Posts Tagged ‘Mark Pennington’

FREE Phonics Assessments

FREE RtI Phonics Assessments

FREE Phonics Assessments

My free vowel sounds

and consonant blends phonics assessments are comprehensive (not random samples, for example all 6 most common long e sounds-spellings are assessed as separate test items), nonsense syllables/words (to exclude sight word knowledge), and teachable (corresponds to most phonics programs, including Open Court and my own. The 52 vowel and 50 consonant blend test items correspond to most instructional sound-spelling cards). Includes both teacher and student test versions.

Plus, get the audio files (10:42 and 12:07), which include the admin instructions, and recording matrix. I developed this test with the input of dozens of fellow reading specialists years ago in a large Northern California district. We field-tested and revised over the years to ensure reliability. These are assessments that produce teachable data… not assessments that merely indicate “problem areas” for students. In 23 minutes, you will have all the needed data to screen for RtI placement and teach.

Why do I offer these quality assessments as freebies? I know they’ll help your students. Plus, I know you’ll check out my reading intervention program ūüôā


Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive assessment-based reading intervention curriculum, the Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLE. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, tiered response to intervention programs, ESL, ELL, ELD, and special education students. Simple directions, YouTube training videos, and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program. Phonological awareness, phonics, syllabication, sight words, fluency (with 128 YouTube modeled readings), spelling, vocabulary and comprehension. The 54 accompanying guided reading phonics books each have comprehension questions, a focus sound-spelling pattern, controlled sight words, a 30-second word fluency, a running record, and cleverly illustrated cartoons by David Rickert to match each entertaining story. These resources provide the best reading intervention program at a price every teacher can afford.

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLE

The print copies of the Animal Fluency Articles include challenge words in the upper right corner for the teacher to pre-teach. Word counts are provided in the left margin for fluency timings. The YouTube videos of each article include a picture of the animal and a modeled reading, but do not include the challenge words or word counts.

Additionally, the Animal Fluency Articles are available as YouTube videos for individualized fluency instruction. Each article has been recorded at three different reading speeds (Level A at 95-115 words per minute; Level B at 115-135 words per minute; and Level C at 135-155 words per minute) to provide modeled readings at each of your students’ challenge levels. A total of 129 videos!

Get the Pets Fluency Assessment FREE Resource:

Grammar/Mechanics , , , , ,

Grammar in the Writing Context

Teachers know the power of connected learning. When one strand of rope is twisted with another (or several), the rope is less likely to break.

Now some things need to be taught in isolation, but when teachers take the time to show students the connections to other learning, students grasp the big picture and are more likely to retain the information. This finding has been integral to learning theory for years. Indeed, association and linking are powerful memory tools.

With this educational assumption, let’s take a look at one specific educational maxim:¬†Grammar must be taught in the writing context. ¬†

For most teachers, taught usually implies introduce. In other words, to have shared some new content, concept, or skill (or standard) that students had not yet learned. This presents problems for developing student writers, because teachers have been taught that grammar should only be taught in the writing context. This chiefly means that grammar has not be taught at all. The pipe dream of some is that targeted mini-lessons, say one on commas or pronoun antecedents, will be used in the editing stage of the writing process for those students who need them. It just does not get done on a regular basis and the students do not get enough practice to master these skills.

The mini-lesson only approach is akin to assigning your own child the task of building an outdoor play structure (think writing process assignment) in which you provide excellent directions, but hand over the toolbox without prior instruction.

The directions begin with the following: “Use only a ball peen hammer to nail and countersink all 16 penny galvanized.”

One the student has completed building the structure (the draft or revised draft), the teacher determines that the entire class needs a mini-lesson to address the obvious construction short-comings. How inefficient and frustrating.

Clearly, it makes so much more sense to teach every component of the directions before using or mis-using the tools. How you teach (connect to prior learning, identity, define terminology, provide examples, use mentor modeling, provide guided practice, independent practice with feedback, give formative assessment, and remediate with individualized practice) matters. Obviously, each of these steps would be critically important in teaching this direction.

If you would agree that this instructional approach would also make sense with grammar instruction, let me attempt to convince you of one other key instructional point.

Students who did not demonstrate mastery in their first or revised attempts (think first or revised writing drafts) must be re-taught. Yes, mini-lessons in this context would make sense. But, in terms of writing feedback…

Wouldn’t it make sense to use the same language of instruction in both¬†teaching¬†and writing feedback?¬†That would be powerful, memorable instruction: truly¬†teaching grammar in the writing context.

Grammar in the Writing Context

Writing Context

You can do this with the author’s¬†e-Comments¬†Chrome Extension.¬†This app includes hundreds of canned writing comments with the same language of instruction as the author’s¬†Teaching Grammar and Mechanics¬†and the companion program,¬†Teaching Essay Strategies.¬†Use the same terminology and definitions in your teaching and annotations in Google docs (and slides) comments. Now, that’s a seamless connection to teach and practice grammar and mechanics in the writing context!

Save time grading and provide better writing feedback!

The e-Comments program includes four insertable comment banks (Grades 3‒6, Grades 6‒9, Grades 9‒12, and College/Workplace) feature writing format and citations, essay and story structure, essay and story content analysis, sentence formation and writing style, word choice, grammar, and mechanics.

When you open a student’s doc or slide, the e-Comments menu pops-up in the right margin. Simply highlight a writing issue in the student’s text and click on a comment button. The comment automatically appears in the margin next to the student’s text.


  • Would all my students need this program?¬†No, just the teacher. The e-Comments program syncs to multiple devices and saves to the cloud.
  • Can I¬†edit¬†these e-comments?¬†Yes, they are customizable.
  • Can I add, format, and save my own¬†custom¬†writing comments to the e-Comment menu?¬†Yes.
  • Can I record¬†audio¬†comments?¬†Yes.
  • Can I record¬†video¬†comments?¬†Yes, just make sure your hair isn‚Äôt out of place.
  • Can I use speech to text?¬†Yes, save time typing personalized comment additions.

