26.8.12

Time4Writing


     One of the first ninth grade courses for my daughter was Time 4 Writing's High School G.U.M. (Grammar Usage Mechanics) course. This is not a full high school credit but designed to be an 8 week online writing course. For various reasons our family schedule was interrupted several times during this course, so we did not follow their initial plan for the eight weeks as recommended.

     When she first signed in Heather found it easy to navigate the website for participation in the online class as she was already familiar with their Moodle format. As we are working on her doing more of her lessons independently I initially left her to follow the directions and complete the coursework as the teacher led her. I received e-mails from the teacher informing me when lessons were graded and how to contact her if I had any questions. Unfortunately, my questions started after we had a change of teachers and my only way of communicating with the new one was through the student message board within the course where she communicated with my daughter.

     What I liked- someone other than me correcting her mistakes. Maybe that sounds trivial, but to me that was one of the highlights of the program. I actually considered extending our lessons with them after the very first time that my daughter received feedback from the teacher. Her responses were kind and helpful.

     What I didn't like- my daughter couldn't truly work at her own pace. Each time a teacher is required to grade a component it can be up to 24 hours for her to receive feedback and unlock the next section before she can move on.

From the teacher:
"The assignments in this course build on one another. The student is expected to apply what she learns in one assignment to future assignments. That is why only one teacher-graded assignment is allowed to be submitted at a time. It is to prevent the same type of error from being duplicated in future assignments.
Students retain what they learn when they are able to apply it to other situations.
Students also get a chance to correct their own errors, which aids retention. In order to correct their own errors, they need to understand what they did wrong. This is a much better method than simply marking something as incorrect. Often students just look at the grade on the assignment, and don't take time to analyse the errors. Assignments will be graded within 24 hours of submission (excluding weekends and major U.S. holidays). Re-submitted assignments will also be graded within 24 hours of re-submission. Often, they are graded much sooner."

     Some aspects of each lesson can be completed and moved on. The items that require grading are what cause pauses in her progression. Each lesson is graded within 24 hours, though (except for weekends.) When we received the grade (me by e-mail and her online in the virtual classroom) she could move on to the next lesson within one of the eight weekly units. When she tried to catch up, she was limited in how much she could do and had to wait on corrections from the teacher before moving on to the next section. They did offer to extend our total time by one week but recommended then that Heather try the 4 week version of the schedule for the 8 week course. By trying to "fast track" she was able to progress and only has 2 weeks of lessons now remaining.

"Well done, Heather! These are all correct. You may go on to the next assignment.
Ms. Kelly"

     Into the program, after additional questions from me, I learned that Heather was to go back and correct previous sections after her work was graded. She was able to go back and correct her mistakes after her initial answers were graded by the teacher. I appreciated that chance for her to learn by correcting her mistakes. She called it a "good review." I think it is a good lesson in following directions.

     Their mechanics resource is a useful tool with helpful rules as well as links for application.
    Though I was initially excited when Heather used this program and I read her teacher's feedback, the excitement faded. Parts of the program seemed to need updating such as the icons representing activities not matching with the icons on the resource list.

     The 24 hour rule doesn't apply on weekends, so it is more of a crunch to get the lessons done during traditional school hours (and you know we are not at all a traditional school family.) I found instead that I was notifying my daughter when I received an e-mail. "Your lesson was graded, go do the next part now while you have a chance so you don't get further behind." (even if it was way after bedtime)  or "Go ahead and do the next lesson so she can grade it." It became a race against the clock instead of focused time spent learning grammar rules.

     I think I'm being a bit hard in my opinion, but after this trial I wouldn't want to pay almost $25 a week for the 4 week version of the 8 week course. I had to push my daughter to press on with this one. Her sentences in the answers made me smile. The instructions made me feel like it was prep for standardized test taking, which has its own merits. Maybe just what she needed was a lesson in following directions. But I'd rather more dynamic interaction than reading that she should have changed parts of her answer to bold type so it could be graded.

     This course (and others offered) is available for $99. As an 8 week course that might be reasonable, but as a 4 week course that amounts to more than we spend for music lessons each week for two children.  Because of our unconventional schedule, we would have to be more consistent with this program for it to be beneficial for us long term. I don't recommend it for a family that groups lessons for instance history on one day and science on another, as the pause for grading does limit completing additional lessons on the same day. Because of the inconsistencies and the cost I would probably be unlikely to purchase this course. However, they offer a satisfaction guarantee for the first two weeks so anyone can try it and see if it works well for them.

     What it covers:

This eight-week course covers the technical areas of writing that high school students need to master before moving on to paragraphs and then essays, including:
  • Correctly identifying the parts of a sentence
  • Understanding complex sentences
  • Learning subject-verb agreement
  • Differentiating between plural and possessive nouns
  • Using pronouns, adjectives and adverbs in sentences
  • Identifying and spelling words that often confuse writers
  • Correctly using commas, semicolons, and other punctuation
  • Proofreading their writing for errors

     We received a subscription to this program at no cost to me for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own. See what other crew members shared in their reviews here.
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Jennifer

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