“You hate it, but you love it!”

One of my all-time favourite fitness trainers is a guy named Tony Horton.

Photo from blog.extremefitnessresults.com

Photo from blog.extremefitnessresults.com

Tony is the face of the P90X home fitness video series. In 12 weeks of grunting, groaning, swearing, sweating, and regimented eating, trainer Tony can help just about anyone of reasonable fitness to get buff. I’ve never quite made it the 12 weeks, but two of my friends have and both are in the best shape of their lives as a result.

At the end of each of Tony’s three weekly weight-training routines is Ab Ripper X, a nasty-ass abdominal workout that incorporates more than 300 core and abdominal movements. It’s only 15 minutes, but it’s a killer.

“Ab Ripper X,” Tony proclaims with a maniacal gleam in his eye at the start of the workout. “You hate it…But you love it.”

I think that’s how my students viewed the Grammar Diary that I assigned all of them this past semester. It was an experiment and there was no model to follow, so it felt like a big risk.

I gave students five forms to fill out called Grammar Diary Reports. Throughout the semester, I pointed out writing mistakes that they were making and then ordered them to write a grammar report on each of those challenges.

Instead of telling students how to fix the problem, I merely circled errors on their assignments and told them what type of mistake they had committed.

Just like getting fit, learning isn't always fun

Just like getting fit, learning isn’t always fun

Then—using resources I provided— they had to figure out what they had done wrong, correct the error, learn the rule for identifying the error, and develop a strategy for preventing further errors. They documented all of this in each Grammar Diary Report.

There was some chaos because some of the stronger writers, for obvious reasons, hadn’t received five grammar report assignments from me. Others hadn’t reviewed the comments I had written on their assignments or had misplaced their marked assignments with their Grammar Report directions, so they didn’t have a record of the reports I’d assigned them.

The assignment needs some tweaks before it’s delivered again, but I’d say, on the whole, it was a valuable exercise that I’ll incorporate into all future writing communications courses.

Curiously, it seemed to be a more effective exercise for my Office Administration students, who generally seemed to take it more seriously. Many of them commented in their final reports (a reflection of the past semester) how helpful the Grammar Reports and been in assisting them to understand their writing challenges. One student even described a sense of self-empowerment that came from the process of investigating her own errors. She said she now feels comfortable independently investigating other writing challenges online.


Many of the Advertising students said the grammar reports were useful; however, the reflective quality of their reports wasn’t nearly that of Office Administration students. In other words, many Advertising students seemed to do the assignment at the last-minute even though each report had a clear bi-weekly deadline.

chalkboardThis last-minute effort hindered the effectiveness of the Grammar Diary as a learning exercise. So three features of the assignment need to change to address this:

  1. Grammar Diary Reports must be submitted in class at a set of prearranged deadlines. This will prevent students from completing them at the last-minute and will avoid repeats.
  2. I will track and record in a table which assignments I give students so that they cannot make up their own assignments. Some completed repeat reports even though I gave them five separate assignments. I did track the assignments I had given them, but my records didn’t provide easy referral at marking time.
  3. I will probably ask students to type their reports in the forms. Some were difficult to read last semester due to messy handwriting

These measures should ensure improved success of the Grammar Diary assignment.

And while students may not love this assignment, at least they will learn.


About teachingteacher

Business communications instructor, journalist, corporate communications writer and media trainer ... and Masters Candidate M.Ad.Ed.
This entry was posted in adult education, Course design, Critical Thinking, Reflective Practice, Transformative learning and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “You hate it, but you love it!”

  1. This is a great exercise for them. Do you think it’s possible that the discrepancy between two programs is related to our students’ more ‘creative’ temperaments and their difficulty with the more structured requirement? I was shocked once again at many students’ inability (or unwillingness?) to follow instructions, verbal AND written. Placement employers report this too. So you are helping with this vocational outcome here too. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Kathy. Yes, I’m sure that this difference you mention is at least part of the reason behind the discrepancy. I have to say that I love the “creative” temperaments of Advertising students. Figuring out how to address this as teachers is a challenge, but I think it’s doable. However, there is definitely an “unwillingness,” as you say, amongst some to follow instructions. Lots to think about. And lots to improve on my end. 🙂

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