I’m not tech proficient. Is e-Comments easy to use?¬†Yes.¬†The one-page Quick Start User Guide and video tutorial will get you grading or editing in just minutes. No time-consuming and complicated multiple clicks, dropdown menus, or comment codes.¬†This program is intuitive and user-friendly.

Check out the author’s Teaching Grammar and Mechanics¬†and¬†Teaching Essay Strategies¬†programs, and purchase or add the free trial of the¬†e-Comments¬†Chrome Extension.

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Programs

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

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Writing Feedback

I’ve noticed a new and developing interest in writing style and I don’t think it’s a nostalgic homage to Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.¬†Indeed, our collective writing craft has diminished over the years, but when I see twenty-something teachers driving a return to grammar handbooks and style manuals I see more than a glimpse of hope. The bright and talented ELA teachers who have recently joined our English staff at the middle school I recently left are looking for new ways to directly and indirectly (traditional lessons and in the writing context through writing feedback) teach all the elements of writing style:

Specifically, teachers wishing to return to some common ground of teaching writing focus on these categories of writing style for direct instruction and writing feedback:

  • Essay Organization and Development (Introduction, Body, and Conclusion)
  • Coherence
  • Word Choice
  • Sentence Variety
  • Format and Citations
  • Parts of Speech
  • Grammatical Forms
  • Usage
  • Sentence Structure
  • Types of Sentences
  • Mechanics
  • Conventional Spelling Rules.

    Writer Response

    Writing Feedback

As the author of the¬†Teaching Essay Strategies¬†program,¬†I decided to include a writing style handbook within the program. And to keep up with the millennials, it’s a Chrome extension to insert hundreds of customizable comments into Google docs and slides and a Microsoft Word¬ģ add-in, as well.¬† Check out the introductory video and the e-Comments Chrome Extension¬†on the Chrome Web Store.

Using e-Comments Makes Sense for Writing Feedback     

*Manually responding to essays in red ink can be time-consuming and frustrating. Teachers find themselves using the same comments over and over again, while most students barely glance at their final grade or rubric score and maybe skim the comments before cramming their papers into the depths of their backpacks. Using the computer to respond to student writing solves these problems.

*Having students submit their essays on the computer allows the teacher to insert comprehensive and prescriptive comments in half the time. Students can be held accountable to respond to these comments through revisions and edits.

*Using the insertable e-comments enhances the interactive writing process. The teacher-student interaction changes from static summative evaluation to dynamic formative assessment. This is not an ‚Äúautomatic‚ÄĚ grading program. Teachers choose which comments to insert, according to the needs of their students.

*Teachers can edit the e-comments and add in their own personalized comments with text, video, speech-to-text or audio files. Imagine… inserting a quick audio or video  comment to summarize relative strengths and weaknesses of the paper. Unlike other e-grading programs, teachers can save their custom comments.

*Teachers can link to resource sites to provide additional practice or reference.

*Teachers can require their students to address each comment by using Microsoft Word¬ģ ‚ÄúTrack Changes‚ÄĚ or use the back-and-forth “Reply” comment boxes in Google Docs. Students then re-submit revisions and edits for peer and/or teacher review. Just like real professional writers do with their editors! Or simply have students revise in red to show they’ve applied each side-by-side comment.

*Essay e-Comments can be synced to all teacher devices and comments save to the cloud.”

The Pennington Manual of Style is included in the comprehensive Teaching Essay Strategiesprogram. Purchase includes the download (into Microsoft Word for any Windows Version) and the teacher short-cuts.

It’s simple and safe to use. You can even back-up and import your customized and added comments on your computer.

This freebie will make life a bit easier for teachers this fall… I just released a new free comment insert program for Google docs that will save grading time and improve writing feedback. Insert hundreds of customizable Common Core-aligned instructional comments, which identify, explain, and show how to revise writing issues, with just one click from the e-Comments menu. Add your own comments to the menu, including audio, video, and speech-to-text. Check out the introductory video and add this free extension to your Chrome toolbar: e-Comments Chrome Extension. Includes separate comment banks for grades 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and AP/College. Cheers!


Why not use the same language of instruction as the e-Comments program for program instruction? Mark Pennington is the author of Teaching Essay Strategies, Teaching Grammar and Mechanics, Differentiated Spelling Instruction, and the Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit.

Get the Writing Process Essay FREE Resource:

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10 Reasons to Use the e-Comments Extension

e-Comments Chrome Extension

e-Comments Extension

Good teachers know that students need detailed, instructional, and personalized comments on their stories, essays, and reports throughout the writing process to make significant improvement. However, the process can be time-consuming and frustrating. Most teachers spend at least 10 minutes red-marking and writing comments on a five-paragraph essay. Even with that significant amount of time, the teacher would have to rely on circling, diacritical marks, and abbreviations. The comments would have to be minimal and concise. The focus has to be limited to identifying what is wrong, not explaining why it is wrong or how to revise. No time for examples or suggestions as to how to improve the writing. Maybe a quick positive comment. Exhausting!


The teacher has to write the same comments over and over again throughout a stack of student papers. Upon receiving their graded work, students simply glance at their final grades before cramming the essay into the bottom of their backpacks. There has got to be a better way… Check out the e-Comments Chrome Extension on the Chrome Web Store.


10 Reasons to Use the Free e-Comments Chrome Extension


1. The e-Comments app has more user options and functionality than any other comments insert program, yet is easy to learn and user-friendly. I’m the English teacher who wrote the comments. I’ve taught at the elementary, middle school, high school, and college levels. I am not technologically advanced by any means. I searched far and wide to find a developer who could talk non-techie and code the e-Comments extension so that any teacher will be able to use each program feature. Unlike other complicated and time-consuming programs, the e-Comments extension allows you to insert comments into students’ Google docs and slides with just one click.

