Tuesday, February 3, 2015


This morning I had the privilege of observing an 8th grade English class working on noredink.com. Never heard of it?  Me neither before last week.  Our middle and high school teachers are trying out the free version to see if we want to purchase it.

Teachers set up their class and can track their students in any one of a number of grammar skills.

  • Find the noun in the sentence.
  • Your or you're? Its or it's? 
  • What verb tense is this?
You know... all the normal grammar stuff we were taught as students and have had to teach to those bleary-eyed children.  (Isn't it great to use a sentence fragment in a blog post about grammar?) 

The great thing about noredink is these students weren't moaning and groaning. They weren't fighting the urge to take a nap.  They weren't disengaged.  Every single one of them was working on their grammar skills.  I've taught most of these students over the years, and I've seen them zone out during those "exciting" moments.

What's the trick? I saw a few things working in our favor here.
  • Every student was engaged on his or her screen. There is no hiding because you have to do it.
  • Students could choose their topics.  (This is not always the case, as the teacher can assign a specific skill if desired.)
  • The sentences were bizarre.  "Princess Leia and her friends shopped at the outdoor mall." "Legolas helped Saruman up the stairs." "Jill could not find the beach house." 
Teachers have the ability to track student data and to create assignments within the program.  

I have taught grammar for most of my adult life. I've used a few different curricula and methods, but it always boils down to something that isn't all that interesting to most kids.  Like one student said to me years ago, "Why do we have to learn English? We already speak it."  (My response? "So you don't sound like you're from Kentucky.")  Here is a program that can insert some fun into the mundane. 

Is this a winner? I have no idea at this time, but I'm excited to see if it really is.  Stay tuned!

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