The creators of Grammarlogues® differentiate their program, saying: “We want to change the way you look at language; instead of asking, ‘Is this right or wrong?’ we want you to ask, ‘Why does or doesn't this work?’ We want to start a dialogue.” (whyus.htm)
Grammarlogues is a computer-based grammar program for middle and high school students that teaches the elements of grammar while incorporating excerpts from great literature. Grammalogues uses real-world applications along with the literary excerpts to engage student interest beyond the mechanics. The program, when used most effectively, draws students into discussion about grammar, e.g., why one form of expression or punctuation might be more effective than another or ways that authors “break the rules” to convey their ideas. It really does provide the groundwork for great dialogues with students.
The program has an unusual design with both software (installed on your Windows or Mac computer) and online components (password-protected access on the Grammarlogues website). The components are accessed separately. I don't think Grammarlogues will operate on iPads since the installed component used Adobe Flash.
I can see where the program would be ideal in a classroom situation. The software seems best used with a group so that everyone can view the same screen and discuss it together. The online part of the lesson is done independently. While students can use the software lesson on their own, they might skip past the teaching or student notes, omitting some of the most important elements of a lesson. Also, they will miss out on “talking through” the examples. Some students working independently might get confused about how to work through a lesson without some direction, especially at first. Even parents or teachers will need to experiment with the program and get familiar with it before using it. Because of this, I recommend Grammarlogues highly for group classes, while recommending it for independent use only for responsible students who will take the time to complete lessons properly.
Software can be used in two different modes: “roadmaps” or “categories.” Roadmaps follow a scope and sequence based upon Grammalogues' diagnostic tests and have online practice sets that correspond to each lesson. Categories allow you to select from among five categories: words, punctuation, phrases, sentences, and clauses. Parents set either the Roadmap or lessons selected from Categories as assignments for each “class.” If you have two students working at different levels you might assign them to different classes so that you can make appropriate “class” assignment.
While Roadmaps have grade level designations, students should use them as a sequence, beginning at the appropriate level and moving ahead at their own pace. If in doubt, begin with the sixth grade Roadmap since seventh grade concepts build upon those taught in the sixth grade level. Diagnostic tests are written for grade levels. If, for example, you have a child beginning seventh grade, they should have mastered all of the sixth grade material before starting the seventh-grade level in Grammarlogues. You should have him or her take the sixth grade diagnostic test. If your child does not score above 90%, he or she should begin at the sixth grade level.
Note that clicking on a Roadmap from the reference tools gives parents/teachers an immediate overview of concepts covered in the program. While Categories are presented in a different menu format, they contain all of the same topics listed on the Roadmaps.
Grammarlogues tracks student answers as well as their scores. Teachers can see detailed reporting on each quiz including the actual answers entered with red and green backgrounds indicating incorrect and correct answers. The teacher's gradebook also provides detailed scores on all student work as well as the date each item was completed.
You must have online access to use Grammarlogues. Up front, you'll need to create one or more classes and populate each class with one or more students. The online component of Grammarlogues is where you do this as well as access diagnostic tests and the automated practice sets for each lesson. While practice sets are online, students should complete the lesson introduction and practice slides on the off-line software before using the online practice sets for each lesson.
When you are online as the teacher, you can change “practice set settings.” These setting can limit which practice sets students can view, provide you with an email alert when an assigned student has completed a practice set, allow (or not) students to see answers to the practice sets, allow students to see a practice slide, and allow students to print practice sets. There's also a setting to allow or disallow students to complete a practice set only one time for a grade (while still allowing unlimited practice that is not graded). Practice sets are often presented at three different levels: “Getting Familiarized,” “Working Knowledge,” and “Grammarian's Challenge.” You can assign whichever level you think appropriate for a student, or you can have them complete all practice sets. These should not take long to complete, so doing three sets shouldn't take more than about five minutes extra for good students.
The off-line software component of Grammarlogues that is installed on your computer contains the instructional material which consists of teaching slides, student notes, practice slides, and teacher notes. Teaching slides follow a familiar format: a statement of a rule or concept followed by examples and explanations. They differ from most grammar texts in the quality of the examples since they draw from recognized literary works. Students are exposed to models of good writing as they learn about grammatical constructions, usage, and rules. You might have students write down the rules or concepts in a notebook to enhance retention.
Student notes in the offline portion of each lesson offer helpful tips, explanations of exceptions, or further elaboration on the rule or concept. They often cover concepts not taught on the teaching slides.
Practice slides offer students a chance to see if they understand the concept by working with some examples, but they are ideally used by a teacher for discussion. There are additional teaching notes pertaining to the examples that you can access by clicking on the image of a teacher at the top of the page. (A student working independently can also click on the teacher to access these notes.) Students can respond to the practice slides online to some extent. For example, practice slides might ask students to underline all nouns. To do so, students use the “pen” feature in the program. (Using the “pointer” instead of the pen reveals all underlined nouns.) I found this a little tricky to figure out, so you might need to work with your student to help him or her understand how to use it. The pen, pointer, and eraser tools for writing on the screen might also be very useful for a teacher presenting a lesson to a class.
Teacher notes area available on a separate button for each lesson and can be accessed by students working independently. These might provide additional explanation regarding the concept, tips about commonly-asked questions and common errors, writing tips that relate to the rule, “grammar debates” about proper usage, practical application ideas, or suggestions for ESL learners.
I expect that adults teaching group classes will love Grammarlogues because the lessons are laid out to include all (or at least most of the information a teacher needs). Teaching slides usually add sentences, comments, or highlights to the lesson one at a time as you click the mouse, just as you would do if you were teaching on a board (but much more quickly). Lessons are designed in a way that elicits discussion. Literary excerpts offer interesting twists that differ from common grammatical constructions. For example, the lesson on dangling modifiers offers three sample sentences. In the notes it suggests considering how placement of the subject in one place or another place might be better or worse—a great discussion starter. Then the notes (which can be displayed for all to see) include seven sentences from the short story “Bartleby the Scribner” by Herman Melville where he uses numerous dangling modifiers! This highlights for students the reality that authors break the rules from time to time, but in some situations it works well. The student note in this lesson gives students two sentences with dangling modifiers to rewrite. The teacher note offers tips on how student might rewrite sentences.
Lessons are not simple and obvious as they are in most online programs; they make students think. Still, the material is explained well enough that an inexperienced parent could teach a group class from what is provided. Once a teacher becomes familiar with the format of the lessons, Grammarlogues should be easy to use for lesson presentations without much advance preparation. On the other hand, because of the lesson design, a student working independently is likely to need some assistance from time to time.
The online component also includes SAT and ACT test prep material in five categories: vocabulary, sentence errors, sentence completion, antonyms and synonyms, and potpourri. While there are a limited number of questions within each section at this time, they are continually adding more questions. These questions can be assigned to students in the same way as are other practice sets.
The course covers over 200 grammar concepts and includes access to more than 300 practice sets, so there's plenty of both teaching and practice material.
While an individual account is available, that choice isn't appropriate for a single homeschool student since it includes no teacher account. (It would be appropriate for a student participating in a group class.) A homeschool account provides access for up to five students and one teacher. Students must belong to one family.