Friday, September 7, 2018

GrammarPlanet: A Homeschool Review Crew review

As part of the Homeschool Review Crew, I end up seeing a lot of products every year.  Sometimes I tend to be a bit (okay, more than a bit!) jaded about them.

Then something like GrammarPlanet, put out by the amazing folks at Analytical Grammar, comes along, and I have the perfect answer to a "what should I use?" question that I hadn't even asked yet.  The best thing about GrammarPlanet is the price, as it is absolutely free.  This online grammar program is supported by ads.  If you don't like the ads, you will be able to get rid of them by purchasing a paid version.  The ad-free version is what we reviewed.

We've struggled with grammar here.  Mostly, I spent so much time teaching reading with my various dyslexic kiddos that really dealing with grammar was not all that high up on my priority list.  I've attempted to do grammar with them off and on, but it has ended up being far more off than on.

I know I've tried using some very good programs.  You know, like Analytical Grammar.  But those have all failed, for one simple reason.  I am that reason.  Everything we've tried has taken too much of my time, and I am spread too thin as it is.  I haven't made grammar instruction enough of a priority.
This is part of my head-over-heels response to GrammarPlanet.  I don't have to truly be involved.  I created accounts for all of my at-home children, even the recent graduate.  He saw me working on it before the reviews started, and he asked me if he could use it.  "Mom, I need that."  Yes, dear.  Yes, you do.

I sat them down, we watched the introductory video together, and I explained a few things.  The conversation sounded something like this.
This is part of your English class this year.  You will use it.  Three days a week, for at least ten minutes, but absolutely no longer than fifteen.  Don't skip steps.  Don't think you know it already.  Print the page or two of notes, and keep them in a binder.  Watch the video.  Pay special attention to the Process Steps.  If you don't follow her instructions, you will struggle.  And I will say, "I told you so."
Erin Karl, who appears in the videos, suggests these short sessions, so I'm not just letting my kids off easy here.

After that, though, I only have to say things like, "Hey!  Did you do GrammarPlanet today?  And what about the dishes?  Since you're in the kitchen, can you get me a cup of coffee?"

They do know that they can come to me if they really aren't getting something, but so far, I've really only needed to work with Trina, the 12-year-old.  Her big brothers are able to be totally independent.

How this works

First off, you print out the notes, which are pretty short and colorful, though sometimes they are longer than the "page or two" I told my children to expect.  Then you watch the video, which covers everything in the notes plus more.  A great feature is that the video will play for a section, and then a little quiz pops up.  You'll be asked a fairly simple question or two, which certainly helps keep my mind -- or my mouse -- from wandering.  The program does not track how you do on these mini-quizzes, but if you miss questions, you can go back to re-watch that segment.

Once you get through the video, you have the chance to work with Practice Sentences.  Here's a whole bunch of screenshots from Unit 4.

The first step is to read the sentence and make sure you understand it.  Next is to mark all of the nouns and proper nouns.  Multi-word proper nouns are marked with little wings.  Here, "email" and "pictures" are marked as nouns, and "Baldwin Street Gutbuster" is marked as a proper noun.


Then you go look at each noun and ask "which (noun)" and label the answers as either articles or adjectives.  For example, "which email?"  "A long" email.  There are "several" pictures.  It is "the" Baldwin Street Gutbuster.

The final step in unit four is to go through the words left and mark the pronouns.

There weren't many words left to choose, but those would be "He" and "us."

I would recommend re-reading the sentence at that point, paying attention to the unhighlighted words.  In this case, those are either prepositions or verbs, and GrammarPlanet hasn't taught either of those yet.  Those are coming in units 6 and 7.

Once you think you have everything labeled appropriately, you hit submit.  Ideally, you get a screen that looks like this one.  "Perfect!" is a label that is always nice to see!

The program will give you another sentence, or move you on to take the test.  This is another fabulous aspect of the online program.  If you are seeing those "Perfect!" labels, it will move you to the test sooner. 

If you are getting messages like this one, "Oh, so close!" or other messages pointing out your errors, you will get more practice sentences.

I like that so much.

If I grasp the concept and pay attention, I don't have to do as much work.  If I am missing something, I keep doing more practice.

But remember, the student isn't supposed to work more than fifteen minutes.  If it is an area that they grasp easily, they can get through a unit in a couple of days.  If they struggle, they can work a few sentences and be done for the day.  The concepts will percolate a bit, and hopefully in a couple days, the practice will go better.  Or maybe re-watching the video will help.  This isn't a race. 

In the practice, you get immediate feedback, so you can study your error and then do the next sentence.  In the test, however, you have to answer all of the sentences before you see how you did.  

The results look like this.

You can see the green checkmarks for the ones you got entirely correct.  Question 4 has a red x, and indicates the student got 9 of 10 correct.  Clicking to that screen shows that the student missed the noun "time" entirely.

With an overall score of 98%, the program suggests moving on to Unit 5.

After a test is taken, an email is sent to the parent account, which means that as the kids finish off a unit, I get a brief email telling me who scored what on which unit, and linking me to the parent dashboard where I can go for more details.

Bottom line

I love this.  My kids aren't quite to that point yet, but they do love that it doesn't eat up too much of their time.  My aspiring filmmaker has not even griped to me about the video quality, which does surprise me.  The videos are not catchy by any stretch, nor are they of amazing quality.  They absolutely do get the job done, though, and that is absolutely enough for me.  Also, they are captioned.  You can turn the captioning on or off.

Right now, there are 13 units on the site.  Most people should not be moving faster than about a week per unit, though the first few could go faster.  There will be 60 units in total, and these units will thoroughly cover grammar, as you can tell from the outline on the left.

Seriously, Correlating Conjunctions? Appositive Phrases?   Nonessential Modifier Comma?  I don't think I know what those mean.  I probably will recognize them when I get there, but the names mean nothing to me.  Yes, I am a student too.  I'm staying ahead of my kids so far, having completed unit 6.  Hopefully that will continue.

The key for one of the first diagramming assignments
Unit six is where sentence diagramming begins, and I suspect I'll need to be a bit more involved when they get there.   They ease into it, as you are only diagramming the prepositional phrases initially.  The idea is to diagram on paper, and compare your diagram to the key provided.

I think this is a fantastic resource that everyone should consider for their students who are in middle school or older.  They say ages ten and up.  Personally, I think I'd wait a bit longer than that.

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