Monday, May 16, 2011

Grammar, Google, Goals

When students arrive to the lab on Tuesdays, they know that they're going to have to work. I'm there as a guide, as a resource, as a teacher--but the students are there to do it to it. We've been writing 600-word (minimum) responses every week. And 800-word responses for the longer essay assignments. That's a lot of writing. I dare say it's more writing than I've ever assigned for an ENG102 course. And I'm pretty sure that it's more than they've ever had to write in an English class. This is good.

However, this week I'm trying to focus on grammar issues in their latest set of essays. And I'm lamenting the fact that I need to do this with hard copies. This work is slower and more tedious than it needs to be. One issue, for me, is that I'm not proficient with the "commenting" feature of Microsoft Word. I should learn. Using Facebook doesn't help either, because I'm not able to do anything fancy with their text--or, in any case, treat the Facebook document as I would a document in Word. Should I be using Google Docs for these longer essays? Probably. Should I learn more about Google Docs? Yes. This is my goal (one of many) for next semester.


  1. Hey Prof J. Could you be more specific as how you want to address grammar? Are you doing editing-style corrections? Global comments? Choosing 2-3 examples of an error? etc.

    It would help if you described the methodology for us to give you ideas as to what to use.

  2. You should give comments in Microsoft Word a try as it is quite easy, you can copy and paste the same comment and, at least this is true for me, after commenting on ten hard papers my hand writing turns into horrid chicken scratch, which even I cannot make out, the comments are legible. In Microsoft Word, if you are using a Mac, simply place a cursor where you want to insert the comment and then click on Insert, and select Comment from a drop down menu. On a PC, 2010 Microsoft Word, the comment function is located, if I recall correctly, under Review.
    Personally, early in the semester when students are working on their first formal essay, I focus on paragraph and essay structure. As the semester progresses, with each subsequent assignment I do short lessons and handouts, which contain sentences I copy and paste from students' assignments, on sentence structure(fragment, run-on, comma splice) and lastly subject verb agreement.

  3. If you are doing simple "editorial" comments ("comma splice," "s-v agreement"), then programming your hot keys may be worth the 15 minutes it will take.

    Then you just press a key (say, F5), and the phrase(s) connected to it are inserted wherever your cursor is.

    It takes a bit of time remembering what hot keys correspond to what (I make myself a key), but after a couple of times doing a set of papers, you do it almost automatically.

  4. I didn't know that about the hot keys. Really? You can do that?

  5. Yes--easy as pie, but you have to find how they work in your computer.

  6. About those shorcut keys:

  7. Thanks for the comments! I like the hot keys approach. I wonder if it might work to have an explanation of, for example, run-on sentences and then a link to some online resource. If that makes sense. My brain is mush right now.

  8. I think it may be easier to have an electronic version of the grammar part of the correction sheet that is keyed to your comments.

    So, you give them a hot keys comment("comma splice") and then they got to your electronic sheet (a Google Docs would be perfect), look up "comma splice" and under it you could have a link to a definition and a link to exercises to learn how to fix them.

    You know, my idea is so good I think I'm going to do it. :-)