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Late-night online grammar breakthroughs

favicon This year, I’m trying to teach my students the importance of having zero grammar errors in their final essays.

For the most part, I haven’t been successful…yet.

But tonight, I think I had a (minor) breakthrough.

As students completed their corrections on Google Docs, I jumped from document to document, student to student. In the chat window, I asked if students wanted support getting down to zero errors.

About five or six agreed.

Then, I worked with each student until his or her essay had zero errors. Along the way, I taught a few grammar rules. The students asked questions. We noticed patterns of challenge and areas of improvement. It was fun.

It wasn’t anything special. But it worked.

Like my six grammar coaches, who provide weekly one-on-one tutoring for 12 students, my online coaching worked. Here’s why:

1. I didn’t let them stop until they got to zero errors. There was no way for the student to wriggle away from the standard.

2. They knew they weren’t on their own. There was trust. (In fact, there might have been more trust online than in real life. More about that in another post.)

3. It wasn’t mandatory, so students could opt in. Choice matters. As a teacher, I’m learning how to transform otherwise tedious learning activities into options attractive to students.

I’m pleased with my results. Yes, it took a long time, and by no means was this process efficient. But I’m hopeful that it will send a message that my standard of zero errors is both important and possible.

To me, that lesson — that error-free writing is both crucial and doable — is much more important to me than fixing the little errors themselves.

My teaching, after all, is about building individual academic character and collective academic culture. favicon

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