, Google Classroom only provides one Comment Bank, so think about which comments you plan to use for all of your assignments and classes before you fill up the bank.

If you’re thinking of inserting a number of comments, take the time to organize and group the comments before you copy and paste, because the Comment Bank display won’t sort or order those comments for you. And don’t waste any of your time formatting your list. They paste as unformatted into the Google Comment Bank and Google permits only minimal formatting once the comments are entered.

Inserting Comments from the Google Comment Bank

So once you’ve got some comments stored in the Google Comment Bank, you’re ready to annotate your student’s essay. When you find a writing issue to address, double click or highlight the word or section and search up and down the comment bank for the comment you wish to insert. Click on the comment; click on “Copy to Clipboard,” click on the comment box, type Control-v to paste the comment; click outside the box; and click the comment button. Voila! The selected comment appears in the Google comment box in the right margin. If you were counting, it took eight separate clicks to insert one comment. Not great, but probably faster than red-inking the same comment on a student’s paper.

You’ll notice that scrolling up and down to find the comment you want to insert can be time-consuming and frustrating if you have more than a few comments in the bank. Google tries to solve this problem by providing an alternative method for selecting comments: a key word search in the comment box.

Here’s how you use this method: Type in a hashtag followed by a key word from the comment you are looking for, a list of comment options pops up. Of course, before you use this method, you’ve got to know which comment you want to use and what it says in order to type in the key word. Often, you’ll wind up trying a few key words to narrow down the comment choices before you find the right one, especially because your writing comments tend to use many of the same words. Playing the search for the right comment game does get old very quickly, but it works better than scrolling up and down the Comments Bank display. Unfortunately, it still takes seven clicks to insert a comment with this method.

Using e-Comments in Google Classroom

In contrast to the Google Comments Bank, the e-Comments Chrome Extension was designed by an ELA teacher for teachers and their students. It shows!

The e-Comments menu provides hundreds of customizable canned comments, written in four comment sets: Grades 3–6, 6–9, 9–12, and College/Workplace. These Common Core-aligned comments don’t just identify writing errors; they help your students learn. For example, if students are overusing “to-be” verbs in their writing, simply commenting, “Too many ‘to be’ verbs,” doesn’t help students if they don’t know what the “to-be” verbs are or the revision strategies to eliminate them. The e-Comments identify and explain the writing issues and show students how to revise.

Revise Too Many “to be” Verbs: Limit using so many “to be” verbs: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been. To replace “to be” verbs: 1. Substitute a more active verb. 2. Convert one of the words in the sentence to a verb form. 3. Change the beginning of the sentence. 4. Combine the sentence which has the “to be” verb with the sentence before or after to use another stronger and specific verb.

Substitute Example: The child was sad.

Revision: The child felt sad.

Convert Example: Charles Schulz was the creator of the Peanuts cartoon strip.

Revision: Charles Schulz created the Peanuts cartoon strip.

Change Example: The run-away car will be stopped by the tire spikes.

Revision: The tire spikes will stop the run-away car.

Combine Example: The sensitive child is terrified. She is feeling that way because of the news story.

Revision: The news story terrified the sensitive child.

So why re-invent the wheel by writing your own comments?

Unlike the hard-to-search and unorganized Google Comments Bank, the e-Comments menu lets you see all of your comment options at a glance, neatly categorized into writing comment categories. Of course you won’t use all of these comments, but they’re there if you need them. And the e-Comments menu is completely customizable. Move it wherever you want or hide it if you wish. Add, delete, substitute, or rearrange any writing comment categories and comments.

It’s easy to differentiate instruction by switching among the four comment levels to insert remedial or advanced comments. Plus, add your own custom comment sets for different assignments and classes. Wahoo!

While inserting a comment from the Google Comment Bank takes seven or eight clicks, only two clicks are needed with e-Comments. That makes a huge difference when your grading a whole batch of assignments. Simply click once or highlight where you want to comment, and then click the abbreviated comment button to automatically insert the comment. Faster, easier, and much less physical wear and tear.

Also, it does no good to add writing feedback if your students won’t read it. You can personalize  your comments and make them stand out with e-Comments. The program permits full formatting options for any comments you choose to add and save. Plus, e-Comments allows teachers to insert speech-to-text, audio, and video comments and save to separate folders to keep your Google Drive uncluttered.

The fact that the e-Comments Chrome Extension works in and out of Google Classroom is the best reason to add and use this program. Here’s why: Good writing teachers know that while summative writing feedback, along with rubric scores, and a final grade can be instructive, it’s the formative writing feedback on rough drafts that has the most impact on teaching students how to improve their writing. And, of course, students are much more motivated to learn from your comments when doing so will improve their assignment grades.

Unfortunately, Google Classroom does not permit students to see any of your comments in their views of Google Classroom until after you enter the grades and return their assignments. This means that when students open their graded assignments, they can’t revise their work according to your suggestions. However, the e-Comments program lets you comment on rough drafts and students can see these comments and revise their work before turning it in for a grade.

Here’s how to grade student rough drafts. It only takes two extra clicks. With the student’s assignment opened in Google Classroom, click on icon in the upper right corner following the student’s name that says, “Open in new window”. You’ll get the same student assignment without the Google Classroom grading tools. Click the e-Comments icon to activate the extension and insert your comments. Students are able to view the comments as you enter them. You may wish to click “Share” when you finish commenting to alert the student.

