For the past few weeks, we have been fortunate enough to have been using GrammarPlanet's grammar program online. This program is great if you know no grammar, and it's great if you love grammar and are looking for a refresher. Basically, it's great for everyone!
GrammarPlanet is brought to you by the people behind Analytical Grammar and Dynamic Literacy, both of which produce stellar learning products. It teaches grammar, punctuation, and usage, all in a very user-friendly and compact program. There are 58 units, which cover everything from nouns to active and passive voice and everything in between. Each lesson begins with a short video introducing and teaching the topic. And the videos really are short. If you think about it, most grammar concepts are not that complicated - students simply need to be told about them. I can't count the number of times I have told people the "secret" of figuring out when to use who and when to use whom. It takes me less than 30 seconds to explain, but then that person will never make another who/whom error. This is the approach that GrammarPlanet takes with students: just the facts. It's how I teach and I just love it!
After the video (which is accompanied by a pdf of notes, should students wish to print them - and they are encouraged to do so), students are led through a series of exercises. These exercises are responsive, which means that the more you miss, the more you are given to do. In this way, students really have to demonstrate that they understand the material before they can move on. If a student does especially poorly, you will receive an email. When this happened with Mary-Catherine (13), I asked her what had happened. She told me that she understood her mistake and that she didn't want that low score as part of her record. Fortunately, GrammarPlanet gives you the opportunity to start a unit over entirely. That wipes out your score and lets you begin again. Even better, I am able to look at the screenshots of her answers and see exactly what she did wrong, ensuring that I can help her understand her mistakes. Also, if at any time during the course of working through the exercises, a student wants to clarify something, s/he can access both the video and the notes directly from the lesson exercises screen.
This is the first lesson on common nouns. Students are asked to put an "N" on the common nouns:
Once they have selected all the common nouns (as below), they submit the question for grading.
As the units progress, there are more and more choices available for parsing the sentence. Because GrammarPlanet suggests that you not work more than 15 minutes per day, how fast you progress really depends on how much previous knowledge of grammar you have. Students who know a lot of grammar have to remind themselves that concepts are being introduced one-by-one from the beginning. Agonizing over whether something is a gerund is pointless if verbals haven't even been introduced yet. This is really the only thing that makes this program challenging. You can't overthink it. Let it teach/remind you from the beginning. Each unit is followed by a test, and there are review units at the halfway point and at the end of the program. You can see below how the test questions differ from the review/learning questions. For one thing, you can't access the video and notes. For another, you are not given the correct answer after each question:
Instead, you get to see your results at the end of the test (as a bonus, you can see that my computer is telling me that I got an email about these results as the test was completed!)
The videos are excellent and actually test students' knowledge/retention in the course of the video by popping up questions about what was just said. Mary-Catherine really loves that feature!
One thing I really appreciate about this program is that when a student gets something wrong, they are given a message, like "You got almost all of them right," or "You haven't learned this yet." It's so nice to see that extra time taken to be encouraging!
Here's a look at the program a little further down the line:
Mary-Catherine (13) has been my main tester of this program, with Michael (13) and Nicholas (15) dabbling so far (although they will doing the whole program before all is said and done). Mary-Catherine loves it. She has a good grammar basis, but she is still being reminded of things she has forgotten, and she is actually learning some along the way. She loves that you can get it, get out, and get on with the rest of your schoolwork. Also, even though it's not optimized for mobile use, the program works just fine on her phone, which makes it even more user-friendly.
We are huge fans of GrammarPlanet, but, as always, don't take my word for it - click the graphic below to read all the reviews!