I was reading Larry Ferlazzo’s blog and saw this. I thought to myself “Hmmmm-that looks good.” So, I popped right over to www.noredink.com and signed up as a teacher. The website is all about teaching students grammar. I know what you’re thinking “Grammar!? I’d rather grate the side of my face and then dive into a bath of rubbing alcohol!”
OK, that may not be exactly what you’re thinking, but learning grammar is not that exciting (for most of us) and it takes a lot of practice and time. I am wondering if noredink cracked the code. I wonder if they can make it interesting and not a total snooze fest. I bet you want to know too, am I right? Well wait no further, hit on past the break to see what I think and whether you agree or disagree leave comment below. We love those things here at IT Babble!
This is pretty simple all you need (like most sites we’ve reviewed here) is an email, username and password. This site also asks for your real name, gender and school name. The student signup is pretty much the same but it also asks for a Class Invite Code (which is optional at the time of signing up) as you can see below.
To complete your setup you have to tell noredink what interests you and they give you quite a bit to chose from. The screen looks like this and all you have to do is select the icon.
It asks what your interests are because when you are practicing or making quizzes it will use these interests and tailor the questions to them. For example, I chose superheroes. I can expect to see questions about Superman, Batman, Wolverine, etc. that will test my grammar abilities. It’s nice that students will see examples about their interests. This, hopefully, will cause them to read and digest the sentence with a little more attention than just reading about some generic person who they have no connection with.
Then it asks you if you want to connect to Facebook to use your Facebook friends in your questions or you can add names yourself or you can skip this step. Just for the record, students also go through these steps.
One special note is that though it asks for an email address, a student does NOT have to provide one to create an account. It will work without it!
As a teacher (and student) you can’t get right to work just yet. noredink wants you to let you know what you can do which is always helpful. They also tell you about some cool new features coming soon and that is always helpful to know that a site has a future and is working on improving it. You know, that just makes me feel all warm inside.
One thing that is very nice is that teachers can “Enter “Student mode” to see how it looks to students. This is soooo important. Being able to see and experience what a student does means you can find potential potholes or problems that you may be blind to as a teacher. This is why I always try a teacher account and a student account. Getting the full experience is important and as a teacher you should try to see the whole enchilada (mmmmmm -enchiladas).
Now that we are set up let’s start using noredink!
Creating a Class
The first thing that you must do is create a class. Without a class you really can’t do too much (which makes sense). Creating a class is very easy. Just click on Create New Class and this incredibly simple dialog box will show up.
When the class is created you will be given an invitation code. That way students can join your class and get their grammar learning on! I’ve blotted it out, but if you really want it, just email me and I’ll be happy to provide it for you!
Once the class is created and students have joined it’s time to start learning. At this point, there is not too much for you to do as a teacher. As a student however, your grammar journey is just beginning. Students will see this when they log in (after they have set up their account). If there are any quizzes, they can be selected here. The developers are working on creating assignments and I imagine they will show up here as well. If there are no quizzes to do, then students can practice.
Practice is just a practice quiz. You can chose between three quizzes: apostrophes, subject/verb agreement and commas, fragments and run-ons. It may not seem like a lot of skills but the good people at noredink have thought about that. You can specify what subcategories you would like to chose. Check out all the choices for apostrophe. It’s very specific as you can see.
That is a lot of choices, you may also notice that the students can select All Categories for a real challenge.. Now, let’s take a look at a sample quiz.
This is the heart of the program (for right now at least). First we’ll talk about what happens when a student takes a quiz and then we’ll take a look at the teacher side. When a student takes a quiz (practice or real) it will look the same. It will have a sentence and there is a part of the sentence that may or may not need to be corrected. When the student submits an answer, it lets you know if you got it right or not at the top (check out the images below). If a student skips a question it will show up as ?? and the student may go back and complete that one.
If a student answers a question, they CANNOT go back and change their answer. Don’t worry they get a chance after the quiz is over through. When the answer the final question, the student will have the opportunity to go back over the quiz and see which questions they got wrong and have a chance to correct and learn from those mistakes.
When it takes you to the question you can change the answer but if you’re really stumped you can click Show Tutorial. This will give you a detailed explanation and another example. This is very handy, because sometimes an explanation is not enough.
After they have gone through all their incorrect answers students will see this screen. Here they can continue to practice or they can view their results.
If they chose to check out their practice, students will be taken a window with a long list of skills and a color coded legend that will indicate how proficient they are on each skill. It looks a little intimidating at first but after a few minutes of study it all becomes quite clear. As you can see I have not practiced or taken any quizzes on commas, fragments, & run-ons and I need a bit of work in some other areas.
Students can practice as often as you like, but every now and then you want to up the stakes. You want to see how much they know and can apply. You need to assess them. This is where you can generate a quiz for your students. Generating a quiz has never been easier which is great.
So log on as a teacher and select Quizzes in the top menu. Once that page opens up select Create a Quiz and your just a few clicks away to giving students their very own opportunity to seize Grammar Glory!
When making a quiz this is the dialog box you get to work with. You have three sections you need or can modify. In the first section, you give the quiz a name, select the number of questions, number of points and you can scramble question order which will cut down on cheating.
The next box is for after the quiz. You can give students a certain number of points. for correcting their mistakes – or not. It’s totally up to you.
Finally in the last box you can select what the quiz should be on and if you want to quiz on all the skills or some specific skills within a given category. Then you click Create Quiz and voila! Your students will find a quiz available for them to take.
After the quiz you can view the results of the quiz (of course and if you want to view individual students simply click on their name and it will give you a break down of what they got correct, incorrect, etc. Check out those lovely images below.
You can even check on their overall status as well. To do this click on Student Progress in the top menu bar. It will take you to this window where you can view their overall progress or progress within specific categories. Very handy for the student and the teachers as well to see where students are having some issues and need some work. Don’t you wish everything in life were this easy and transparent?
Summing it all up
Even though it is a bit limited (at least right now) I still like noredink. I like it because it gives students time to practice grammar. Grammar is not like riding a bike. Unless you practice it and use it, you will lose it. This website gives students the opportunity to practice it over and over again. This will no doubt have a positive impact on their writing for sure. It’s not going to put any English teachers out of business though or replace any textbooks but it could be a very valuable tool in an English classroom.
That being said there are some things I do not like about it too. I am not loving the way it looks. It is not very pretty. I like pretty websites – I do. I think appearance is very important. Also though it is pretty simple to use, it did take a little poking around to get my bearings. I love very straight forward websites as well. Edmodo, Minus are examples of how easy things can be. noredink isn’t terribly difficult but I did feel like I was clicking around a little too much at first.
Also when I was using Safari I kept getting logged out for no apparent reason and it happened very often. One time it happened between questions on a quiz! Huh? It could be Safari acting weird with our school’s proxy. At home I did not have this issue, only at school, so it may not be noredink’s fault at all, but I still feel it is important to note. On Chrome it worked great with no problems at home and at school.
Other than that noredink is great for English teachers at nearly any level. It provides real practice and lots of it for students and is a nice way for students to track and hone their skills. Oh, and if I made any glaring grammar errors-give me a break. I’ve just started using noredink and it’ll take a little time to get my grammar up to snuff. Check it out for yourself and leave a comment below about what you think!