Anyway, as I contemplate the coming school year, I'm considering what I will keep and what I will change. One thing that I will keep for the freshmen is the use of Everyday Edits. Provided by Education World, these grammar exercises are single paragraphs (2 copies per page, provided electronically and as a PDF) that contain 10 grammar mistakes. The mistakes generally address comma rules, capitalization, spelling, end punctuation, apostrophe usage, and occasionally run-on sentences.
The truth is that when I reflect on my units, grammar and vocabulary development are two areas in which I need work. I've read lots of research demonstrating that teaching either one in isolation is ineffective, which makes sense to me. However, incorporating them (especially grammatical concepts) in meaningful, authentic ways can be such a challenge that it results in doing nothing. Everyday Edits are not a fool-proof system and they certainly are not all-encompassing, but I find that they are a way to remind me (and the students) on a routine basis of the relevance and importance of understanding and utilizing good grammar. They also help students learn to become better editors, and help them learn how to look for grammatical and mechanical issues within their own writing. (Although I believe improving content is far more important in the revision process and that many students are too preoccupied with grammatical/mechanical errors, but that is a post for another day.)
This is the way that I use Everyday Edits in class:
- Students pick up an Everyday Edit (along with any other materials for class that day) as they enter the room. They may begin work immediately; they know that there are 10 mistakes.
- The first person to find all 10 mistakes receives a small amount of bonus points. They may get up to 3 bonuses within the grading period. I tell the students when someone has found them all, but they often continue looking for the mistakes for several more minutes. (I should mention that in some classes, this can make for a hectic, competitive first few minutes of class. I personally like the energy it generates and find that it includes some students who are otherwise relatively passive in class, but if you find it chaotic, you could use another method to encourage them to find the mistakes such as giving them participation credit each day or giving points to anyone who finds all 10 mistakes.)
- Depending on our schedule for the day, students usually switch to SSR (sustained silent reading) as they complete their Everyday Edit. Most students switch over within 5-7 minutes of the bell. I switch over as well and continue to circulate as I begin reading. I like that system because it gives students a chance to work at their own pace and ensures that they have a task to complete once they finish the Edit. Some students need quite a bit more time to find the mistakes. If students spend more than about 10 minutes on the Edit, I remind them about reading and assure them that it's okay if they didn't find all 10 that day. If they still want help with the Edit, that gives me time to spend with them individually looking for a mistake or working out the rules while everyone else is reading. I find that it's important to take that time with students who want help looking; it wards off frustration and helps them see that they are making progress (instead of feeling discouraged when they routinely struggle to find all of the mistakes.
- Once someone gets the bonus on the Everyday Edit (which usually happens within 2-3 minutes of the bell--I usually set a timer for 5 minutes and move on to SSR or other activities after that time), I tell them how many mistakes are in each line. I've also been experimenting recently with telling them the kinds of mistakes, which has helped us have some good discussion about what the rules are and how to apply them.
- As SSR time comes to an end, students fill out their Silent Reading logs, reflect on their reading goals, and prepare to check the Everyday Edit. This transition takes about 2-3 minutes.
- When it's time to check the Everyday Edit, a student writes on a blank copy of the Edit projected on the overhead. (If you have a Smart Board or a white board where you can pull up the screen, you could let 10 students come up and actually mark the mistakes on the board.) I go through the Edit sentence by sentence and call on 10 different students to find/ share the mistakes. The student writing on the master copy marks the mistake for the class as each student shares the answer.
- Every couple of weeks, I count one of the Everyday Edits as a quiz grade. On those days, I pass them out after the bell rings so that students know that it counts, and I give them 10 minutes to find as many mistakes as they can. I also periodically include them on skills assessments.
I do use other bell ringers at the beginning of class (see poetry incorporation for another one that I use frequently), but this is one of my favorites because students love it (though I'm not entirely sure why) and they can do a large part of it prior to the beginning of class. It gives students who dread the time in between bells something constructive to do, while it doesn't penalize students who want to socialize until the bell rings. They can work at their own pace. I also like that it gives me a chance to quickly call on 10 different students for answers. We focus on making progress and we celebrate improvement. It can also transfer into the same kind of exercise with revising their own writing.
What do you do to incorporate grammar into your lessons? What kinds of activities do you do at the beginning of class? I hope this helps, and I'd love to know what kinds of activities you use.