Saturday, January 31, 2015

1. More, Better, Faster: for Corrective Feedback

The is a free online ESL grammar checker.

Problem: Research suggests that in order for corrective feedback on writing to have any effect on learners’ proficiency it should be immediate, explicit, focused and sustained. Yet, due to the time and effort required, teachers provide delayed, coded, unfocused and unsustainable feedback on very few student drafts during the session. 
Solution: can analyze a learner text for spelling and grammar errors in less than a second. Programmed with 4700 error detection rules derived from beginner and low-intermediate level students’ narrative texts, it can reduce the load on teachers and provide an additional and sustainable source of corrective feedback directly to students.
How: Here is a step-by-step exercise to familiarize yourself with the range of features on the Virtual Writing Tutor system.
Step 1: Visit 
The Virtual Writing Tutor Grammar Checker

Step 2: Try the free grammar checker. Use the following text to get a feel of the range of errors it can catch. 
I make a lot of mistake that negatively effect my writing. Thats not good. I want always to make the good chioce of verbs. I want also to improve my pronunciation. My English-speaking friends talk about to help, but they never do. I work in a big store on the south shore of Montreal where there are a lot of immigrants people. I'm speaking every day to a men that works there. I think practicing with immigrants is equally as effective. So far, I have work there since 2 weeks and my English is getting more better. Also, I have learned already a lot about retail, but I will like to have a better job. I am waiting still for my first paycheck. They don't have paid me yet. When I will get paid, I will pay my parking tickets. Nevertheless if my English would be more better, I would definitely get a better paying job. I often wonder how many opportunities I would had had if I paid more attention to my nice English teacher in high school.
Step 3: Click "Check spelling" to access the spell checker. Checking for spelling improves the system's grammar checking accuracy. 

Rather than use the free grammar checker immediately, login as a member first. Click on the "Members" tab to access the Moodle course.
The Virtual Writing Tutor Ajax spell checker button

Step 4.1: Click on the words identified as having spelling errors and (A) select the correct spelling from the dropdown list. Once the spelling has been corrected, (B) click on resume editing.

The Virtual Writing Tutor Ajax spell checker in action

Step 4.2: The above spell-checking method relies on an Ajax spellchecker app called Googie spell. It is very useful for a visitor who has set their browser to a languages other than English, but it only works on paragraphs that contain less than 200 words. You will notice this limitation if you paste the the sample text twice into the text-area as a single paragraph. 

When paragraphs are longer than 200 words, it is advisable to use a second spell checking method. Right-click your mouse on the text field, select "Spell-checker options" and select "English." This will ensure that Chrome checks the text for English spelling errors. Right-click the words underlined with red squiggles to see spelling suggestions. 

The Virtual Writing Tutor browser-based spell checker

Step 5: Once you have checked the spelling using either method, check the grammar. Select, (A) "I agree to the terms and conditions" and then (B) "Check grammar".

The Virtual Writing Tutor--agree to terms and conditions before checking your grammar

Step 6: Review the corrective feedback and either (A) "Print the page" by clicking on the button top right or (B) do a remedial practice activity  or (C) report a false alarm or (D) "Save this text" by clicking on the button bottom right. If you choose B or D, you will have to login to the member's area.
Corrective feedback from the Virtual Writing Tutor grammar checker 
To access a practice activity, you will need a username and password. If it is your first time, click on the "Create new account button." You will need a valid email address to activate your account. If you don't see an email from, check your spam folder. If you prefer to use a generic username/password for now, use student/student.

Word Choice Error activity information screen

Word Choice Error activities
Word Choice Activity

To save your text, you will need a username and password. If it is your first time, click on the "Create new account button." You will need a valid email address to activate your account. If you don't see an email from, check your spam folder. If you prefer to use a generic username/password for now, use student/student. When the system saves (B) your text, it also saves (A) your statistics, and (C) the feedback you received. There are other features to explore, including an (D) essay outliner and (E) a list of your links.
Saved text in your profile
Step 7: The system also creates a summary of links to help students prioritize remedial practice by frequency. Click on the "Links" tab to see a prioritized list of all of the error correction practice activity links you have received and saved to your profile. 
Click "Links" to see a prioritized list of links to remedial activities.
Remedial activity links are arranged into a prioritized list.
Step 8: The Virtual Writing Tutor features an essay outliner.  Click on the "Outlines" tab to access your outlines. 
Click on "Outlines" to access the essay-outliner.
Step 9: On the essay-outliner page, you are presented with three pedagogical essay types to write outlines for. The first is a four-paragraph opinion essay-outliner. With it, you select your method of generating interest in your topic, define and limit your topic, and present a thesis with two supporting arguments. 
Three essay types to outline
I created the essay-outliner in order to assist learners who struggle with remembering all of the parts of a pedagogical essay, their argument, and its expression in English.  The essay-outliner should reduce the cognitive load by managing the steps of the tasks so that the learner can focus on the logical and linguistic aspects of writing an outline. 

Essay outliner system assists in the organization of ideas
Once the form-fields have been filled in, the learner can "Generate my outline" to see how it looks and print it out. 
Outline generated by the Opinion Essay Outliner
The essay outline can be printed to PDF or a hard copy, or copy-pasted into a Word document to be included with a cover-page to be handed in. 
Printed version of the essay-outliner result
The Virtual Writing Tutor can also generate outlines for prioritized list essays and argument essays (an opinion essay with a counter-argument, concession, and refutation). The student can store essay outlines indefinitely in his or her profile, adding and modifying outlines as required using a computer or smartphone. 

The Virtual Writing Tutor Logo

Learn about the second website for corrective feedback:

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