After installing the extension from the Chrome Web Store, open up a Google doc and click the e-Comments icon added to your Chrome toolbar. Use the slider to turn on the program. Click on the one-page Quick Start User Guide in the dropdown menu to guide your exploration. Print it or minimize it or just start using the program (it’s quite intuitive) and you’ll figure it out on your own. Later, watch the ten-minute video tutorial to master the entire functionality of the e-Comments program.

2. Sharing essays via Google Drive is environmentally responsible, saves money, and provides an automatic portfolio of student work. The e-Comments extension syncs to the cloud and works with multiple devices. Your students don’t all have to have their own computers, Chromebooks, or tablets to use this program. Unlike other comment insert programs, only the teacher needs the e-Comments extension. Even if you still require paper submissions, you can still save time and provide better writing feedback by printing off a comments page for each student.

3. The Common Core-aligned e-Comments provide a common language of writing instruction and discourse for teachers and students. When department, grade-level teams, or a whole school uses the same terminology, students benefit from the and cross-curricular instructional continuity. English, social studies, math, and science teachers using the same lingo? That’s powerful. The comments identify, explain, and show students how to revise their writing issues. You will significantly improve the quality of your writing feedback with the e-Comments extension. More importantly, your students will significantly improve their writing.

4. Teachers can provide comprehensive writing feedback using e-Comments in much less time than if grading manually. Using essay e-Comments cuts grading time in half. If it takes 10 minutes to red-mark, write comments, and grade a five-paragraph essay, it will take only 5 minutes to insert comments using essay e-comments. With a batch of 120 essays, this means a times-saving of 6 hours (120 x 5 minutes = 6 hours). Now that’s a grading hack that works!

5. Easily switch among four comment banks if teaching or tutoring multiple grade levels: Grades 3‒6, Grades 6‒9, 9‒12, College and Workplace. Even if teaching one grade level, you never know when you’ll need to add a remedial or advanced comment or two.

These instructional comments will help your students learn!

6. Customize! Teachers can edit and save the comments with their own words, formatting, and links. Because the comments are comprehensive, teachers will often choose to narrow the instructional focus by deleting portions of comments for individuals or all of their students. Or add to a comment with a personalized remark. The program lets you export (back-up) and import any changes to your computer or restore default comments.


7. Teachers can add, format, and save their own comments and writing categories to the e-Comments menu. Type, use speech-to-text, copy and paste, or record audio and video. This e-Comments feature is perfect for adding on custom comment categories for different writing assignments. For example, say your students are writing a response to literature essay on a class novel. Having a separate category and your own set of canned comments on that novel will allow specific writing feedback and nicely complement the other comment banks. Or a unit on poetry. Or a specific research report on ecosystems. Or?


8. Teachers appreciate not having to write the same comments on each essay. For repeated errors, teachers simply highlight the text. Quick and easy.

9. Teachers can easily check whether their students apply the advice given in each comment and incentivize student revisions. Our video tutorial demonstrates a quick and easy accountability management system to ensure that your students are reading, understanding, and applying the comments to their writing.

10. Using e-comments prior to the student‚Äôs final draft changes teacher response from mere summative assessment to a dynamic and interactive coaching experience. Students can ask questions about the comments in the ‚ÄúReply‚ÄĚ text box under each comment and teachers can respond. So can peers! The e-Comments are formative assessment‚Ķ assessment for, not of, learning. Of course, teachers can use any means of evaluation, such as rubrics, and management systems, such as Google Classroom, in conjunction with the e-Comments Chrome Extension.


This freebie will make life a bit easier for teachers this fall… I just released a new free comment insert program for Google docs that will save grading time and improve writing feedback. Insert hundreds of customizable Common Core-aligned instructional comments, which identify, explain, and show how to revise writing issues, with just one click from the e-Comments menu. Add your own comments to the menu, including audio, video, and speech-to-text. Check out the introductory video and add this free extension to your Chrome toolbar: e-Comments Chrome Extension. Includes separate comment banks for grades 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and AP/College. Cheers!


Why not use the same language of instruction as the e-Comments program for program instruction? Mark Pennington is the author of Teaching Essay Strategies, Teaching Grammar and Mechanics, Differentiated Spelling Instruction, and the Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit.

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Writing Feedback Research

Since the burden (and privilege) of teaching writing falls so exclusively on the teacher or workplace supervisor, it makes sense to learn what works from the research on writing feedback. Let’s take a look at the decades of research and add some practical tips based upon those research implications to help you improve your writing feedback skill-set. Also, at the end of the article, I’ll share an approach to writing feedback that will alleviate some weight from that burden. Yes, you can save time grading or editing stories, essays, and reports, while improving the quality of your writing feedback.

Let’s get on the page about what we mean by¬†writing feedback.¬†Feedback is a form of response focused on helping someone meet a goal. It is communication which helps someone understand something more fully or practice more effectively.

Writer Response

Writing Feedback

What Kind of Feedback is Effective?

1. Specific, Not General

According to Hattie and Timperley, “Feedback is often lost on students because it‚Äôs too vague. Comments like ‚Äúgreat job,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúgood writing,‚ÄĚ or even ‚Äúneeds better organization‚ÄĚ fall flat with students because they‚Äôre not tied to specific words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs in writing.”


“…studies which demonstrated the most impact on student learning involved students receiving information about a task and how to do it more effectively. Much lower impacts were related to praise, rewards, and punishment–forms of response that don‚Äôt have the characteristics and focus of feedback.”

