We’ve been reviewing GrammarPlanet, an online grammar program that helps kids learn about gerunds and adjectives and more. If there’s a school subject that screams “hate me,” it’s probably grammar. Except for a few of us English-and-writer types who like knowing that our verbs and nouns are getting along, very few people care about this topic. Despite that, grammar is important to basic reading and writing.
My homeschool English curriculum focused heavily on grammar, rather than the literature comprehension and analysis that most Canadian English programs cover. As a university student, writer, editor and blogger, I’ve greatly appreciated that grammatical foundation. My dad always said clear communication is important, no matter what profession you choose. (He was an engineer who ended up in management and wrote a lot of reports for his company.)
My grammar background was also helpful to me in university, when I studied German. Having a solid understanding of English grammar helped me learn German grammar. Many of the kids in my German class struggled with knowing what nouns and verbs were in English. Yet many second-language learning programs teach new words in a grammatical fashion. Tenses, subject-verb agreement, pronouns and more are all important in a second language.
As a homeschool mom, I’ve noticed the girls’ language arts programs all have a grammar component. However, the grammatical instruction the girls got didn’t seem to be sticking. I’d end up repeating “verbs are action words” and other rules to them as they did their lessons. GrammarPlanet has made a huge difference for the girls. The direct, repetitive grammar instruction has helped them finally understand and remember different sentence parts.
Teaching an Online Grammar Program
As mom and teacher, I get access to the teacher dashboard for our family. Here, I can add students and watch their progress. Right now, I have accounts set up for myself, Sunshine, and Lily. (GrammarPlanet is intended for kids ages ten and up, so I’m not doing it with Jade.)
I receive regular emails about each student’s progress. If Sunshine or Lily doesn’t do very well on a unit, then I get an email recommending I reset their progress (so they repeat the unit). If they do well, I get an email such as, “NEWS FLASH! Sunshine Way, completed unit 3 with a score of 95%.” I’ll also be emailed if someone hasn’t done any lessons for a while (like when Sunshine was away at summer camp during our review!). If your student is working independently, this makes it easy to monitor their progress and know when they need help.
How GrammarPlanet Works
Each online grammar unit includes an instructional video and printable notes. The girls find the notes super helpful to reference as they are doing the practice questions. From the student dashboard, they can continue their progress or go to the video or notes.
After students watch the video in each unit, they work through the practice questions. Here they mark the nouns, articles, pronouns, etc. in a series of sentences. It’s easy to click on each word and select the term that applies. Once they’ve completed each sentence, they click “submit” and get instant feedback on their work.
Students can return to the video and notes online at any time by clicking the icons in the bottom left corner of the screen.
After they’ve finished the practice questions, students move into the unit test. Each test has 5 questions, worth varying points. Here, they no longer get feedback on their answers but simply continue to the next question. At the end of the quiz, they receive their mark for the unit. They can also review their questions to see what they got wrong or right.
There are a total of 13 units in the online grammar program. Each builds on the lessons before. For example, the girls learned about nouns in the first unit. Lily is now on Unit 4 and has learned about nouns, pronouns, articles and adjectives. We’ve seen how nouns can appear in different parts of the sentence, and how pronouns can be a bit tricky at times. (There’s the rules—and then there’s exceptions to the rules!)
Each of the units has an interesting topic for kids to read about as they work on their grammar. For example, one unit was about Egypt, another about a city in Ireland. While the sentences get long in some places, they do keep kids’ attention.
A Grammar Geek’s Thoughts on GrammarPlanet
As I mentioned, I like grammar. I’ve used it a lot, both as a writer and an editor, and now as a teacher. I laugh at the grammar memes on social media and wince when I see poor grammar in blog posts and books. I’ve enjoyed working through the GrammarPlanet lessons with the girls. I’ve even learned more about grammar with them!
However, I found this online grammar program a bit intense. The girls first few attempts at doing GrammarPlanet on their own resulted in several emails about resetting their progress. This frustrated both of us, so they started asking me for help with their lessons. They’d do each sentence, and then I’d check it with them before they hit submit. Some of the sentences are long and complex. At times, even I was unsure about how to mark certain words.
I also thought the tests were rather hard. Each test has only five questions, but each question is worth a lot of points. On the Unit 3 test, the questions varied in point value from 11 to 22. That means one sentence had 22 nouns, articles or adjectives the girls were supposed to mark. This seems to make it easier for kids to fail than to succeed. For example, even with my help, Lily got at least one word wrong on each question in her Unit 4 test (above).
If grammar isn’t your strong point, I’d strongly recommend doing each unit before your child does it. You could also work through each unit together, as we’ve been doing. Do use the notes. I’ve been debating laminating them for the girls to use as reference or compiling them in a binder as we add to them.
If your child is getting frustrated with endless practice questions, take a break. According to the FAQs, GrammarPlanet “is designed to move you more quickly through each unit based upon your ability to grasp each new concept. If you ‘get it,’ the system will skip some of the practice sentences and move you more quickly to the test.” Lily must’ve been struggling with one unit, as she ended up feeling like she was doing endless practice questions.
Maybe aim to complete one unit per week (and finish the program in about a year). The program creators “recommend spending NO MORE than 15 minutes per day” and “doing the program every other day; this gives your brain time to “marinate” in the information and really take it all in.”
Note for Catholic parents: Unit 2 has a slight anti-Catholic bias. It uses the story of Galileo versus the Catholic Church for the sentences kids are supposed to mark. We just studied this in history last year, so I was able to chat with the girls about what really happened. You may want to discuss this with your kids either before or after doing the lesson.
Signup for GrammarPlanet and Start Learning!
You can sign up for a free GrammarPlanet account. The free account is supported by video ads. You can also purchase a paid account for a one-time fee if you don’t like ads. Your account never expires; take as much time as you need to complete the lessons. GrammarPlanet is intended for kids over age 10 (or about Grade 3). I’ve been using it with my Grade 4 and Grade 5 students.
You can also find GrammarPlanet on Facebook.
Have your kids studied grammar? Do you think an online grammar program would be helpful?