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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 feedbackThat 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.

FAQs:

  • 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’t 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 StyleIndeed, 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® 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 “automatic” 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® “Track Changes” 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 Instructionand the Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit.

Get the Writing Process Essay FREE Resource:

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Insertable Canned Comments

Canned e-Comments

Insertable e-Comments

Like many of you, I have a love−hate 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 StrategiesHowever, 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® and the Google Docs Tools−Preferences 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 3−6, Grades 6−9, Grades 9−12, 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−on 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’t worry. It won’t 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’s 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’t 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 “Add Category” button at the bottom of the e-Comments menu, type the name of the category and click “Add.” 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 “Copy to Clipboard” 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.

Example:

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 Instructionand the Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit.

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How to Save Time Grading Essays

Canned e-Comments

Insertable e-Comments

Good teachers learn to work smarter not harder. We also learn how to prioritize our time, especially in terms of managing the paper load. Most of us would agree that we need to focus more of our time on planning and teaching, rather than on correcting. Here’s one resource to help you save time grading essays, while providing better essay response: the e-Comments Chrome Extension. Automatically insert hundreds of canned comments into Google docs and slides from your choice of grades 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and AP/College comment banks. Switch back-and-forth if you like. And you can edit these as you please or even add your own, including audio, video, and speech-to-text comments. Perfect for the non-techie teacher. Only one click inserts the comments from the movable e-Comments menu.

No, this is not an automatic grading program. If you’ve tried a few of these, you already have learned that while computers may do a nice job driving our cars, they don’t do as well grading student essays. Instead, the essay e-comments app is simply a “canned” comment bank which teachers use “as is” or choose to modify to stop wasting time writing the same comments over and over again. Plus, instead of just identifying the writing issue, each Essay e-Comment teaches students how to revise the problem.

No, this is not a grammar or spell checker. These are wonderful tools; however, they don’t teach your students how to avoid repeating the same mistakes over and over again. The comments are aligned to the Common Core Anchor Standards for Writing and Language. They are comprehensive and identify, explain, and show how to revise writing issues for stories, essays, and reports.

If you’re committed to providing detailed comments to help your students improve their writing, but find yourself spending more than five minutes per essay, this easy to use Chrome extension’s for you!

Let’s See Examples

Revise In-Text Citation Format:

In-text citations identify any outside source of information you use in your writing and must be included on a separate Works Cited page. After the direct quotation (using the author’s words) or an indirect quotation (using your own words, but the author’s idea), include the following within parentheses: the author’s last name (or title if none listed), followed by a space and the page number (numeral only). If the name of the author or title is used within the quotation, only the page number is included in parentheses. Place a period after the closing parenthesis.

Examples:

As the author explains, “Direct quotation” (Smith 22).

According to Amy Smith, “Direct quotation” (22).

Inconsistent Point of View:

The point of view has changed. The point of view refers to how the story is told. Most authors use one of these points of view to tell the story:

One of the characters tells the story using I. The reader only knows what the character knows and feels.

Example: I walked into the hallway, not knowing where it would lead.

The narrator, who is not involved in the story, tells the reader what one main character knows and feels.

Example: Marsha and Brad left the house together. Marta wondered if they would return.

The narrator or character telling the story knows everything about the characters’ past, present, and future.

Example: The children did not know that their parents were waiting for them at the end of the tunnel.

Revise Sentence Run-on:

This run-on incorrectly connects two independent clauses (a noun and connected verb which tells a complete thought). If connected with a comma, the run-on is known as a comma splice. To fix a sentence run-on, try these revision strategies:

Separate the run-on into two sentences.

Run-on Example: Lou told his mom he told his sister.

Revision: Lou told his mom. He told his sister.

Add a comma followed by a conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) between the two complete thoughts.

Run-on Example: Lou told his mom he told his sister.

Revision: Lou told his mom, and he told his sister.

Needs Commentary:

Provide your own comments about the concrete detail. In an opinion essay, include your opinion, share your own ideas about the evidence, analyze (say what it means about the issue or topic), or evaluate (say if it’s right or wrong; good or bad). In an informative/explanatory essay, explain, analyze (say what it means), or provide a definition of a key word. Commentary does not add additional details or information. Use a transition word to begin commentary sentences.