Use focused, not unfocused feedback. “Focused corrective feedback was more useful and effective than unfocused corrective feedback” (Sheen, Wright, and Moldawa 2009).

2. Immediate, Not Postponed

Writing feedback is most effective when¬†students “have an immediate opportunity to try out the suggestions in their writing, allowing for meaningful application of what they have learned from the feedback. Focusing on individual students‚Äô immediate writing needs, this ongoing feedback is a form of differentiated instruction that complements the teaching of mini-lessons to small groups or to the whole class” (Peterson, S.S. 2008).

When writing feedback is postponed, little is acquired, retained, and transferred to the next writing assignment. Accordingly, summative feedback is of little value. Relying solely upon rubric scoring for writing feedback produces no statistically significant correlation with improved writing skills.

3. Routine Revision

Writing instruction “routinely engaging in revision is associated with better writing performance. Students who were required to routinely revise scored highest on the National Association of Educational Progress. Those who were never asked to revise scored poorly.

The power of feedback is its value in facilitating revision, such as revising an essay or revising one‚Äôs understanding of a concept. Revision is one of the key differences between expert and inexpert writers. Expert writers revise. Beginning and inexpert writers don‚Äôt revise much. Or at all” (Jeff Grabel Michigan State University).

4. Formative, Not Summative

Good writing instruction often requires students to complete multiple drafts. Writing feedback research has universally concluded that writing guidance on initial drafts is superior to comments upon final drafts, in terms of facilitating writing improvement. Comments on drafts of writing provide students with timely information about the clarity and impact of their writing. When students receive feedback while they are writing, “they are more inclined to use it to revise and edit their drafts than they would be if they received the suggestions on a graded, polished copy” (Nicol, D.J., & Macfarlane-Dick, D. 2006).

Simply put, revision is how students learn how to write–not the 1‚Äď5 scores on an ending holistic rubric.

5. The Earlier the Better

“Give feedback on the content, organization and style features of the writing in early drafts.¬† If students focus on writing conventions early in the writing process, their flow of ideas may be curtailed. ‚Äď In addition, students may edit sentences that will later be cut during revisions.¬† Give feedback on adherence to writing conventions when the writing is almost complete” (Peterson, S.S. 2008).

Teachers should not accept sloppy copies. Students must be taught how to use grammar and spell check (Google Docs has a brand new tool which identifies issues and suggests revisions). Students need to share their best efforts at each stage of the writing process. Establishing high expectations and writing standards improves student performance and lightens the editing load of teachers. Teachers should spend writing feedback time on writing advice, not editing.

6. Error Explanation

Simply circling errors or using diacritical marks produces ineffective revision. Writers do not know what they don’t know. Simply writing FRAG does not explain why the sentence is incomplete or how to fix it. Other than typos, writers rarely make mistakes when they know better.¬†When errors are simply marked without explanation,¬†students will continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.

A focus on error analysis is essential. “Students who receive feedback on their written errors will be more likely to self-correct them during revision than those who receive no feedback‚ÄĒand this demonstrated uptake may be a necessary step in developing longer term linguistic competence.

Students are likely to attend to and appreciate feedback on their errors, and this may motivate them both to make corrections and to work harder on improving their writing. The lack of such feedback may lead to anxiety or resentment, which could decrease motivation and lower confidence in their teachers” (Ferris, D. R. 2004).

7. The Right Amount

Too many comments can overwhelm and dishearten developing writers. Instead of marking and explaining every writing error, Peterson suggests “… identifying patterns of convention errors, rather than every error in the paper. Students are more likely to learn how to use a convention correctly if they attend exclusively to that type of error when editing their writing” (2008).

8. The Right Ones

Not all writing issues are created equal. Clearly, some are more important to focus upon than others. Maxine Hairston (1981) suggests that certain errors are perceived as higher status than others. This researcher found that these errors were seen to be more egregious by most teachers: nonstandard verb forms, lack of subject-verb agreement, double negatives, objective pronoun as subject. Other errors are perceived as low status and may not warrant marking: unnecessary or inaccurate modifiers, use of a singular verb with data, use of a colon after a linking verb” (

Additionally, it makes sense to focus upon teachable writing issues. Writing issues which are generalizable have great need for writing feedback than once in a blue moon issues.

Plus, subject-verb agreement issues can be remedied (despite exceptions, there are rules); however, writing tone and style are tougher to teacher. Hence, provide writing feedback that will get the greatest bang for the buck.

Teachers tend to mark errors and comment on content or process. Instead, writing researchers suggest that teachers should comment on both. Choosing to concentrate on errors that can be easily explained to the student with the greater likelihood of producing positive transfer to subsequent writing assignments just makes sense. For example, errors in speaker tag commas can be easily remediated because the rules are relatively unambiguous; errors in commas isolating dependent clauses are harder to remediate because the rules are more ambiguous and context dependent.

9. Variety of Communication Modes

The same format of writing feedback can bore students and diminish attention to what has been said. In an interesting study regarding using audio comments with a control group of written comments, Dr. Martha Marie Bless found a statistically significant difference in the amount and quality of student revisions and skill acquisition in favor of the audio comments (Walden University 2017).

10. Accountability

All too often, students glance at writing feedback and do little or nothing to revise or learn from teacher comments. Teachers who incentivize writing revision with points, praise, privileges, etc. tend to get better results.

Technology helps hold students accountable for their revisions. Microsoft Word¬ģ provides Track Changes and Google Docs offers Revision History to check whether or not students have worked to improve writing from draft to draft. Using different color font or pens, writing, achieves the same end.

