Hello, and happy Monday! The great people at Quill contacted me last month about their product and I was intrigued to learn more about how it can help teachers make better use of face-to-face instructional time. Check out this guest post to learn more!
We all know that teaching writing can be very challenging. We all know how important it is to write well. And, we all know that, with fast-moving curriculums, piles of grading work, and, often, limited access to resources, it can be difficult to give students the instruction they deserve.
Quill.org is a small, scrappy non-profit that produces free writing instruction software. We don’t want to replace teachers—we love and respect them. Many of our team members are former teachers themselves, and we know from personal experience that the most important moments in teaching come from face-to-face interaction with students. So, we decided to create a free tool that saves teachers countless hours that they would have spent creating and grading grammar worksheets! Now, teachers can spend that time doing the valuable, in-person work.
So what exactly is Quill? Quill is a set of Diagnostic assessments, intelligently structured independent practice activities, and collaborative full-class lessons that focus on grammar and sentence construction skills. Through this tool, teachers can assign activities from any of our five tools – Quill Connect, Grammar, Proofreader, Lessons, and the Diagnostic. Most teachers start by assigning a Diagnostic, a short (22-25 questions) assessment that analyzes students’ baseline writing skills. Then, our software creates differentiated learning plans for each student based on their Diagnostic performance, so everybody gets the practice they need.
These learning plans have two different components: independent practice activities and collaborative class lessons. The independent practice activities, called Quill Connect activities, teach grammar mechanics and sentence construction skills through the research-backed method of sentence combining. The activities ask students to combine two or more short sentences into one complex sentence using a specific grammar target. With every attempt, students receive instant feedback that guides them toward the correct answer.
You might be saying to yourself, “differentiated practice is great, but how do I keep my class on the same page?” The Diagnostic also suggests collaborative, full-class activities from our Quill Lessons tool. Lessons are pre-constructed presentations (think a Powerpoint but with more features) on a particular writing-related topic. Lessons have both instructional slides and interactive learning prompts. When students submit their answers to these prompts, teachers can anonymously display student submissions to the whole class so that they can correct or confirm them. This way, everybody learns something new, and nobody feels called out!
Want additional practice? You also can create customized activity packs! When you customize your own packs, you can assign practice activities from any of our five tools, including Grammar and Proofreader. Quill Grammar activities teach basic grammar mechanics through fill-in-the-blank prompts, and Quill Proofreader asks students to identify and correct grammar errors in reading passages.
After students complete activities, Quill generates comprehensive grade reports. The reports provide an overall score for each activity, as well as an in-depth break down of the grammar concepts that students mastered or missed for every question in an activity.
While Quill aligns with the Common Core curriculum, teachers use our software in many different ways. One professor at Seneca College wrote us to tell us how she had used Quill to up student engagement and cut down on absenteeism. She explained how our Diagnostic tool had allowed her to get a sense of where students were with their writing ability upon entering her class, and then to track their progress. You can find her story, and others like it, here: https://www.quill.org/teacher-center/topic/teacher-stories.
Other teachers use activities as a do-nows to get their class in the writing mindset or as homework to reinforce what they covered in class. Many also use Quill Lessons to introduce grammar topics at the beginning of a new unit. Finally, teachers look to the Student Reports to inform their writing instruction going forward – they use our data to quickly figure out which topics to revisit or to cover next with their classes.
This year has been huge for Quill. As of November 2018, Quill has helped 1.3 million students in 5,000 schools internationally become strong writers! If you are interested in using Quill in your classroom, check out their Getting Started page!