Example: As a result, gamers learn how to optimize their games with modifications.

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 Instructionand the Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit.

Get the Writing Process Essay FREE Resource:

Grammar/Mechanics, Literacy Centers, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

22 Comma Rules

When should you use a comma and when should not? It could be a life or death matter. After all, “Let’s eat Grandma” is considerably different than “Let’s eat, Grandma.” Sometimes these mechanics and grammar rules do serve a purpose.

English language-arts teachers, like copy editors, live by the style guides. Safe to safe, the comma rules are certainly in flux. I, like many teachers subscribe to the “When in doubt, leave it out” generalization when it comes to comma usage. However, it’s always important to know the rule, before you intentionally violate the rule.

Before we jump in, would you like to add a free (for now) extension that automatically inserts all 22 comma rules into your students’ Google docs and slides?

Writer Response

Writing Feedback

Here’s a freebie to add to the Chrome extension toolbar that just might make life a bit easier for teachers this fall: e-Comments Chrome Extension. This free comment insert program for Google docs and slides 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. Includes separate comment banks for grades 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and AP/College.

2 Speaker Tag In dialogue sentences, place commas before and after a middle speaker tag to the left of both  quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation points can also separate speaker tags from dialogue. Example: “But if you don’t,” he shouted “you will never win.”

3 Speaker Tag In dialogue sentences, place commas before an ending speaker tag to the left of the quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation points can also separate speaker tags from dialogue. Example: “Okay. I will give you another chance,” he responded.

4 Appositive Use commas to set apart appositives. An appositive is a noun or pronoun placed next to another noun or pronoun to identify, define, or describe it. The     appositive can be a word, phrase, or clause. Example: That man, the one with the hat, left town quickly.

5 Commas in Series Use commas after each item in lists (except the last). Use commas after each item in lists, except the last one. Example: John, Jane, and Jose left early.

6 Introductory Word Use commas only after introductory words which receive special emphasis. Examples: Conversely, you could listen. Then I went home.

7 Introductory Phrase Use commas after introductory phrases when followed by a modifying noun or pronoun. Example: Bold and beautiful, the statue was popular. Don’t use commas if the phrase modifies the following noun or pronoun or if another part of speech follows the phrase. Examples: A bold and beautiful statue was popular. Bold and beautiful was the popular statue.

* Exception: Avoid using commas after short (four words or less) introductory prepositional phrases. Examples: Under the tree he hid. Under the shady oak tree, he hid.

8 Introductory Dependent Clauses A dependent clause includes a noun or pronoun and connected verb, but does not express a complete thought. Place a comma following introductory dependent clauses. Examples: Even though I listened, I didn’t understand.

9 Ending Dependent Clause A dependent clause includes a noun or pronoun and connected verb, but does not express a complete thought. Don’t  place a comma before an ending dependent clause. Example: I never got her letter although she did write.

10 Geography Place commas between related geographical place names and after the last place name,  unless it appears the end of a sentence. When the place name is a possessive, this rule does not apply. Examples: She lived in Rome, Italy, for a year. Rome, Italy’s traffic is congested.

11 Dates Use commas to separate number dates and years. Don’t place a comma following the year. Example: It all happened on May 3, 1999. On May 4, 1999 we went back home.

12 Beginning Direct Address Use commas to separate nouns of direct address. The noun can be a word, phrase, or clause. If at the beginning of the sentence, one comma follows. Examples: Kristen, leave some for your sister. Officer Daniels, I need your help. Whoever you are, stop talking.

13 Middle Direct Address Use commas to separate nouns of direct address. The noun can be a word, phrase, or clause. If in the middle of the sentence, one comma goes before and one follows. Examples: If you insist, Dad, I will. If you insist, Your Honor, I will.

14 Ending Direct Address Use commas to separate nouns of direct address. The noun can be a word, phrase, or clause. If at the end of the sentence, one comma goes before the noun. Examples: Just leave a little bit, honey. Just leave a little bit, best girlfriend.

15 Compound Sentence Use commas before coordinating conjunctions to join two independent clauses if one or more of the sentences is long. Example: I liked her, and she definitely said that she liked me.

16 Commas to Enclose Parenthetical Expressions Use commas before and after words that interrupt the flow of the sentence. If the interruption is minimal, you may leave out the commas. Example: The best way to see the game, if you can afford it, is in person.