Students read your comments and revise their writing accordingly. They can also use the “Reply” button to ask you questions about your comments and you can reply back. To hold students accountable for reading and responding specifically to your comments, I require students to make all revisions in red font and keep (not resolve) my comments. I give additional points for showing me these revisions. Of course, if you are a superstar teacher, you could add additional comments to help students polish their final drafts.

After the student turns in the assignment, you can open Google Classroom once again to grade, score the rubric, and add summative comments. One final suggestion: I would avoid typing comments in the “Private Comment” box. There’s no way to edit or delete once you post this comment.

Clearly, the Google Comment Bank will help teachers save time compared to red-inking a stack of papers. However, I think you’ll agree that e-Comments is quicker, easier to use, and much more functional. Add your free 10-day trial of the e-Comments Chrome Extension today! Simply click “Add to Chrome” and the e-Comments icon will be added to your Chrome Extension Toolbar. Make sure to take a look at the one-page Quick Start User Guide and the training video to see all the program features. Once you’re sure you want it for keeps, click the “Purchase/Activate License” page and pay the one-time fee. It’s only the cost of a few cups of coffee!

Want to see this article as a video? Check it out: The Video

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Google Classroom Comment Bank and e-Comments

For years, teachers have been looking for ways to streamline the grading and annotation of student essays, stories, and reports. And now, add slide presentations, photographs, videos, and more! Teachers want to assign more of this work, but more student work means more grading time. Teachers also want to provide quality writing feedback to help students improve their work, but again this takes time.

Enter Google. Google’s investment in education has been a gradual and sometimes frustrating evolution. The comments feature added into Google docs and slides in 2014 was a prime reason why teachers started using Google docs and Google Drive for student writing submissions. And now, with the 2018 update of Google Classroom and the additions of a comment bank and the beta version of a rubric creator, teachers finally have the beginnings of tools that will both improve the efficiency of their workflow and improve writing feedback to students.

With these steps, Google has put other learning management systems on notice that the company is in education for the long haul. As of this writing, the number of Google Classroom users (both teachers and students) has passed 40,000,000. Much like what Jobs and Wozniak accomplished with their free Apple IIe computer to every school in California in 1982, Google’s free Google Suite for Educators, including Google Classroom, has largely cornered the educational market. The bottom line for teachers? Don’t fight; give in to Google.

However, the problem for teachers is that Google is a tech (and advertising) company, and its product leads and developers are techies, not teachers. Google does listen to what teachers say, and much of the improvement in Google Classroom has been credited to teacher suggestions. Hence, revisions tend to be piecemeal, not comprehensive. What Google has done is to permit Chrome extensions, which integrate seamlessly with Google Classroom.

e-Comments Options

e-Comments Menu

Enter e-Comments. Teachers can significantly improve the efficiency and quality of the Google Classroom comment bank by adding the e-Comments Chrome Extension. Which features make e-Comments significantly better than the Google Comment Bank?

  1. While the Google Comment Bank (GCB) has no canned comments (teachers have to type in their own), e-Comments (e-C) has hundreds of customizable comments from which to choose at four grade levels: Grades 3–6, 6–9, 9–12, and College/Workplace. Why re-invent the wheel?
  2. The GCB permits minimal formatting for adding comments, while e-C provides full formatting for any comments you choose to add and save. Plus, e-C allows teachers to insert speech-to-text, audio, and video comments and save to separate folders to keep your Google Drive uncluttered. Your comments should stand out if you want students to read them.
  3. The GCB comments are stored in the order in which you added them and so are in random order, but the e-C comments are neatly organized into 11 categories, making the comments much easier to choose. Writing comment categories just make sense.
  4. To access the GCB comments, teachers have to scroll up and down the GCB or enter a hashtag # followed by a key word to bring up the desired comment. Once a teacher adds in more than a dozen comments, it often takes several tries or additional key words to find the desired comment. Frustrating and time-consuming! To access e-C, teachers simply click the comment button once on the movable and editable e-Comments Menu. Unlike GCB, teachers can see all of their comment choices before inserting a comment. It’s easy to add and save your own comments to the menu, edit the canned comments, create or re-name writing comment categories, hide or rearrange the categories.
  5. The GCB provides only one comment bank. Clearly, all your comments for a story are not applicable for an essay or a multi-media project. Plus, many teachers would like to have different comments for different students, classes, and assignments. With e-C, teachers can easily switch among the comment levels to differentiate their annotations. Add a remedial comment for X, but an advanced comment for Y. Teachers can add and save their own comment banks with e-C for different classes and assignments. GCB provides a one size fits all approach; e-C permits far more flexible options to meet the needs of students and their teachers.
  6. Clearly, once teachers insert all their comments into the GCB, they will save time compared to red-inking a stack of papers. As detailed above and in side-by-side timings, e-C will save significantly more time than using the GCB while providing students comments that identify, explain, and show how to revise. If all you want to do is error mark, GCB will do nicely; if you want your students to learn from your comments, e-C is for you. Plus, e-C provides the Common Core-aligned comments that you will want to copy and paste into your Google Classroom rubrics and Grading Tool commentsAdd your free 10-day trial of the e-Comments Chrome Extension today! You can both save time and provide better writing feedback with Google Classroom.

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