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