17 Commas to Set Off Non-restrictive Clauses A nonrestrictive clause can be removed from a sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence. The relative pronouns who, whom, whose, and which, but not that, begin nonrestrictive relative clauses. Use commas to set off nonrestrictive relative clauses from the noun or pronoun before the clause. Example: The girl, who sits in the corner, is sleepy.

18 Commas and Restrictive Clauses A restrictive clause can’t be removed from a sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence. A restrictive clause limits

22 Comma Rules with Examples

22 Comma Rules

the meaning of the independent clause to which it is attached. Don’t use commas before and after restrictive clauses. Example: The student who wins the most votes will be elected Student Council President.

19 Comma and Abbreviations These abbreviations: Sr. (senior), Jr. (junior), and etc. (et cetera) are always preceded by a comma. Don’t place commas after these abbreviations. Examples: Howard, Sr. had Howard, Jr., take out the trash, water the lawn, pull weeds, etc.

20 Comma and Duplicate Words Place commas between repeated words when needed to improve clarity. Examples: Tommy and Pam moved in, in May.

21 Comma to Replace Missing Words Use commas to replace omitted words, especially the word that. Examples: I am a vegetarian; my wife, a meat-eater. Win some, lose some. What I mean is, she hasn’t changed her diet and followed mine.

22 Comma in Parenthetical Citations Place a comma after each author’s name, except the last in a multiple author citation. Don’t use a comma between the author(s) and the page number(s). Example: (Peabody, Jones, and Smith 14) Don’t place a comma between different authors or resource titles citing information; use a semicolon. Examples: (Peabody 16; Jimenez 55) (The Nature of Change; Wrong Policy)

*****

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics for Grades 4-High School

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and High School Programs

I’m Mark Pennington, author of the full-year interactive grammar notebooks,  grammar literacy centers, and the traditional grade-level 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and high school Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs. Teaching Grammar and Mechanics includes 56 (64 for high school) interactive language conventions lessons,  designed for twice-per-week direct instruction in the grade-level grammar, usage, and mechanics standards. The scripted lessons (perfect for the grammatically-challenged teacher) are formatted for classroom display. Standards review, definitions and examples, practice and error analysis, simple sentence diagrams, mentor texts with writing applications, and formative assessments are woven into every 25-minute lesson. The program also includes the Diagnostic Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Assessments with corresponding worksheets to help students catch up, while they keep up with grade-level, standards-aligned instruction.

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Programs

Or why not get the value-priced Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 BUNDLES? These grade-level programs include both teacher’s guide and student workbooks and are designed to help you teach all the Common Core Anchor Standards for Language. In addition to the Teaching Grammar and Mechanics program, each BUNDLE provides weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of the grammar, mechanics, and vocabulary components.

The program also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment.

Check out the brief introductory video and enter DISCOUNT CODE 3716 at check-out for 10% off this value-priced program. We do sell print versions of the teacher’s guide and student workbooks. Contact mark@penningtonpublishing.com for pricing. Read what teachers are saying about this comprehensive program:

The most comprehensive and easy to teach grammar, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary program. I’m teaching all of the grade-level standards and remediating previous grade-level standards. The no-prep and minimal correction design of this program really respects a teacher’s time. At last, I’m teaching an integrated program–not a hodge-podge collection of DOL grammar, spelling and vocabulary lists, and assorted worksheets. I see measurable progress with both my grade-level and intervention students. BTW… I love the scripted lessons!

─Julie Villenueve

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How Many Essay Comments and What Kind

Press Release e-Comments

e-Comments Press Release

Teacher response to student writing often falls into two extremes:

1. The holistic rubric devotees who simply parrot standardized writing test grading by assigning numerical scores for “catch-all” writing categories or

2. The red-ink zealots who mark every single error and writing issue with their secret codes, a.k.a. diacritical proofreading marks and extensive writing comments.

The first approach of the holistic rubric hardly merits comment. Students merely look at the total score and continue the same errors or writing issues on the subsequent draft and next writing assignment. Intuitively, the second approach would seem to produce some benefit; however, the writing research is clear that student response to extensive marks and comments on rough drafts is minimal and the transfer of learning from such comments on final drafts to the next writing assignment is almost non-existent.

