English teachers try new online grammar program

March 1, 2019 — by Aaria Thomas

Students sit in class, pulling out thick, red and yellow grammar books and flipping through the pages. Pencils scratch against the paper as students underline the text and write answers in the book. Pages turn, the red titles and borders contrasting the blocks of black text.

For years, freshmen and sophomores at the school have used the Glencoe Language Arts Grammar and Language Workbook. The publishing company is now discontinuing the book, and the English department has started looking for an alternative grammar program.

As a result of the discontinuation, the department decided to move to an online model for teaching grammar. Currently some teachers are testing a site called NoRedInk.

The hope is that it would be easier and better for students as well as cheaper for the school. According to English 10 teacher Ken Nguyen, moving grammar to an online platform means the lessons will be kept more up to date, and students will not have to carry the workbooks around.

“In terms of funding for that program, we as a district or as a school, are looking to move away from [the workbooks], since it can be quite expensive,” Nguyen said. “We want to move into something that’s a little more collapsable, and a little more flexible.”

Since grammar is only taught to underclassmen using the workbooks, some freshman and sophomore classes are currently testing the new program. The English teachers participating in NoRedInk’s testing include Meg Battey, Suzanne Herzman, Nguyen and Susanna Ryan.

According to Ryan, NoRedInk personalizes the lessons for students based on what they are interested in. Students can choose a story like “Harry Potter” and characters will show up in the example sentences. There are also a variety of activities to help students to learn grammar.

“It’s a way to get students potentially more interested, but it doesn’t work for everyone,” Ryan said. “Some students find the new format distracting while others appreciate it.”

Despite the distractions, many students find that the website helps them improve their grammar skills.

“It’s nice to have something where it tells you what mistake you’ve made immediately,” freshman Nikhil Kapasi said. “[The site] forces you to practice the amount you need, which I think is good compared to the book.”

Testing for this new grammar website took place throughout first semester and will continue through second semester as well. The English department wants to ensure that the grammar platform is a good fit for the school, and that it covers all the topics in depth that students need to know.

At this point into the trial, teachers still don’t have all the information about how the site works, and do not want to make any conclusive judgments about it.

“I’m hesitant to offer an opinion, because I don’t have all the information,” Nguyen said. “We are in the data collection stage at this point, so I don’t have anything to offer in the way of observations until I’m done collecting the information.”

The English department will continue to explore and evaluate the website, in hopes of landing on an optimal grammar program.

“I think that the idea of an online program is very smart,”  Ryan said. “I think if we have the right one it will be user-friendly and students would get more out of it.”

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