January 22

Fun with Commas, Possessives, and Pear Deck!

Pear Deck is an engaging Google-connected platform that offers students a variety of ways in which they can interact with content, both individually or as a group. 

In this post, you’ll learn how to use Pear Deck as a competitive, team-based grammar review for the ACT or any other classroom review you need to plan!

Preparing for the ACT

As my ELA III students anxiously prepare the ACT in February, one of the most challenging aspects of the preparation process is finding ways for students to interact with test content that does not consist of kill and drill activities that thwart any chance of engagement.

Often times, when reviewing grammar skills, ELA teachers take students into various text types to analyze the lines for proper usage of language conventions. While it is beneficial for students to be able to recognize errors in usage when reading, students also need the opportunity to hone these skills via writing practice. With a well-planned set of exercises, Pear Deck is a great place for students to practice grammar skills through written response.

Diagnosing the Problem Areas

In order for me to properly set up this Pear Deck activity, we first began with a quick 20 question diagnostic assessment on conventions. The assessment we utilized came as part of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt‘s online suite of Collections products at my.hrw.com. If you don’t have access to my.hrw.com, try using an online quiz like the one here in Quia. The results of our quiz gave me an entry point for beginning our language conventions review. 

Note: We used Strunk & White’s Elements of Style as our unit resource to help us understand and review the rules for commas and possessives in the days prior to this activity. We also looked at some comma and possessive use within our current class text, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. We even began with a debate about whether or not the title needs a comma!

Now, I probably didn’t need a diagnostic assessment to know that these were my students’ greatest weaknesses; but it was confirmation anyway. Not to mention, a diagnostic is a really great piece of data to have if your admin drops in for a walkthrough, or if you know you have a formal evaluation coming up soon. Data driven instruction, right?!

So, where did the data say we needed to start? Yep, you guessed it: commas…and possessives, too.

I Like Cooking My Family and My Pets.

Anyone who has ever read the average American 10th or 11th grade composition knows that high school kids don’t use commas. While their spoken language may be English, their written language is Run-On. And if you ask them what serial commas are, with a questioning look and shrugged shoulders, they might answer, “psychotic word killers?”  

Just like commas are a challenge, possessives pose a whole other set of problems for teens. Introduce them to the form that includes examples like “Charles’s mom,” “witches’ brooms,” and “Moses’ laws,” and they are on the edge of a brain implosion! As their teacher, if I don’t make this fun, it will be “Game Over” before we even begin.

Enter, Pear Deck!

Pear Deck Comma & Possessives Practice for ACT Prep

The steps below outline a fun, fast-paced team activity that any student will enjoy, especially the competitive ones! This particular activity was designed to help students practice and review comma and possessive usage, but it can be modified to fit nearly any language skills review. 

Follow these easy steps and, I promise, your students will have a blast!

  1. Create a new Google Slide deck and open the Pear Deck add-on.

If you don’t have the add-on, click here for instructions on how to add it in Google Slides. 

  1. Begin building a series of slides in which each one contains an incorrect sentence example with improper comma or possessive usage, or…Click here for a link to a Pear Deck that I created for this activity.* (P.S. It’s a view only Google Slide deck, so you’ll need to have a Google account to copy and edit it.)

*Students will be correcting these sentences as part of this activity, so the sentences on the slide are meant to be incorrect. The answers are in the presenter’s notes field at the bottom of each slide.

  1. When your slides are complete and ready to go, break your students into groups of 3 or 4. Make sure each person in the group has a sheet of paper and a writing instrument. 

(This is a team activity, but requiring each student to record their own response gives you something tangible to evaluate for each student, so that you can see you their individual responses to the grammar problems presented.)

At this point, you can allow students to give themselves team names, or you could simply assign them numbers, i.e., Team 1, Team 2, and so on.

  1. During this activity, one student will be in charge of entering the team’s response into the Pear Deck slide. This student must join your Pear Deck at joinpd.com by using the code you provide them:

While only one computer per team is involved for this activity, students must understand this is still a collaborative effort. Circulating the room while they work will help to keep them focused and engaged. 

Other than the one computer, no other technology is permitted. Students cannot look up answers to the grammar issues presented.

  1. Before getting started, on page one of the Pear Deck, have your student teams work together to review the rules of comma and possessive usage. Each group can type their responses into the Pear Deck answer box and you can review them as a class.

The Race Is On!

  1. Once students are assembled in groups* and are prepared to write and collaborate, you can project the first incorrect sentence on the board so students can easily see it.

*Make sure your students are situated in a way that allows them to collaborate with one another, face-to-face, but where they can also easily read the presentation sentences. Encourage them to move whatever is in their way to allow them to work together as a strong team!

  1. Once each group has finished their collaboration and once everyone has a sentence on their  paper, the students assigned to typing each teams’ response will begin typing their responses into the Pear Deck. Make sure the team representative puts their team’s name or number before their response so you know which team has the first correct answer.

In order for a response to be considered correct, the ENTIRE sentence must be correctly written, including capitalization, spelling, end punctuation, and whatever concept is the central focus, in this case commas and possessives.

The first group to get the sentence completely correct will earn a point for that round.

  1. If no one gets a sentence correct the first time around, you may offer them a hint and let them try again, or you could simply give them the correct answer and move to the next incorrect sentence without assigning any points. This is where you, the teacher, can tailor the rules of the game to meet the needs of your students.

Play for as long as you like, and if time runs out, simply save your session in Pear Deck. You can always come back to it later!

And the Winner Is….

At the end of the game, you can decide what you’d like to offer your winning students as a prize. For secondary students, here are some great incentives that will keep them motivated and engaged during game play:

  • Earbuds / Music for a designated time period during class
  • Extra credit points in the gradebook
  • Early release to lunch (they’ll love this one–especially last lunch kiddos!)
  • Brain break time (Rubik’s cube, online games, boardgame play, etc.)
  • Choose item from supply box: notebooks, folders, pencils, pens, erasers, etc.
  • Solo library time (with permission from the Librarian, of course!)

There are so many great, free rewards for students in any gradeband that are just a Google search away!

Again, while I designed this activity for the purposes of reviewing comma and possessives in English language conventions, you can use it for whatever grammar review is required. Simply make a copy of the Pear Deck and tailor its contents to meet your students’ educational needs!

Have fun learning and growing your students!

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ACT Prep, conventions, English, games, high school

Dawn Harris

Dawn Harris

I am a Secondary English Educator in SW Ohio & Associate Professor at Wright State University in the Graduate Teaching Program. I enjoy writing and presenting about all things education.

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