A middle ground can achieve more results. However, we have to make a distinction between rough drafts and final drafts. Researchers have found that marks on final drafts have little effect on student’s application to subsequent writing tasks (Dudenhyer 1976; Beach 1979; Thompson 1981; Harris 1978). But, conscientious teachers should make comments on rough drafts and writing research does support this practice. But how many essay comments make sense? And what kind of essay comments produce the produce the most revision and application to future writing tasks?

How Many Essay Comments

Many teachers take pride in the number of essay marks and comments they make on a paper. Some colleagues buy red pens by the truckload and spend significant time at their task. However, writing research has some disheartening news for these teachers. No significant difference in the quality of student writing was found between those teachers who marked all mistakes as compared to those teachers who made only minimal (Arnold 1964). Also, writing extensive comments does not improve student’s writing (Harris 1978; Lamberg 1980). Additionally, most students are able to respond effectively to no more than five comments per composition (Shuman 1979).

Clearly, more is not necessarily better. Knowing the student’s individual needs from frequent writing will help teachers prioritize which marks and comments will most help that student’s writing.

What Kind of Comments

Students tend to revise errors more so than issues of style, argument, structure, and content. The reason is simple: it’s easier to revise errors. Research shows that teachers tend to follow the same pattern as students: they mark and comment on errors much more often than on matters of style, argument, structure, and content (Connors and Lunsford 1988). So, teachers should keep in mind a balance between errors and writing issues when making essay comments. When a minimal credit is awarded for writing revisions, students tend to gravitate toward fixing the errors, rather than tackling the tougher chore of the writing issues. Awarding more points for writing revision and holding students accountable for addressing all marks and comments will motivate more and more meaningful revisions.

Teachers tend to mark errors with some form of diacritical mark, such as “cs” for a comma splice, and write brief comments, such as “awkward” for style or content. However, Hairston (1981) found that students tended to revise more when explanations were provided, rather than simple error identification. So, comments work better than simple diacritical marks.

So, which comments are most important to include? Clearly, issues of coherence and unity merit comments. So would issues of organization, content, and evidence. Hairston also suggested focusing comments on those issues which readers found to reflect lack of writing expertise. For example, nonstandard verb forms such as brung instead of brought are considered more egregious status indicators than a who-whom mistake. Good teachers can certainly make informed judgments about which comments to include and which comments to avoid.

So, to summarize how many essay comments and what kind, writing research would suggest the following:

  • Comment on rough drafts, not final drafts.
  • Limit the amount of comments and individualize those to the needs of the student writer.
  • Balance the types of comments between writing errors and issues of style, argument, structure, and evidence.
  • Hold students accountable for each mark or comment.
  • Comments are better than diacritical marks alone.
  • Comments should explain what is wrong or explain the writing issue.

Comments include…

  • Essay Organization and Development
  • Coherence
  • Word Choice
  • Sentence Variety
  • Writing Style
  • Format and Citations
  • Parts of Speech
  • Grammatical Forms
  • Usage
  • Sentence Structure
  • Types of Sentences
  • Mechanics
  • Conventional Spelling Rules

This freebie will make life a bit easier for teachers… 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 Instructionand the Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit.

Get the Writing Process Essay FREE Resource:

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Essay Comment Excuses

e-Comments Chrome Extension

e-Comments Extension

Many teachers take a great deal of personal pride in their essay comments. A community college colleague of mine made a life-long practice and ritual of grading his freshman composition papers every morning from 6:00-8:00 a.m. He provided extensive feedback and his students appreciated his dedication to developing their writing craft.

Now, I realize that I have lost a number of my readers after that opening paragraph. When we hear about such examples, we feel a mixture of aspiration and guilt. We want to have a similar impact on our students. Teachers are idealists. We want to make a difference in the lives of our students, and we believe that reading and writing are key ingredients to living a meaningful and productive life. However, most of us fail to measure up to our own expectations. Guilt sets in. No one likes guilt, so we conjure up essay comment excuses.

Excuses to Avoid Writing Essay Comments

I would, buts.

