Note-taking Plus Grammarly

After three days of teaching classroom procedures following the Flight Safety Videos to Teach Classroom Procedures approach and then three more days of district-mandated testing, I was itching to teach.

As the students finished up their test, they completed Alice Keeler's suggested First Week Activity Using Google Slides while I held one-on-one conferences with each student to give them immediate feedback on the assessment.

At the end of the period, I taught students how to add a snapshot of themselves to their writing. The junior high school students grew excited, either by fascination or horror, when asked to take a snapshot of themselves.

Then on Thursday, I added new directions to the Google Slides writing project. I asked them to take out their Chromebooks and their notebooks from the back cabinet.

Yes, I use technology in my classroom. In fact, I use it practically every day; however, I do believe that handwritten notes play an important role in education. I discussed the importance of handwritten notetaking in A Teacher's Reflection on Longhand vs. Laptop Note Taking Study blog.

Thursday's lesson used the Google Slide Presentation posted in the Teaching Students to Use Tech to Self-Edit blog. After reading the authentic student example, I explained that the student's writing was brilliant even though it was riddled with errors. I knew what he was trying to write. His problem was that writing is a different language that must be explicitly taught and practiced.

When speaking, we use intonation and, in many cases, facial expression to articulate meaning. When writing, these audio and visual cues are absent, and we must replace them with commas, periods, exclamation points and question marks. 

As a teacher, it is sometimes very difficult to give feedback on the writing content because it is riddled with run-ons and simple errors.  To help us provide better feedback, we need students to self-edit so that we can concentrate on helping the student effectively communicate their brilliance.
  1. Color code your sentences like Slide 3. In your notebook, write the number of colors you have.  4 colors
  2. Use CTRL F to find the often overused "and" like Slide 4.  In your notebook, write the number of and's you found.  6 ands
  3. Can you replace unnecessary and's?
  4. Recolor your sentences. How many colors do you have now?  8 colors
  5. How many and's do you have now? 1 and
  6. Double check for correct capitalization like Slide 8. Each time you fix a mistake, write it correctly in your notebook. Titanic, I, I, I, I.
  7. Now read your writing in a tiny voice that only you can hear. Make any necessary revisions.
The students followed these directions, but I had to force them to write their corrections in their notebook as I checked on each group. Even so, they did not find all of the errors that we searched for, nor did they make all necessary revisions when re-reading their writing. How do I know this? We opened free Grammarly accounts.

Why didn't you just use Grammarly in the first place?

Why? Because we should never become too dependent on technology.

Recently a friend went up to the mountains to work on his new property. His four-wheel drive truck was covered in mud from bumper to bumper. When he arrived home, he saw a parked vehicle in front of his house; however, he depended too much on technology when he parallel parked. The truck's audio warning sensor did go off, BUT only AFTER he backed into and damaged the parked car. The mud had affected the sensor. $300 later, the parked car was fixed.

When students become too dependent on technology and mindlessly accept a computer's usage, mechanics or spelling suggestion, they are not learning. Students must learn to self-edit without the help of technology and then welcome technology's ability to teach them to become better writers. By handwriting Grammarly's suggested revisions in their notebooks, students are more likely to remember the correct usage, punctuation or spelling for future writing. Their writing will improve, as will their ability to communicate with clarity.

Our classroom is full of writers itching to communicate their brilliant thoughts. It is our job as educators to give them the tools to improve current and future writing. Grammarly does not replace English teachers; rather, when combined with handwritten notes, Grammarly allows us to focus on the content of student writing. Then we can provide more focused feedback, and our students can become better writers.


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