It is winter. You are an English teacher, and you are starting to notice that lazy grammar errors are sneaking into your high school students’ writing. You review a few comma rules in class, but you soon realize that this practice is not sustainable; there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to get through all the grammar review that your students need. You feel a little defeated. You sit down at your desk, take a sip of your coffee, and ponder a solution.
If you decide that the situation is hopeless and you might as well never review grammar with your students again, turn to page 87.
If you decide that your best course of action is print off a 100-page comma review packet to give your students for homework tomorrow, turn to page 5.
If you decide to try out an innovative and time-saving way for students to get the review they need, keep reading.
If you grew up in the eighties, chances are you have read a Choose Your Own Adventure novel, the books that allowed you, the reader, to have control over the story’s outcome (which sometimes entailed peeking ahead to see if your choice would end the story, and then, discreetly choosing another path). What made these books so popular was that they gave the reader choice, and choice is a powerful thing. I’ve seen this concept at work in many ways in my classroom. When students have a choice in what they read, they are more engaged. When students have a choice in what they write about, they are more invested. Could I give students choice in their grammar review? Would it make the learning more meaningful? I was determined to find out.
This year our school has a 1:1 ratio with a Chromebook for every student. As a result, I have been looking for more ways to use them in my classroom. This search led me to Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) adaptive learning experiences developed using Google Forms. Immediately, my review problem came to mind. This could be a way for me to provide grammar review that students could complete on their own time and that was individualized to their needs.
I began by creating an opening scenario: The bell has just rung to start your favorite class—English. You’ve got important reading and writing to get to, but your teacher is about to start another grammar review lesson. Even worse, it’s about a concept that you already know. Time to plug in your earbuds and escape with some tunes or, even better, take a much needed nap. Before you drift off, you think to yourself, The one thing I would actually like some help with is . . .
At this point, students can make one of the following choices: semicolons, commas, or apostrophes. I made these three options because of problems I was seeing in my students’ writing at the time. The students’ response to this initial question leads them to different results. For the form to take students to the next appropriate screen, they select the “Go to section based on answer” option at the bottom of the first section of the form.
The next screen that students encounter contains a grammar review video. I find the TED-Ed and Grammar Girl videos on grammar concepts to be accurate, engaging, and age appropriate for my high school students.
After students watch the review video, they are directed to another screen where they can complete 10 multiple-choice practice questions on the concept. Google Forms allows you to easily create an answer key that will grade the assessment and give students immediate feedback about which questions were answered correctly.
The last section that students go to asks them to take the concepts they have just reviewed and practiced and apply them to a short piece of original writing. This allows me to see if the skill has transferred to the student’s writing.
At the end of this final section, students submit the form, which I can then see and review.
The pros to this activity were that it was relatively quick: students were able to complete the review within one class period. It was also individualized to students’ needs: those who had already mastered apostrophe rules didn’t have to sit through instruction that didn’t really apply to them. The majority of students gave the activity positive feedback, saying it was quick, helpful, and something they could do independently. But not all students liked it. Let’s face it: there are always going to be some students who are never going to love a grammar activity, no matter how it is packaged.