Sources Cited

  1. The Power of Feedback by John Hattie and Helen Timperley, in Review of Educational Research 77 (March 2007): 81-112.
  2. Seven Keys to Effective Feedback by Grant Wiggins in Educational Leadership 70.1 (September 2012): 10-16.
  3. Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers by Nancy Sommers in College Composition and Communication 31.4 (December 1980): 378-388.
  4. Training Advanced Writing Skills: The Case for Deliberate Practice by Ronald T. Kellogg and Alison P. Whiteford in Educational Psychologist 44.9 (2009).
  5. The effects of word processing on the revision strategies of freshmen by Gail Hawisher in Research in the Teaching of English 21 (May 1987): 145-159.
  6. A Multimodal Task-Based Framework for Composing by Jody Shipka in College Composition and Communication 57.2 (December 2005): 277-306.
  7. Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives by Peter Johnston, Stenhouse Publishers (2012)
  8. National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2007 writing report card  Findings from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics

    Google e-Comments

    Google Add-ons

Here’s a freebie that just might make life a bit easier for teachers this fall‚Ķ I just released a new free comment insert program for Google docs that will save grading time and improve writing feedback. Insert hundreds of customizable Common Core-aligned instructional comments, which identify, explain, and show how to revise writing issues, with just one click from the e-Comments menu. Add your own comments to the menu, including audio, video, and speech-to-text. Check out the introductory video and add this free extension to your Chrome toolbar: e-Comments Chrome Extension. Includes separate comment banks for grades 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and AP/College. Cheers!


Why not use the same language of instruction as the e-Comments program for program instruction? Mark Pennington is the author of Teaching Essay Strategies, Teaching Grammar and Mechanics, Differentiated Spelling Instruction, and the Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit.

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Insertable Canned Comments

Canned e-Comments

Insertable e-Comments

Like many of you, I have a love‚ąíhate relationship with grading or editing stories, essays, and reports. I know how important detailed writing feedback is to developing writers, and most of them have appreciated my efforts. However, marking papers remains heart-wrenching, repetitious, and time-consuming work.

Yes, I’ve tried and still use many of the grading¬†hacks¬†out there. However, let’s face it; many of the short-cuts reduce the quality and quantity of written feedback.

Yes, I’ve written and used a multitude of holistic and analytical rubrics.¬† However, I never bought into the just score the rubric mentality, and students uniformly find rubrics to be of little help in developing their writing skills.

Yes, I’ve been trained in the National Writing Project, Power Writing, Writers Workshop, 6+1 Traits, and Jane Shaffer programs, and I’ve learned plenty from each of these approaches. I’ve also authored a book which quite a few teachers have found to be helpful:¬†Teaching Essay Strategies.¬†However, the more you know, the more you tend to want to do, not less, and none of the programs helped me deal with the always-present stack of papers to grade.

Yes, I’ve more than dabbled with computer-assisted grading. I abandoned the red pen years ago and figured how to use the Autocorrect feature in Microsoft Word¬ģ and the Google Docs Tools‚ąíPreferences option to save canned comments with my own alphanumeric codes, but these ad hoc¬†add-ins¬†required too much memorization. A few of the newer Chrome extensions seemed promising, but their minimal and simplistic comment banks and their countless clicks and multiple menus took just as much time as red-marking papers with diacritical marks. Plus, they didn’t have all the bells and whistles I wanted, such as audio and video comment capabilities.

Simply put, I never found any method or program that would both save grading time and improve the quality of writing feedback.

Until now.

I recently retired to devote my attention and time to my small Pennington Publishing business. With the help of a patient and creative web developer, I’ve put together the e-Comments Chrome Extension with Grades 3‚ąí6, Grades 6‚ąí9, Grades 9‚ąí12, and College and Workplace comment sets. And, yes, it’s free. Consider it my retirement gift to dedicated elementary teachers, middle and high school ELA teachers, college English professors, and supervisors who edit workplace writing.

How do the e-Comments programs help you grade faster and better?

Each of the e-Comments extensions includes about 200 customizable comments which can be inserted into Google docs and slides with just one click from the pop-up e-Comments menu. Each comment identifies, explains, and shows how to revise a specific writing issue. Plus, you can add and save your own comments. Perfect for specific writing assignments. Plus, you’ll find out how to record audio, video, and speech to text comments to make the job of personalized feedback easier and more effective. And, most importantly, you don’t have to be a tech genius to use this program. It’s intuitive and user-friendly.

e-Comments Dropdown Menu

e-Comments Menu

Key Features of the e-Comments Program

Clicking the e-Comments icon in your extension toolbar opens a dropdown menu with an¬†off‚ąíon slider. The extension remains available to use with any Google doc or slide until you switch to the off position. The program syncs to other Google apps upon start-up and indicates the sync status below the slider.

That same dropdown menu also includes a video tutorial, a one-page Quick Start User Guide, and the PDF comment banks for all four e-Comments extension levels. You never know when you’ll need to copy and paste a remedial or advanced comment to the extension level you’ve selected.

e-Comments Options

e-Comments Menu

Upon opening a student’s doc or slide, the full e-comments menu¬†(all 200 or so, depending upon extension level) pops up in the right margin, away from the student’s text. You can scroll up and down or drag the menu to any screen position. Don‚Äôt worry. It won‚Äôt disappear on you. The menu is organized by writing categories:

  • Writing Format and Standards
  • Essay Structure and Content
  • Story Structure and Content
  • Sentence Formation and Writing Style
  • Word Choice
  • Nouns, Pronouns, Adjectives
  • Verbs
  • Modifiers, Adverbs, Prepositions, Conjunctions
  • Punctuation, Capitalization, Quotation Rules,
  • Spelling Rules
  • End Comments

To insert a comment, highlight the relevant section of the writer’s text, scan the writing comment categories to narrow your search, and hover over the abbreviated comment buttons. You’ll notice that the menu darkens, and the full comment appears in a pop-up. Simply click the button which responds to the writing issue and the entire comment appears in the margin of the writer’s document. So cool! Don’t worry; it’s saved.

