Their assignment: Choose an essay they’ve written this year and then eliminate as many errors as possible.
Here are the ways my students received support:
- I read each student’s essay and reported the total number of errors to find and correct. Important: I didn’t identify the errors on the essay.
- Next, their peer reviewer and online writing mentor read the essay and identified potential errors.
- We also devoted 30 minutes in class to find and fix errors.
Grammar Week had some good and bad news.
The good: Some students dramatically reduced the number of their errors. One went from 42 to 7. Another went from 56 to 15. This pleased me and sent a message that hard work and precision can lead to grammar growth.
In addition, the average number of errors decreased from 25 to 11. That means that my 23 students fixed a total of 322 errors in their essays.
One more piece of good news: One student had zero errors, and another six had fewer than five.
The bad: There are still way too many errors. You just can’t have 11 errors in a five-paragraph, two-page essay. The AP readers are going to eat them alive.
Although some students showed evidence of working hard, some did not. I was flabbergasted that one student had 42 errors at the beginning of the week and then 40 at the end. Another student dropped from 18 to 14, a minuscule improvement. My feeling is that many of my students still need to learn better work habits, a stronger sense of grit, and a heightened sense of what’s good enough. Too many people (me, their online writing mentor, their peer reviewer) are working too hard for my students to be working so little.
Here’s the worst part: That’s 11 errors after substantial revision. Remember that students take their handwritten draft through a week of revision (with peer and adult support) before turning in their essay. This Grammar Week was an additional revision process. Exactly how many errors exist on their original handwritten draft? I’m scared to broach this subject. It might be too painful.
Despite the bad news, I’m doing what I can do as a teacher to help my students with their writing and grammar skills. This is a process, and I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I just wish that results would come more quickly and more easily.
It’s impossible to tell which efforts (Grammar Camp? individual grammar coaches? online writing mentors? peer reviewers? time in class? one-on-one conferences with me?) work best.
Looking at the data, I find that in-person intervention has worked most effectively. Students who have grammar coaches or go to office hours to conference with me do better than those who rely on online support alone. This observation is good to note, but then it leads me to the next question: How exactly am I supposed to get 20 minutes of in-person support every week to every student?
Stay tuned (for my next idea): Virtual one-on-one conferencing using Jing.