Using Grammar Girl Podcasts to Prepare for This Semester’s Writing Assignments

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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.


The start of a new school year is the perfect time for students to think about what their goals are for the next few months--including in their writing! Use one of the activities from this blog post to help your students prepare for their coming writing assignments.

Podcasts are well-established, 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 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.


Using Grammar Girl Podcasts to Prepare for This Semester’s Writing Assignments


Assignment A 

Pre-Class Work for Assignment A: Ask your students to bring in a graded paper they completed for another class--no one will see it but them! Alternatively, you can ask your students to consider writing they’ve done for previous courses, and think about the feedback they received on that writing.

Each student should list one writing area or skill they used successfully and one writing area or skill they could improve. If your students are using a graded paper for this exercise, they can use the feedback written on that assignment to guide their responses.

If your students are struggling to come up with topics, ask them to reflect on the following and categorize them as either “successful” or “needs improvement”: 

  • use of active/passive voice
  • comma usage
  • use of citations
  • audience awareness
  • subject-verb agreement
  • metaphors and similes

Assignment: Collect all of the answers, either in person or virtually. You may want to do this anonymously. As a class, group the answers together into similar categories. Consider if students had different terms for similar successes and problems, and note if everyone seems to struggle in the same areas or if the answers are more varied. 

Then, assign a Grammar Girl podcast (or two!) based on the most common successes and most common areas needing improvement. Ask students to listen to these and then complete the reflection.

Reflection for Assignment A: Ask students to write 1-3 paragraphs reflecting on what they learned from the podcasts. Also ask them to consider: Were the successes they found in their writing the same or similar to the successes most of the class identified? What about the areas they need improvement in? Finally, ask them to consider how the podcast topic is or is not reflected in their previous assignments.


Assignment B

Pre-Class Work for Assignment B: Ask your students to vote on which of the following topics they feel they need help with right now. You can also turn this into a short class discussion about why students feel they need help with a particular category.

  • Academic Reading, Writing, and Speaking
  • Adjectives and Adverbs
  • Apostrophes
  • Capitalization
  • Commas
  • Grammar for Multilingual Writers
  • Grammar, Clarity, and Style
  • Other Punctuation
  • Parts of Speech and Parts of Sentences
  • Pronouns
  • Quotation Marks
  • Spelling
  • Subject-Verb Agreement and Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

If you’re using Achieve and have included the folder “Grammar Girl: 25 Suggested Podcasts” in your course, you could ask students to vote on the suggested podcasts instead of categories.

Assignment: Once everyone has voted, assign at least one Grammar Girl podcast from the top two or three categories. Ask your students to listen to the assigned podcasts.

Reflection for Assignment B: Ask each student to write 2-3 paragraphs reflecting on the podcasts they’ve listened to. They might consider the following questions: 

  • In your own writing, do you consider the topic of the podcast something you succeed with or something you need more practice with?
  • For those topics in which you think you need work, what are some strategies for improving your skills in that area?
  • What other topics do you struggle with that were not addressed in the podcasts?


For more start-of-semester ideas, see Using Grammar Girl Podcasts to Start the Semester.


Credit: "Start" by jakeandlindsay is licensed under CC BY 2.0

About the Author
Julia is a media editor at Macmillan Learning. When she isn't working, she's reading, running, or convincing her large cat, Cedric, to play.