Software Review: NoRedInk

Guest Post by Andrew from Match Next

A question to anyone that teaches grammar: how do you reasonably provide your students with good practice?

I bet a lot of teachers use worksheets like this one:

The exercise itself is great. It’s simple, solid practice. But think about all the other work that goes into using a paper version of a sheet like this. Teachers need to:

a. make or find the grammar exercises they want
b. make copies
c. hand them out and collect them when kids are done
d. grade them
e. track student data and decide whether to move on or spiral back

This is more work than necessary.

Enter: NoRedInk

What is it, and how do we rate it?

For what it tries to do - make students explicitly practice discreet grammar skills - it's a 10 out of 10. It doesn't try to explain the grammar in detail, but it’ll provide clarifying hints that are pretty good. Also, it doesn't help a teacher do the hardest thing: get a kid who knows the grammar to reliably avoid errors in his writing.

It saves a ton of time grading, and gives great data on student performance. Also, the feedback loop for students is very tight. They can immediately see whether they got a question right or wrong, and they can’t even submit the assignment until they’ve correctly answered all the questions given.

How it works:

Simple. First the teacher needs to create an assignment. Here’s what the “Assignment” page looks like for teachers:

Teachers choose the ‘Category’ they care about on the left. In this case, it’s ‘Apostrophes.’ The right side contains all the ‘Subtopics’ where the ‘Category’ is relevant in actual English. I’ve only checked the ‘It’s vs. Its’ subtopic, so my students will only practice sentences containing errors of this type. If multiple Subtopics are chosen, there’ll be a mix of problems for the student to answer (the program doesn’t put multiple grammatical errors into one problem - it’ll have multiple types of problems). Teachers can also pick how many questions they want in that particular problem set, and how many points the set is worth.

Once teachers assign the set, students will see the assignment when they sign in. When they start, the first screen that appears gives the directions for the assignment. Here’re the directions for the assignment I created above:

Once kids see this and click the ‘ready’ button, they’ll start the problem set. Here’s an example of a question they might get:

Per the instructions, all they need to do is identify whether the word in the box requires an apostrophe or not, then fix it if necessary. If they get it correct, they move on. If not, the program will tell the student immediately. Here’s what that looks like to get the problem wrong on the 1st try:

Getting the question wrong:

If she gets it wrong again, it’ll automatically show her the hint that tells her the grammar rule, and she won’t be able to attempt this specific problem again. However, she’ll have to do another problem that contains the same error, and this new problem replaces the one she just tried (that is, if she messed up #3 twice, she’ll get another problem, and the new problem is the ‘new’ #3). Here’s what it looks like to get this error:

The program will keep doing this until the student gets this question right. She can skip the problem and move on, but she won’t be able to submit the assignment until she correctly answers the question.

Once the student is done:

Once the student finishes and submits the assignment, she can see how she did on that problem set. She’ll ultimately get a 100% because she has to answer everything correctly, but she can see how many attempts it took to get each question correct. Here’s what that page looks like:

Another cool feature for the student is the ability to see the ‘overall’ progress she’s made on all the grammar practice the program has to offer. It’s supposed to give the students the sense of where she stands in terms of all the grammar rules she needs to know. Here’s what this looks like for our ‘test student’:

In this dashboard, students can do 2 things:

1. do practice on their own (for any topic, not just the ones they’ve done)
2. dig through their question history for each Subtopic, and see exactly which ones they got right or wrong

Teacher data:

The information for the teacher is easy to access and analyze. It’s simply a grid of all the students and the different grammar skills they’ve practiced. A student’s performance on a particular grammar category will be indicated by the color of the box next to their name. Here’s what a teacher might see:

The red boxes indicate that this student needs some extra help on ‘It’s vs Its’ and ‘You’re vs. Your.’ If you move the mouse cursor over a colored box, you can see exactly how well (or not well) the student performed on all the questions pertaining to that specific subtopic.

The Quiz Feature:

The program also has a quiz feature. Creating the quiz is exactly the same as creating an assignment. The main difference between an assignment and a quiz, though, is that a student can submit incorrect answers in the quiz format. At the end of the quiz, the student can go back and redo the question she got wrong (but both she and the teacher will still know that she got this wrong on the 1st attempt).

Next time: I’ll start describing our data system, and how we track ‘behavior’ here at Match Next using Kickboard


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