I make it pretty clear to anyone who's ever spoken to me that I love reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Of course I do; I'm an English teacher. But there's one aspect of my content that I don't talk about because I mostly definitely don't love it: grammar.
There are certainly aspects of grammar and usage that I'm a stickler for and consider unforgivable mistakes. Your versus you're? You betcha. You are either saying "you are" or you aren't. How hard is that? But for the most part, I find a lot of grammar asinine and grammar instruction even more so. This is probably because I grew up in the "Whole Language" school of thought, and I learned to write by loving to write. My writing might not be mechanically perfect, but it gets the job done, it brings me pleasure, and other people have enjoyed it on occasion, too.
My struggle as a language arts teacher is always trying to find ways to incorporate grammar. I know kids learn best be practical application of grammar skills in their own writing, but before that happens, they need to at least learn the skills and rules in order to know what they're even looking for. Since my students have iPads, I've been on the hunt for an app to practice grammar in an interactive way.
The first site I found via Pinterest last summer is NoRedInk. I love this site and the interaction it provides, along with the ease of use for students and teachers. The only problem is that my school district cannot afford the Premium version that allows access to everything, and the bits and pieces from each category that are free can be pretty random. I've used it so far this school year, but the free version is about exhausted from my point of view. I'm annoyed that we can't afford the full version, but it means that I'll have to find something new.
After reading the first article from December 2014's Voices from the Middle (NCTE shout out: if you aren't a member, you need to be!) I decided to look into Grammar Crush. The format and ease of use is similar to No Red Ink, and I like that it also has a free iPad app for my students. The only real way to know if it will work is to try it out and see if it works, which I'll do a little of this week before break, and then see if I can troubleshoot during time off.
In the meantime, I'll keep searching for sites and apps that support me in one of my areas of struggle. Maybe eventually I'll find the perfect tool that helps me (and my students) fall in love with grammar. Suggestions for FREE websites and apps are welcome!
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.