Technology Pursuit

Blending Technology Into the Language Arts Classroom

Category: Grammar

So I Made a Versal Course!

I found myself in a conundrum last week.

My college comp seniors took a subject-verb agreement quiz.  About a third of them did very well, scoring As and Bs.  The other two-thirds scored D- or below.

The bell curve did not exist.  A middle ground did not exist.  They’d either mastered the concepts or were still very much struggling.

Obviously I needed to do some more work with the two-thirds group, but then what about the other third?  Do I force them to sit through more review and reteaching when they obviously understand the information?

I decided it was time to give Versal a whirl.



I happened upon the course-building website last semester.  Super impressed with it, I was determined to set up some courses on it.  Then time got away from me until this opportunity presented itself.

Versal works through gadgets.  After starting a course, you simply choose the next gadget you want and drag it into your workspace.  Want to start with a video?  Drag up the video gadget.  Rather start with text?  Drag up the text gadget.  Want to quiz the students about the video and/or text.  Pull the quiz gadget into the workspace–you can even program it so the student can’t go on until he answers the question correctly.

Versal gadget 1


Check the the gadgets above–lots of possibilities await.  For this project I only used video, quiz, and text, but there are so many possibilities to be integrated.  The gadgets make the course building so simple.  Drag, add your information, and you’re done!

Versal can be embedded in websites, blogs, Tumblr, and some LMS systems.  I followed the simple instructions to upload to Schoology, and it worked like a breeze.  (I also embedded it into my Google site, but I didn’t look as sleek, and since my students take quizzes via Schoology, it was just as easy to have them locate the Versal course there.)

Here are a couple screenshots from my course:

SVA video view SVA Quiz


I’m still waiting for the verdict from my students.  They’ll have a couple of drafting days later this week, when they’ll also be welcome to work on the Versal course and retake the quiz.

Teaching Grammar with Pear Deck

Teaching Grammar with Pear

Back in my elementary years, I remember writing sentence after sentence out of our grammar textbooks, selecting the correct verb from the parenthesis.  Hours upon hours spent doing this.

Thanks to Pear Deck, I can teach a grammar concept and check student understanding in a fraction of the time.

This week we started on advanced subject-verb agreement.  First, I reviewed the concept–today was subject-verb agreement with multiple subjects–with a “Normal Slide.”

Presentation Session Example 2

Note that this is the teacher view.  Students only see the right portion of the screen on their computers and on the projector screen.  On the left I can see all the students who are logged in.

After a short lecture, we do some practice problems.  This is where the magic of Pear Deck comes in with its drawing component.  These are the steps I follow to set up my practice grammar slides.

1.  I type the practice sentences into Google Drive.

2.  Using Awesome Screenshot, I take an image of the sentences and save it to my Google Drive.  (You can save it to your desktop or elsewhere, too.  Google Drive works great because Pear Deck is quite integrated with Drive.)

3.  Go to your Pear Deck deck and on the chosen slide, upload the screenshot.

4.  Last, I double check that I’ve clicked on the “Drawing” option on that slide.  This allows students to draw or type on the slide on their laptops or iPads.

Here is a teacher view of a “drawing” slide.  On the right hand slide is what the students see and can “draw” on.

Presentation Session 1


And now, a finished look of student work:

Examples of corrections


On the left hand side, I can see a thumbnail of each student’s screen.  On my iPad, I can see how each student is doing at a glance.  Although I do a lot of walking around as students complete the problems, this also allows me to see when students are nearly done.  Then I click the “eye” button, which switches the master slide to a scrolling window of all the student screens.  I choose one at random (or the one that has a really cool rendition of the Tardis, as seen above) and we go through the answers.  No embarrassment if one is wrong since no names are visible.

This method is great for formative assessment, and it allows students to make mistakes without embarrassment.  The drawing slide is a fantastic tool in any content area.  Since any image can be uploaded for students to draw or write on, the possibilities are countless.


I’m Lovin’ It: The New PearDeck Home Page

Home   Pear Deck


Pear Deck gave me a belated Christmas gift:  A new home page!

I love the new window that displays decks that have been recently used.  I’ll usually create a deck to cover several days–sometimes an entire unit–and so I’ll open it a dozen times before I put it away for the year.

Until now, I’ve saved a session and then reopened the deck each time to forego searching my Google Drive and staying within the PearDeck site.  Now, it’s a simple click on my presentation in the recent events.

Today I used a Pear Deck to teach grammar.  The app has become my favorite way to address grammar because students can practice for 5-10 minutes each day.  I can give a traditional lecture on a topic–today’s was subject verb agreement with multiple subjects–and then give them practice problems to complete right on the slides on their computers.  On my iPad I can watch all of them complete the task and see who’s struggling.  When we’re ready to check the answers, I can choose a random student slide to project on the projector screen to use as a visual aid while I’m explaining.

Then we’re done.  No papers to look over.  If I want to, however, I can save the session and look over their work later on.

Want to take a look?  Here it is:  Subject-Verb Agreement Pear Deck

I’m an unabashed supporter, promoter, and user of Pear Deck.  It’s simple interface and amazing student interaction make my lectures much more dynamic.  Plus, I can do quick formative assessments and vastly reduce the paper load.

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