Expressive Synergy: Writing Reviser + Punctuation Rules!


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. And both products are available on the web, from the iTunes App Store, or the Chrome Web Store.

The Writing Navigator suite of tools helps students develop, organize, revise, and finalize the content of their essays. Our aim here is not prescriptive: we aren’t trying to teach rules; we’re trying to get students to ask themselves the kinds of questions experienced writers ask automatically—at every stage of the writing process.

Here's a quick overview of one Writing Navigator tool: Writing Reviser:

Punctuation Rules! targets mechanics in an innovative way: for each punctuation mark, we provide a short, informative, and engaging audio in which a student and a teacher seriously but playfully discuss the proper use of, for example, commas with main clauses. Primed by that discussion, students then complete a series of practice sentences of gradually increasing difficulty on that same topic. By the end of the Practice section, students are composing their own sentences, and the tool is evaluating their work.  Students then take a quiz to demonstrate their mastery.

Let's look at the Learn section from one punctuation rule: Commas used with main clauses:

So how do you combine these tools, one of which focuses on creativity and the other on correctness?

“In the past, when teachers graded student essays, they would refer the student to a handbook for each punctuation mistake,” says Terry Hardison, Curriculum Pathways Specialist in English language arts. “The student would dutifully look up the rule, see a couple of example sentences written by someone else, and then (generally) make the same mistake on his next paper.”

“In our approach, the student does enough examples with her own work so that she understands the rule in a way she wouldn’t if she’d consulted a textbook,” Hardison adds. “Mastering punctuation is not difficult, but the topic has been approached in ways that tend to guarantee failure. Our approach avoids the familiar pitfalls and makes the topic engaging. And, trust me, that’s not easy with punctuation marks.”

“To make the learning process as efficient as possible, we numbered every rule in the product and in the teacher’s guide,” Hardison says. “Thus, when teachers grade a paper, they can simply write the rule number next to the error and students can go directly to that problem and not have to sit through a comprehensive lecture on every possible permutation of a given punctuation mark.”

Try using these two products in tandem, and let us know what you think. We trust you’ll reap dual benefits: increased creativity and improved mechanics.

Using Google Docs and Google Classroom? Writing Reviser is available as a free Google Doc Add-on! Add it to your writing tools today!


About Author

Tim McBride

Supervisor, Educational Multimedia Writing

Tim McBride has degrees from Rochester Institute of Technology and NC State University, where he taught English for several years. His first book of poetry, The Manageable Cold, was published recently by TriQuarterly Press at Northwestern University. He works as a writer and an editor on Curriculum Pathways. He lives in Cary, NC, with an American pit bull terrier named Charlie McCarthy and a Catahoula hog dog named Junk.

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