More Bells and Whistles

Want to edit the comment for just one writer? Click on the three-dot button on the right side of the comment to add, delete, or substitute wording. You’ll notice that many of the e-Comments are quite comprehensive, and you may wish to narrow the instructional focus for individual writers.

Text to Speech

Type Text to Speech

Want to customize the comment for all your writers? Right click on the comment button, edit, and save. Use the speech to text function if you wish. Want to restore the default comments? No problem. Right click on the writing comment category and click “Restore Default Settings.”

Want to add and save your own writing comments to the e-comments menu? It‚Äôs easy to do. Click the “+” button and type in a comment abbreviation to create your own comment button. To enter the comment, you can type, copy and paste, or use the speech to text function. Add links if you wish. Don‚Äôt forget to save.

Audio or Video Comments

Record Audio or Video Comments

Want to insert an audio or video comment? Click on the microphone or video icon next to the “+” button to record. Make sure your mic or camera is on before recording. Make sure your hair is in place:) A pop-up window provides the record and playback functions. You can insert a personalized comment for one writer or save the audio or video file to the e-Comments menu to use for all your writers. Your writers will definitely pay attention to these comments!

Want to add and save a new writing comment category to the e-Comments menu for a specific writing assignment? Say for a response to literature essay on a class novel for teachers. Or for a business plan proposal for working professionals. Click the ‚ÄúAdd Category‚ÄĚ button at the bottom of the e-Comments menu, type the name of the category and click ‚ÄúAdd.‚ÄĚ Then add as many of your own comments as you wish to the new writing comments category.

Want to remove this category and its, but save them to your computer to add back in at another time? Right click the writing comments category button and click the trash icon. You can choose to permanently delete or click ‚ÄúCopy to Clipboard‚ÄĚ and save the writing category and its comments to your computer.

Why the e-Comments Writing Feedback Works

Simply identifying writing issues is not enough, and writing feedback research is clear that circling a sentence fragment, red-marking FRAG, or using a grammar-checker to highlight the error has no measurable effect upon learning. Writers will continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.

The e-Comments do identify writing issues, but they also explain why they are issues with reasons, rules, and examples, and they show writers how to revise their writing. The four extensions are aligned to the Common Core Anchor Standards for Language and Writing. You will make a significant impact on developing writers by using the e-Comments Chrome Extension.


Revise Gender Pronoun Issue: Make both the pronoun and its antecedent (the word or group of words to which a pronoun refers) plural when gender (male or female) does not need to be identified. Example: Everyone needs his rest. Revision: All need their rest.


Why not use the same language of instruction as the e-Comments program for program instruction? Mark Pennington is the author of Teaching Essay Strategies, Teaching Grammar and Mechanics, Differentiated Spelling Instruction, and the Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit.

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High School Teaching Grammar and Mechanics

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics (new 2019 edition) helps high school teachers significantly improve student writing and test scores through direct instruction and individualized practice. This comprehensive curriculum is aligned with the Common Core Anchor Standards for Language and the Progressive Skills Review (alignment documents included). Preview Teaching Grammar and Mechanics High School


Direct Instruction: This program provides a full year of 64 no-prep and minimal correction Cornell Note lessons. Teach two 30-minute lessons per week. The teacher lesson pages include teaching tips and online resources, such as those from the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL). These rigorous, yet easy-to-teach lessons (perfect for both the grammatically-challenged and expert grammarian) feature these resources:

  • Interactive Instruction with Cornell Notes¬†Read the lesson out loud and students copy the examples. Students have the full lesson text–no time-consuming copying–and may use comp books, spiral notebooks, or three-ring binders.
  • Practice Sentences¬†Students complete these independently and self-correct/edit from the display.
  • Sentence Dictations¬†Dictate brief formative assessments for each mechanics and grammar lesson focus. Students self-correct/edit from the display.
  • Simple Sentence Diagrams¬†Students self-correct/edit from the display.
  • Mentor Texts with Writing Response¬†Discuss how noted writers have used the grammatical component taught in the lesson. Students share their responses to the texts, including their own application of the grammar.
  • 3D Graphic Organizer¬†Students color, cut, and paste for review and writing application… as used in interactive notebooks. Walk the room and check the formative assessments, re-teach if necessary, and monitor student work.

    High School Teaching Grammar and Mechanics

    Teaching Grammar and Mechanics High School

Biweekly Tests: Administer these brief 20-minute tests after completing four lessons. The tests require students to define, identify, and apply the grammar, usage, and mechanics content and skills with matching test items and sentence completions. Quick and easy to grade.

Diagnostic Grammar and Mechanics Assessments: Comprehensive whole-class diagnostic grammar, usage, and mechanics assessments provide the data to help teachers individualize instruction. A grammar and mechanics recording matrix makes assessment data entry simple and progress monitoring efficient.

Individualized Instruction: 77 targeted grammar, usage, and mechanics worksheets, corresponding to each skill tested in the diagnostic assessments. Each worksheet includes definitions, examples, writing hints, guided practice, and a brief formative assessment to help students learn the skills they did not master on the diagnostic assessments. Students self-correct/edit their answers and the teacher grades the brief formative assessment to determine whether students have mastered the content or skill.

No other grammar and mechanics curriculum matches the comprehensive resources of Teaching Grammar and Mechanics (High School). You can teach rigorous grade-level standards and also individualize instruction.


See what Teaching Grammar and Mechanics teachers are saying about this program: 

This is an amazing product. It makes individualized instruction a breeze!

Shawna Pounds

As a newer ELA teacher, this is an awesome product to have. It’s very thorough and easy to use!


Great resource for revisiting this skill set. The students are enjoying the variety of the handouts. I love the fact that I can access whether or not if I need to reteach these skills to my students.

