Using Grammar Girl Podcasts to Improve Student Writing

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This blog series is written by Julia Domenicucci, an editor at Macmillan Learning, in conjunction with Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl.

 Bitten pencil and crumpled paper


Grammar Girl podcasts pair well with written assignments, and can help students think about issues related to style and structure (in addition to grammar, of course!). Consider trying one of the below activities to guide students in improving their writing--plus, there’s a bonus idea for classes working on speeches!


Podcasts have been around for a while, but their popularity seems to increase every day—and for good reason! They are engaging and creative, and they cover every topic imaginable. They are also great for the classroom: you can use them to maintain student engagement, accommodate different learning styles, and introduce multimodality. 


LaunchPad and Achieve products include collections of assignable, ad-free Grammar Girl podcasts, which you can use to support your lessons. You can assign one (or all!) of these suggested podcasts for students to listen to before class. Each podcast also comes with a complete transcript, which is perfect for students who aren’t audio learners or otherwise prefer to read the content. To learn more about digital products and purchasing options, please visit Macmillan's English catalog or speak with your sales representative. 

If you are using LaunchPad, refer to the unit “Grammar Girl Podcasts” for instructions on assigning podcasts. You can also find the same information on the support page "Assign Grammar Girl Podcasts."

If you are using Achieve, you can find information on assigning Grammar Girl in Achieve on the support page "Add Grammar Girl and shared English content to your course." If your English Achieve product is copyright year 2021 or later, you are able to use a folder of suggested Grammar Girl podcasts in your course; please see “Using Suggested Grammar Girl Podcasts in Achieve for English Products” for more information.


Use Grammar Girl to Introduce Style Guides

  • Using Style Guides [5:13]


To introduce the concept of style guides, either listen to “Using Style Guides” as a class or assign it for homework. Together, discuss style guides and what purpose they serve. Ask your students which style guides they’ve used in other classes and talk about which will be used in this course.


Additional Activity: Assign students to groups of 2-3 and ask them to create a 5 minute presentation about a style guide. The focus should be on the key features of that guide and the intended audience.


Use Grammar Girl to Talk About Sentence Variety

  • Sentence Length [5:07]


Assign this podcast for homework and then ask students to write sentences of various lengths, taking position on a silly topic--for example, cats versus dogs. Ask them to write the shortest sentence they can, the longest sentence they can, and a few mid-length sentences. As a class, consider: Which sentences are most confusing? Which are most effective? Which are the most interesting?


Additional Activity: During peer review of an essay, ask students to mark variety in sentence length (or a lack of variety).


Use Grammar Girl to Check for Errors in Capitalization and Italics

  • Capitalizing Words in the Business World [6:47]
  • Capitalizing Titles, Course Names, and Geographic Names [6:40]
  • How to Use Italics [5:23]


Capitalization and italics can be confusing! Before a first draft is due, assign these three podcasts. During class, dedicate some time for each student to review their draft for issues with capitalization and italics.


BONUS: Using Grammar Girl to Improve a Speech

  • Writing Scripts and Speeches [6:34]


If your course involves writing and giving speeches, assign students the “Writing Scripts and Speeches” podcast as they begin drafting their first script. As a class, go over Grammar Girl’s suggestions and make a list of your students’ favorites. 


After the students give their speeches, discuss which (if any) of the suggestions they tried, and what they plan on doing for future speeches. 


Credit: Pixabay Image 1891732by congerdesign, used under a Pixaby License