Working to reinforce the virtues extolled in our Writing Reviser, we’ve prepared a series of English language arts videos starring a lovable pit-bull named Muggs—aptly named after a dog owned by the famous American writer James Thurber. The synergy between the two tools has helped many students learn to write more forcefully,
The Byzantine particulars of documenting sources within a research paper and correctly formatting a final Works Cited page have frustrated students and teachers since the invention of papyrus. Worse, struggling to research the proper way to cite research sources steals valuable time from activities central to any writing class: refining the essay’s
Strings of choppy prepositional phrases often cripple student writing—especially when those phrases attempt to compensate for a weak verb, a tactic akin to filling up your radiator as a remedy for running out of gas. Consider this defilement of my first sentence: A common type of failing in writing by
A simple problem has long prevented students from revising their papers to correct mistakes with relative clauses: they can’t identify those clauses. Writing Reviser eliminates that problem. We highlight all the relative pronouns in an essay and present arrows pointing toward the word to which it relates. Students simply follow
Too often beginning writers revise their work without a clear sense of purpose. Sadly, that often results in a paper that becomes different rather than better, a process akin to someone blindly twisting and re-twisting a Rubik’s cube, uniformed by a larger strategy. The process can be painful to watch.
One of the easiest ways to lose a reader is to write a series of sentences with the exact same structure: “See Spot run. Watch him jump. Pet his head.” Compare that juvenile effect to one in which the student purposefully varies her sentence lengths: “Sitting in an expensive restaurant,
“Prefer active voice” may be the single most frequently dispensed injunction to improve writing. Strunk and White, George Orwell, and all student handbooks of the past 50 years extol the virtue of active verbs. But two problems often go unremarked: Students cannot reliably identify passive constructions in their own work.
Open the Statistics feature in the free Writing Reviser Google Doc Add-on, and you’ll see an elaborate but easy-to-read analysis of your entire essay. It’s the writerly equivalent of a blood test report, except that instead of listing your cholesterol level and lipid profile, we diagnose statistics crucial to the revision process.
Even for the most vigilant, experienced writers, clarity can be an elusive goal. Again and again, no matter how hard we try to eliminate any trace of ambiguity, an infuriating gap often separates what we think we are saying from what we actually say. Consider this simple exercise. Insert the
In my school days, I recall making a dishonest, last-ditch effort to explain an English-class delinquency by claiming, “The dog ate my homework.” Perhaps some teachers are gullible enough to believe this bit of gastronomic nonsense. But none of them taught at St Pius X School in Rochester, NY. That
Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is one of those rare books people describe as “impossible to put down” that really is (figuratively) impossible to put down. As an English teacher, I found a marked increase in student participation when I substituted Capote’s “nonfiction novel” for one of the canonical works in
Virtual labs can be a boon to science instruction, capturing the excitement of discovery and encouraging students to think earnestly about STEM careers. While no one would advocate working exclusively with virtual labs, they can play an important role in expanding the classroom repertory: experiments that had been too dangerous,
Although most often used as a tool to refine an entire essay, Writing Reviser also offers innovative opportunities to isolate and overcome some of the most durable stumbling blocks to forceful writing. Let’s consider one perennial obstacle: recognizing—and choosing skillfully between—active and passive verbs. In the traditional approach, students look
Two of our most powerful interactive tools—Writing Reviser and Punctuation Rules!—become even more powerful when used in tandem. Indeed they are designed to be used that way. Both products use natural language processing, so they respond to each student’s own work, not generic examples in which the student has no investment.
Jumper cables, safety goggles, rubber gloves, a charmingly mad scientist, an endearingly animated and naïve student, a dangerous-looking contraption for “teleportation,” a boondoggle of frayed electrical wires—this unlikely mélange forms the set for our Spanish language videos—which follow the adventures of Miguel Del Mundo and his sidekick, Sabo. “Our primary
Gustave Flaubert said that we read in order to live. Common Core State Standards in English language arts are a bit less poetic than Flaubert, but they make something of the same point. They identify reading as a foundational skill and require students to analyze complex nonfiction texts to determine
Teachers can’t just give brilliant, isolated lectures or conduct fascinating, stand-alone activities and hope students will somehow connect these diverse components into a cohesive whole. To help students master the fundamentals of any discipline, teachers must build units of integrated materials that highlight essential connections and satisfy a variety of
In his widely praised Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, philosophy PhD and expert mechanic Matthew Crawford coins the term “virtualism” to express his concern about a trend in modern education, one that paints “a vision of the future in which we somehow take leave
[Update: In November the Reach for the Stars team was honored with the 2014 Hands On! Award from The National Braille Press.] Creating an interactive astronomy book for 10- to 12-year-old students—including those with visual impairments—involves managerial and collaborative complexities only a bit less daunting than those that govern star formation
Writing Navigator—from Curriculum Pathways—is a suite of tools designed to guide and support students in all four stages of writing: planning, drafting, revising, and publishing. We’ve recently released the final tool in this suite: Writing Publisher. It helps students put the finishing touches on their essays. That means documenting sources and proofreading.
In 2008, I agreed to foster an ominous-looking shelter dog no one seemed willing to adopt. He doesn't have any papers, but a glance at his noggin makes clear that he's not a greyhound or a whippet. He's an American pit-bull terrier. Although his well-armored head and fence-post neck suggest he was
In June of 1855, Walt Whitman set the type for the first printing of his Leaves of Grass. To mark the 159th anniversary of that event, we’ve selected some inspiring lines from the canonical poet who—unlike many of his peers—was a great champion of technology. There was a child went
In the beginning was the word, along with the pencil and paper, and the word was with students. Eons later, teachers looked at student writing and saw that it was (to invert the Old Testament lingo) not good: a Tower of Babel. So our priority was to create a set
“Writing is easy,” said Gene Fowler. “All you do is sit staring at a blank piece of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.” Other than replacing blank pages with blank computer screens, technology has done mercilessly little to reduce the agony of student writers or improve