Patience Scott

This is a great product for teaching grammar and mechanics. I like how it allows for students to¬†achieve mastery. It has great step by step directions for teaching the skills as well as help on¬†differentiating instruction. It seems overwhelming when you first look at it, but once you take “10 minutes” to figure it out, it’s awesome!

Laura P.

This has been very useful. It really helped me come up with a way to teach grammar effectively and in a time saving manner.

Misty K.

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112 Quick Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Video Lessons

GRAMMAR PROGRAMS from Pennington Publishing

Pennington Publishing GRAMMAR PROGRAMS

Instructional time is precious. I’ve never heard an English-language arts teacher complain, “I just have too much class time and not enough to teach!” One set of Common Core Standards that tends to get placed upon the back-burner is the Anchor Standards for Language. You guessed it: grammar, usage, and mechanics. Specifically L.1, 2, and 3. If your time is limited and you can only squeeze out 5 minutes a day (on average), these¬†112 Quick Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Video Lessons are for you! Taken from my comprehensive grades 4‚Äď12 Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) grade-level BUNDLES, these nuggets aren’t the goldmine that my full-year programs offer, but they will do the job of quick instruction, review, editing and test prep. Why are these free? Once you see the quality of instruction and comprehensive instructional scope and sequence in these videos, my hope is that you will purchase one of my comprehensive programs, plus I cleverly include an advertisement for my program BUNDLE, Teaching the Language Strand, to remind you at the end of every lesson. Watch it once and you’ll remember (most of the time) to stop the lesson before the advertisement begins to avoid annoying your students. All videos are accessed via YouTube.

Read the Instructional Components and Instructional Procedures. Skim the 112-lesson instructional scope and sequence. Read the brief description of the author’s grammar, usage, and mechanics programs (please). Click on one or all of the free downloads and I’ll send them directly to your inbox. Click on the link at the end of the article to access all 112 videos.

Instructional Components

  1. Slide of applicable Common Core Anchor Standard for Language and video subject. Note: Videos alternate between mechanics and grammar/usage.
  2. Brief introduction of the mechanics or grammar and usage lesson subject to build prior knowledge, define unfamiliar terms, and scaffold instruction with review.
  3. Slide of lesson with examples. The lesson and examples are read out loud.  Note: Perfect for visually impaired students.
  4. Practice sentence includes both correct and incorrect usage of the mechanics, grammar, and usage rule, concept, or content.
  5. Practice answers for students to self-correct and edit.
  6. Writing application to practice applying the lesson focus in the student’s own writing (one or two sentences).

Instructional Procedures

  1. You may choose to have students complete the lesson on binder paper or in composition notebooks.
  2. Prepare your computer and projector for whole-class video and audio or share with your students to use on class Chromebooks, tablets, or iPads.
  3. Play the video and follow screen directions to “pause” and “discuss.”
  4. ¬†Students copy the lesson and examples in composition notebooks or you can print the slide for students to cut and paste. Either option works well as a “bell ringer” to permit you a few minutes to take roll.
  5. Students copy Practice sentence and revise according to the lesson focus. Note: both correct and incorrect usage of the lesson focus are included.
  6. Students self-correct and edit in another color pen or pencil. Make sure students understand that no points are deducted for self-corrections and edits.
  7. Students apply the lesson focus in an original sentence or two to demonstrate their mastery. Correct the Writing Application and award credit or points after every few lessons.

*Optional: Students can create a graphic organizer or draw a picture to review the lesson focus.

Skim the 112 Quick Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Video Lessons (each 2‚Äď5 minutes)

