Preach it Weird Al! Why English teachers love “Word Crimes”!

If you are an English teacher and participate in any social media, I’m sure that you have seen Weird Al’s new viral video, “Word Crimes”.  If you haven’t seen it, you really must watch it.  Let’s be honest, even those of us who have seen it several times will probably click to watch it again!  So what is it about this video that resonates so deeply with English teachers and everyone else for that matter? I’ll break down my love of this song below:

  • We are not alone! Too many times, students think that English teachers are the only ones who actually care about proper grammar. Weird Al has made it cool for celebrities, family members, bloggers, and everyone else in society to jump on the grammar bandwagon by sharing this video.  I hope this fun little parody sends a serious message to young people to listen up in our classes!
  • Online writing counts! Weird Al points to blogs, social media, hashtags, and other online writing with the message that spelling and syntax matter even on the internet.
  • He fits in all my pet peeves! I love the whole song, but these four drive me up the wall:
    • I could care less.  When I hear students say this, I always want to retort, “well, you certainly could care more about your correct use of idiom” or something else snarky.
    • Quotation Marks for “emphasis”.  When I see this happening in my classes, I love to bring up this website for a couple minutes: unnecessaryquotes.com.  It gets a few laughs and brings the point home.  (Tip: Always preview the page before bringing it up in class.  Some examples are not safe for all schools.)
    • Literally.  This one is everywhere in my school: I literally have a ton of homework, my head literally exploded, I literally can’t even.  Sometimes I have to forcibly control my eye rolls.
    • Your and You’re, There, Their, and They’re, Its and It’s.  This shouldn’t be a problem in high school, but it is.  I’m thinking about making big posters for the front of my room this year, so I will let you know how that goes.
  • He uses Proper Terminology. The English class lingo is often discounted as boring and irrelevant, but he breathes new life into terms like contraction, preposition, dangling participles, and oxford comma.  I never thought I would say this, but thank you Weird Al!

 

Did you love this video as much as I did?  What are your word crime pet peeves?

No Red Ink Video Tutorial: Teaching Grammar With Style!

I’m really excited to share a new teacher tech tool with you today!  Although, I am just getting started with it, I think NoRedInk.com is a tool to keep an eye on!  Here’s why I love it:

  • There is a free version (After I use it for a bit, I may upgrade, but it is nice to try it free!). It also appears to be growing rapidly in topics and such.
  • It covers a lot of the grammar topics that my high school students still struggle with, but I don’t really have time to teach in the older grades.
  • It allows students to pick topics of interest like sports, popular TV shows, disney, etc. These topics are then woven into grammar practices, keeping students engaged.
  • Students can practice as much or as little as needed before testing so that differentiation is built in. Students can work at their own pace with as much scaffolding or independence as they need.
  • The record keeping on the teacher side is very clear and easy to follow.

Here’s my quick video tutorial showing off the goods.  Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Grammarly Review and Video Tutorial

The kind folks over at Grammarly recently let me try out their service with my high school English classes.  The service offers to help students continue to develop writing skills through automated instructional feedback in grammar and word choice, as well as plagiarism tracking.  I tried out the teacher/student version, which you can learn more about at Grammarly.com/edu.  Check out the video tutorial below and the pros and cons list.  Please let me know if you have questions or comments and remember to check back weekly for more teacher tips, tutorials, and tirades. ;)

 Grammarly Pros and Cons from my perspective:

Pros:

  • Students can submit their papers multiple times to receive maximum automated input that is more effective than a simple word processor grammar check.
  • The grammar checker saves time for me as it catches many mistakes. I am all about saving time as we all know that English teachers have enough on our plate already!
  • Grammar explanations give students clear guidelines.
  • Plagiarism checker prevents unintentional plagiarism and takes away the excuse of ignorance that students sometimes claim.
  • There is a blackboard option and convenient roll out instructions.

Cons:

  • Unless you have school and department support, the price can be limiting.  (Check out pricing here)
  • Some grammar suggestions misunderstand student intention, which can confuse the paper further.
  • The teacher side of the website is limited in information.  I could see how many times a paper was checked, but I couldn’t see the actual mistakes or plagiarism to tell whether they were valid or not. I had to have students print their reports for me, which seemed like a lot of paper.
  • The plagiarism tracker is limited to online sources and is not the key component to this service (as opposed to services like turnitin.com).
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