  • I would, but I already work a 60 hour week. That community college professor described above teaches fewer classes and does not have adjunct duties such as dances, football games, etc.
  • I would, but “they” cut my teaching days/salary.
  • I would, but my colleagues don’t have the same commitment as I do, so I follow their lead. We sometimes do read-arounds, so I have to grade as they do so as not to spoil their objectivity.

Rationalizations

  • My students don’t/won’t read my essay comments anyway. They glance at the grade, skim the comments, and trash their papers.
  • I use a holistic rubric or a 6 Traits +1 matrix so my students get a general feel for what they did well and what they need to work on. More detailed comments might draw students away from the “big picture.”
  • I have to grade the way students will be tested. Their standardized test uses a four-point rubric with no comments. Teaching has become test-prep.

Working Smarter, Not Harder

Let’s face it. We’ve all used one or more of those excuses to avoid the hard work of commenting on student papers. But we know that specific comments are the keys to writing improvement. Commenting throughout the writing process is simply a necessary component of effective writing instruction. We know that essay comment excuses are just that-excuses. Please comment on this post to add on more. I’ve just given you the excuses I’ve personally used over the years.

So, how can we do a great job with essay response and still maintain some semblance of a life outside of work? Canned comments.  But… really good ones. Prescriptive ones that that identify, explain with examples, and show students how to revise… Ones that target specific writing style, grammar, usage, organization, evidence, spelling… everything. Ones that are aligned to the Common Core Anchor Standards for Writing and Language… Hundreds of comments, written for different age levels… Ones that can be automatically inserted into Google docs and slides… Ones that you choose and are not chosen for you by some automatic grading program. Ones that you can easily personalize and are truly authentic. Ones that allow you to insert links for content references or even writing practice. Ones that allow you to differentiate instruction. Ones that students will have to read and respond to… Ones that will save teachers time.

This free resources will make life a bit easier for teachers… 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 Instructionand the Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit.

Get the Writing Process Essay FREE Resource:

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How to Write Effective Essay Comments

Press Release e-Comments

e-Comments Press Release

Conscientious teachers know that merely completing a holistic rubric and totaling the score for a grade is not effective essay response or writing assessment. Teachers may choose to grade and/or respond with essay comments after the rough draft and/or after the final draft. Using the types of comments that match the teacher’s instructional objectives is essential. Additionally, keeping in mind the key components of written discourse can balance responses between form and content. Finally, most writing instructors include closing comments to emphasize and summarize their responses.

Of course, the real world problem that conscientious teachers face is time. Responding to multiple drafts with effective writing feedback is time-consuming and, at times, mind-numbing.

I would like to share with you a free resource that will help get your life back… 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!

Writing instructors classify the types of essay comments as following: corrective, directive, and facilitative responses.

Corrective responses are copy edits. Using proofreading diacritical marks, abbreviations, or short phrases, teachers identify mistakes in syntax, usage, mechanics, and spelling. Some teachers simply mark errors; others provide more prescriptive comments as to what is wrong and why it is wrong, and how to correct the writing issue.

Directive responses deal with both form and content. With directive responses, the teacher gives specific direction to the writer. The goal is to provide expert advice to the writer. For example, “Your thesis does not respond to the writing prompt. Re-read the writing assignment and re-write your thesis statement to specifically address the writing task.” Generally, directive response is used with matters of structure and writing style.

Facilitative comments also deal with both form and content. Using the Socratic model, comments are worded as thought-provoking questions. The goal is to make the writer responsible for writing decision-making. For example, “Is there a different type of evidence that would help to prove your point?” Generally, facilitative response is used to respond to the content and/or argument of the essay.

Writing instructors classify the key components of writing discourse as following: Essay Organization and Development (Introduction, Body, and Conclusion), Coherence, Word Choice, Sentence Variety, Writing Style, Format and Citations, Parts of Speech, Grammatical Forms, Usage, Sentence Structure, Types of Sentences, Mechanics, and Conventional Spelling Rules.

Many teachers use these components in holistic or analytical rubrics and provide separate evaluation for each.

Closing comments are usually used to personalize the overall writing comments. Closing comments may summarize the essay comments, emphasize a positive or negative in the writing, refer to the writer’s progress, provide brief praise or encouragement, or assign the overall grade

*****

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 Instructionand the Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit.

Get the Writing Process Essay FREE Resource:

Literacy Centers, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,