Latin Abbreviations for Time: Mechanics Lesson 1 Proper Nouns: Grammar and Usage Lesson 1 Abbreviations and Acronyms: Mechanics Lesson 2 Common Nouns: Grammar and Usage Lesson 2 Indirect Questions and Intentional Fragments: Mechanics Lesson 3 Types of Verbs: Grammar and Usage Lesson 3 Alphanumeric Outlines: Mechanics Lesson 4 Verb Tenses: Grammar and Usage Lesson 4 Semicolons with Phrases: Mechanics Lesson 5 Subject Case Pronouns: Grammar and Usage Lesson 5 Apostrophes with Singular Possessives: Mechanics Lesson 6 Object Case Pronouns: Grammar and Usage Lesson 6 Apostrophes with Plural Possessives: Mechanics Lesson 7 Possessive Pronouns: Grammar and Usage Lesson 7 Apostrophes with Compound Subjects and Objects: Mechanics Lesson 8 Adjectives: Grammar and Usage Lesson 8 Apostrophes with Contractions: Mechanics Lesson 9 Verbs: Grammar and Usage Lesson 9 When Not to Use Commas: Mechanics Lesson 10 Adverbs: Grammar and Usage Lesson 10 Commas with Dates: Mechanics Lesson 11 Coordinating Conjunctions: Grammar and Usage Lesson 11 Commas in Letters: Mechanics Lesson 12 Correlative Conjunctions: Grammar and Usage Lesson 12 Commas in Addresses: Mechanics Lesson 13 Subordinating Conjunctions: Grammar and Usage Lesson 13 Commas with Family Titles: Mechanics Lesson 14 Prepositional Phrases: Grammar and Usage Lesson 14 Commas with Place Names: Mechanics Lesson 15 Subjects and Predicates: Grammar and Usage Lesson 15 Commas with Tag Questions: Mechanics Lesson 16 Direct Objects: Grammar and Usage Lesson 16 Commas with Beginning Nouns of Direct Speech: Mechanics Lesson 17 Indirect Objects: Grammar and Usage Lesson 17 Commas with Ending Nouns of Direct Speech: Mechanics Lesson 18 Phrases and Clauses: Grammar and Usage Lesson 18 Commas with Middle Nouns of Direct Speech: Mechanics Lesson 19 Complete Sentences, Fragments, and Run-ons: Grammar and Usage Lesson 19 Commas with Items in a List: Mechanics Lesson 20 Simple, Compound, and Complex Sentences: Grammar and Usage Lesson 20 Commas with Introductory Words: Mechanics Lesson 21 Compound-Complex Sentences: Grammar and Usage Lesson 21 Commas with Introductory Clauses: Mechanics Lesson 22 Types of Sentences: Grammar and Usage Lesson 22 Commas with Interjections: Mechanics Lesson 23 Noun Phrases: Grammar and Usage Lesson 23 Commas in Quotation Marks and Speaker Tags in Dialogue: Mechanics Lesson 24 Noun Clauses: Grammar and Usage Lesson 24 Commas in Compound Sentences: Mechanics Lesson 25 Indefinite Pronouns: Grammar and Usage Lesson 25 Commas with Phrases and Clauses: Mechanics Lesson 26 Interrogative Pronouns: Grammar and Usage Lesson 26 Commas with Complex Sentences: Mechanics Lesson 27 Demonstrative Pronouns: Grammar and Usage Lesson 27 Commas with Coordinate Adjectives: Mechanics Lesson 28 Reflexive Pronouns: Grammar and Usage Lesson 28 Commas with Hierarchical Adjectives: Mechanics Lesson 29 Intensive Pronouns: Grammar and Usage Lesson 29 Commas with Nonrestrictive Relative Clauses: Mechanics Lesson 30 Nonrestrictive Relative Clauses: Grammar and Usage Lesson 30 Restrictive Relative Clauses: Mechanics Lesson 31 Restrictive Clauses: Grammar and Usage Lesson 31 Direct Quotations: Mechanics Lesson 32 Reciprocal Pronouns: Grammar and Usage Lesson 32 Indirect Quotations: Mechanics Lesson 33 Pronoun Antecedents: Grammar and Usage Lesson 33 Quotations within Quotations: Mechanics Lesson 34 Pronoun Number and Person Shifts: Grammar and Usage Lesson 34 Movie and Television Titles: Mechanics Lesson 35 Vague Pronoun References: Grammar and Usage Lesson 35 Book, Website, Newspaper, and Magazine Titles: Mechanics Lesson 36 Adjectival Phrases: Grammar and Usage Lesson 36 Plays and Works of Art Titles: Mechanics Lesson 37 Predicate Adjectives: Grammar and Usage Lesson 37 Song and Poem Titles: Mechanics Lesson 38 Short Comparative Modifiers: Grammar and Usage Lesson 38 Book Chapter Titles: Mechanics Lesson 39 Long Comparative Modifiers: Grammar and Usage Lesson 39 Article Titles: Mechanics Lesson 40 Short Superlative Modifiers: Grammar and Usage Lesson 40 Short Story and Document Titles: Mechanics Lesson 41 Long Superlative Modifiers: Grammar and Usage Lesson 41 Capitalizing People and Character Names: Mechanics Lesson 42 Misplaced Modifiers: Grammar and Usage Lesson 42 Capitalizing Things and Products: Mechanics Lesson 43 Dangling Modifiers: Grammar and Usage Lesson 43 Capitalizing Holidays and Dates: Mechanics Lesson 44 Verb Phrases: Grammar and Usage Lesson 44 Capitalizing Special Events and Historical Periods: Mechanics Lesson 45 Singular Subject-Verb Agreement: Grammar and Usage Lesson 45 Capitalizing Organizations and Businesses: Mechanics Lesson 46 Plural Subject-Verb Agreement: Grammar and Usage Lesson 46 Capitalizing Languages, Dialects, and People Groups: Mechanics Lesson 47 Shifts in Verb Tense: Grammar and Usage Lesson 47 Question Marks in Dialogue: Mechanics Lesson 48 Progressive Verb Tenses: Grammar and Usage Lesson 48 Exclamation Points: Mechanics Lesson 49 Perfect Verb Tenses: Grammar and Usage Lesson 49 Colons: Mechanics Lesson 50 Adverbial Clauses: Grammar and Usage Lesson 50 Parentheses: Mechanics Lesson 51 Adverb Order: Grammar and Usage Lesson 51 Dashes: Mechanics Lesson 52 Non-standard English Deletions: Grammar and Usage Lesson 52 Brackets: Mechanics Lesson 53 Non-standard English Additions: Grammar and Usage Lesson 53 Capitalizing: Mechanics Lesson 54 Non-standard English Substitutions: Grammar and Usage Lesson 54 Slashes: Mechanics Lesson 55 Common Misused Words: Grammar and Usage Lesson 55 Numbers within Text: Mechanics Lesson 56 Common Misused Words: Grammar and Usage Lesson


I’m Mark Pennington, author of many popular, easy-to-teach grammar resources. Check out these four types of grammar resources: 1. Interactive notebook 2. Literacy centers and 3.¬† Traditional grade-level grammar programs 4. Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) BUNDLES

Of the three, the interactive notebook lends itself to more individualized practice and has online links. The literacy centers involve group work. The traditional grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and high school grammar programs require direct instruction in each of the grade-level standards with mentor texts, simple sentence diagrams, and formative assessments. All grade 4‚Äď8 programs include biweekly quizzes. The grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 BUNDLE offers a comprehensive program to teach every standard in the Anchor Standards for Language.

All four types of grammar programs provide diagnostic assessments and targeted worksheets to help students master deficits indicated by the diagnostic grammar and mechanics assessments.

Get the Grammar and Mechanics Grades 4-8 Instructional Scope and Sequence FREE Resource:

Get the Diagnostic Grammar and Usage Assessment FREE Resource:

Get the Diagnostic Mechanics Assessment FREE Resource:

At last! Here’s the link to the¬†112 Quick Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Video Lessons.¬†¬†

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