Friday, August 14, 2009

Grammar Through Proverbs - in English this time!

Regular readers of this blog know that I've had to take a break from some of my Latin activities (they'll be back soon, I promise) because I'm getting ready for my mythology and folklore courses to start on Monday. A big project for this semester is my new Grammar Through Proverbs wiki to help my students with their writing skills... yes, I am obsessed with proverbs in any language, not just in Latin! I spent most of the past couple weeks building this wiki, and for today's "round-up" I wanted to tell you about this online resource in case if might be of use to you.

English writing skills. The focus of Grammar Through Proverbs is English punctuation and spelling problems (specifically, the kinds of spelling problems that a spellchecker cannot correct). My students seem to be having more and more trouble with written English, so my main goal for this coming year is to find a way to be more actively engaged in helping them to improve their skills. Pretty much every single student needs at least some help - even the English majors and Professional Writing majors stumble with some of these topics. There are pages on Apostrophes, Its v. It's, Your v. You're, Who-Whom-Who's-Whose, Homonyms, Confusing Word Pairs, Commas, Run-On Sentences, and Quoted Speech. Last year I did a statistical count of my students' errors, and these were the top problems by far.

Wiki pages and quizlets. Each of the pages contains some basic information, along with links to more detailed online resources (OWL at Purdue, the Common Errors in English website, etc.). Most importantly, each page contains random "quizlets" - these are questions that pop up on the page. The student can choose to answer the question (or not) and get immediate feedback. The quizlets work GREAT on the iPodTouch, by the way, since the alert message box really fills the screen really nicely on the Touch. I've also tested the quizlets in Firefox and in Safari; I'm a Mac user, so I haven't tested them with Explorer.

Proverbs. The examples at the wiki and the contents of the questions are all proverbs, along with some aphorisms, famous quotes, etc. I hope that the quirky appeal of the proverbs might catch the students' attention while they are working on their writing skills. I would like for the learning experience to be fun and rewarding, and not some kind of grammatical "discipline and punish." Many of the proverbs relate to learning, wisdom, hard work, etc. So, yes, it's proverbial propaganda - in a good cause, I hope.

Here are some more links if you want to explore:
  • Grammar Through Proverbs Homepage - Scroll down for a random illustrated spelling slideshow like the one at the bottom of this blog post.
  • Quizlet Widgets - This page lists all the quizlets used in the wiki, and gives you the code to copy them to your own website, blog or wiki if you want.
  • Desire2Learn Quizzes - This is how I am including the quizzes as extra credit in my classes; for those of interested in optimizing quizzes for both practice and assessment, you might find some useful information here.
Your comments welcome! Any feedback, questions, or suggestions would be much appreciated! Over time I want to revise, expand and improve on these materials, and as I do that I would like for the materials to be useful to others as well! I've still got lots of work to do between now and Monday in terms of getting my classes ready to go, and the first two weeks of the semester are pretty crazy - but after that I should be able to get back into a more normal Latin routine here at the Bestiaria. Happy Friday, everybody!!!

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