Friday, September 7, 2018

Improving Our Knowledge of Grammar with GrammarPlanet {A TOS Review}

I have a confession to make. First of all, I'm sure you will have noticed if you have been reading my blog for any length of time, that I love reading, and I love instilling a love of reading in my children. I also love to write. In fact, it has always been my dream to write a book one day. However, I have this tiny problem. Grammar and I are not friends. I am always struggling with the finer points of grammar, which also makes it hard to teach it to the children. So, when we were given the opportunity to review a new, online program called GrammarPlanet, I was thrilled! Not only were the older girls going to work on grammar, mommy was going to as well. 

Now, here's the thing, GrammarPlanet is actually a free website for learning grammar, punctuation, and usage. What we are getting to review is the paid version which does not include advertisements. I mean, who likes to deal with ads while they are doing schoolwork? That said, if you don't mind ads, you can head on over right now, and sign up for a free account. 

But first, wait!! Let me tell you a bit more about the program, so you can determine how fast you want to zing over there.

GrammarPlanet is a brand new site created by Erin Karl and Jerry Bailey. Erin Karl is the owner of Analytical Grammar, Inc., and Jerry Bailey is the president of Dynamic Literacy, LLC.. GrammarPlanet is actually based on Analytical Grammar, which started with Erin's mother, and is how Erin herself learned grammar. 

Currently GrammarPlanet has 13 Units for children to work through, with units being added weekly. Once the site is complete, there will be a total of 60. When we first started this review period, there were only 4 or 5 units, so in the past six weeks, around 8 units have been added.

Here is a screenshot that shows all of the topics that will be covered in the program:

The scary thing is, I am not even sure what all of those topics are. This is definitely a program that I need!

Now let's take a look at how the program works. 

As the parent/teacher, I have a teacher account where I added both girls, plus myself, as students. I had to make myself my own student account because the program can not be used from the teacher account. I can access these accounts through the dashboard:

From here I can check on our progress, even clicking through "Group Report" there in the upper right corner to get a printable copy. I can also click on each student's name to take a closer look at their/our progress.

While on this screen, I can access printable copies of each unit's report (bottom right corner). By clicking on the dark blue arrow on the left of the screen, I can see how each student (me in this case) answered each question, where they are making mistakes, plus see each unit's score.

Looking at Unit 4, here is one of my practice sentences that had all the words marked properly.

And here is one where I got one wrong.

Sometimes a student may label a word that wasn't supposed to be labeled during the lesson. When that happens, the program marks it red and tells you it should have been "unused." Even though it is red, these mistakes don't appear to be counted against the student. For example:

If you can see along the left sidebar, for this test sentence I had 7/9 correct, though clearly four are marked red. So, I deduced that ones that should have been "unused" don't count against the student.

Okay, so, now you have seen what I can see as a parent, how about we take a look at the student account, and how this program actually works. 

When I log into my student account I come to a very similar dashboard to the teacher account. There are a few differences that remind me that I am on my student account, as opposed to the teacher account. 

From this account I can only "Continue Progress," which is that green button under my name. Clicking the "Continue Progress" button will only allow you to work on the current unit. On the teacher account that green button says, "Reset Progress."  Now, the only way to redo a previous unit is to reset the progress to that unit, though a student can rewatch any of the previous videos. So, if I wanted a student to redo Unit 1, I would have to go in as the parent and reset that unit which would technically delete everything done in the other units. However, if it was just Unit 4 that needed redone, all I would have to do as the parent is reset it to Unit 4. 

I can also click the blue buttons on the right to go directly to the unit's instruction video and the printable notes, that are required to be printed out prior to watching the video.

The recommendation for this program is for a student to spend about 15 minutes during a session, and to work every other day so as to not become overwhelmed and make silly mistakes (which we were doing at the beginning as I missed this information somehow).

When you first begin the program as a student, you will see instructions on the screen.

These same steps are to be followed for every unit. We are to click on the orange button with the little book icon at the bottom left of the screen. This is one place where we can print out the notes that we use to follow along with the lesson. Then we watch the short video. Each video has been between 4 and 6 minutes long so far. After that we start working on parsing sentences.

The girls and I all use the same notes I print out, as we are not marking them up. We are just using them for reference, following along with Ms. Karl. 

The section we are supposed to be looking at also appears on the screen.

Every so often during the lesson there will be a short, one or two question, onscreen quiz to see if you are understanding the lesson.

After the video is finished. we click on "Start Practice" to start parsing sentences. Very specific instructions are given in how to do this after the second unit. We are to always start by labeling the nouns and proper nouns. Then we are to move on to the words that modify each noun, such as articles and adjectives. From there we are to label the pronouns, and so on. 

A sentence appears on the screen with each word in its own box. We click on the word we would like to label, and a box with the grammar labels we have learned so far appear on the screen.

In the above screenshot, I clicked on "legends" as it was the first noun I came to. I then had to click the "N" to label it.

This is how the sentence looks after I labeled "legends."

After I labeled all the words I thought needed to be labeled, I clicked "Submit" to find out if I was correct.

As you can see by the green highlighting, I got everything correct for this sentence. 

The number of practice sentences will vary depending upon how well the student does with each sentence. If you are making mistakes, the program will have you continue working on sentences. However, if you are doing well you will have a total of ten sentences, two in each of five tiers, or levels. Then you will move on to the test.

This test is taken exactly like the practice sentences with one difference. During the practice, as soon as you hit submit you will see your results. With the test, you will work through five sentences and will only see the results after you have completely all five. 

GrammarPlanet is designed for upper elementary students. I will definitely agree that younger children would struggle with this program. In fact, even my girls are struggling a bit and they are in 5th and 6th grade. I have noticed that some of the girls' problems come because they may be unfamiliar with the words in the sentence. As you can see from the screenshots, these are not simple "The small, gray cat walked across the road to catch a tiny mouse." type sentences. They are quite involved and have more advanced vocabulary and ideas. I also know they were struggling with different abstract nouns, not understanding why they were nouns.

GrammarPlanet requires mastery and students will got locked out if they get too many questions incorrect. If I, as the parent/teacher decide that they aren't comprehending what they have been taught, I am able to reset their progress (as I touched upon above). Thankfully, you do not need to reset to the very beginning. You can choose which unit to reset to. I admit, I had to unlock and reset myself once. 

I'll also admit, we were confused as to why Tabitha seemed to be getting locked out all the time, though Amelia was making mistakes and wasn't getting locked out. It was very frustrating for Tabitha. And then I realized there was an answer to this mystery, which is found in the FAQs section on the site. Tabitha was making errors with too many questions in what is called a "tier" or level, so she was locked out. Each level starts with two practice sentences, for a total of ten in the unit. However, because the program is "responsive," if a student misses one, they will be given an additional sentence in that level. If they miss another in that level, another one is added, and so on. If they miss too many in that level, that is when they are locked out.

We still are a bit frustrated that missing one word in the sentence is enough to consider the student as missing the question. Though I admit, when we started slowing down and not trying to fit too much work into a session, we started doing better. We were all making silly mistakes by not making sure we had everything marked before hitting submit. You know, that silly "a" or "the" that we neglected to mark as an article, or missing one of the adjectives modifying a noun.

I think we have finally gotten comfortable with the program and I have every intention of continuing with this site for the girls' grammar instruction. Oh, and mine as well. When the younger children are ready, I can add them as students as well.

I am loving that we are not only learning about grammar with this program, but while reading the sentences we are also getting lessons based on different stories and facts from around the world, some even being historical in nature. We've read about Ancient Egypt and pyramids, Galileo, the famous Baldwin Street in New Zealand, and the Inca Empire so far.

Prior to using GrammarPlanet, I had never heard of "parsing" sentences. So far, I have found it a very helpful way to see how each word is used in the sentence, really helping to understand each part of speech. Once we get to Unit 6 we will also be learning to diagram sentences.

So, are you ready to head on over and try out GrammarPlanet? Are you ready for your child (or yourself) to start learning all about grammar? I highly recommend this program, and hope you will find it beneficial in your homeschool as well. 

You can find GrammarPlanet on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Don't forget to click on the banner below to see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about GrammarPlanet.

*Grammar Program Online {GrammarPlannet Reviews}

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