Improve Student Writing and Grammar with Quill

  • Aug 10, 2016


Developments in education technology are growing more exciting every year, and, for me, never more exciting than when the most cutting-edge technology is harnessed to help teachers hammer home the most fundamental aspects of education.

Like literacy, for example, and a digital platform called Quill that’s brilliantly using technology to strengthen core language skills.

Quill is a free, easy-to-use application designed to help students develop their writing, grammar, and proofreading proficiency. It’s currently being used by over 100,000 students and 4,000 teachers nationwide, and it’s making a real difference in classrooms. How do we know? We’ve heard it from teachers.

“I’ve seen tremendous improvement in the proficiency of my students and the quality of their writing,” says Daniel Scibienski of Princeton Public Schools. “At the beginning of the year, my students were able to write using the basic fundamentals of the English language. By the end, after using Quill, my students were able to correctly write essays with consistent tone throughout and even intentionally use parallel structure to their advantage.”

Teacher Randall L. Carswell of Charlotte, North Carolina has been equally impressed. “I appreciate the fact that students are required to slow down, check spelling, punctuation and the grammar lesson at hand in order to score “GREEN!” I am noticing a much better effort by my students in their other activities, whether it be writing or literature, they seem to pay closer attention leading to a stronger performance.”

So how does Quill work? After an easy set-up process teachers can assign any of over 150 language activities which are built to Common Core standards. Each of these activities takes about 10 minutes to complete, and upon completion the students receive instant feedback on their work. Moreover, teachers and administrators receive real-time data on student progress via an in-app dashboard, so everybody’s on the same page.

And did we mention that it’s free?

“All of our lessons are free and will continue to be free in the future,” says Tom Calabrese, Quill’s cofounder and creative director. “And we recently launched a premium service which allows educators the ability to gain even more in-depth student reporting. You can sign up for a 30-day trial.”

Check out the video below for more on Quill, and be sure to visit their official website.

And to help us keep you informed about other great free educational programs and resources, bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Supporting Student Writing

  • Aug 04, 2016


Reading and writing are foundational to education, and today we’re both proud and happy to let you know about a student literacy project being undertaken by our colleagues at AT&T.

Through its signature philanthropic initiative, AT&T Aspire, AT&T is teaming-up with the non-profit tutoring and mentoring group 826 National to help students explore their potential as authors—seeing them through every aspect of the creation of their own books. And toward this end, in addition to a financial contribution, the company is making available the greatest resource there is: people. AT&T employees will volunteer as mentors to help students through the process.

Read all about it right here.

And to help us keep you informed about other great free educational opportunities and resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


Grammar School

  • Mar 03, 2016


“Avoid commas, that are unnecessary.”
                                                 —William Safire

If you get the joke, chances are you’ll see the value of No Nonsense Grammar, a series of downloadable videos and lesson plans available free of charge from PBS LearningMedia for Students.

The materials, which are aimed at elementary and middle-school students, are divided into five categories: Punctuation; Capitalization & Spelling; Verb Tense, Mood & Voice; Usage; and Sentence Structure. The videos are humorous and engaging (see screen grabs, below), and the accompanying materials—which include standards-based lesson plans, activities, and handouts—are well organized and easily digestible. All in all, it’s yet another fine educational offering from the good folks at PBS.

Check out the collection for yourself. Visit No Nonsese Grammar today.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


Collective Noun

Great Opportunity for Student Writers

  • Nov 12, 2015


Teachers, do you have any talented young writers in your classroom? It’s possible. And wouldn’t you just love to be perhaps the first person in their lives to tell them they’ve got a gift?

If so, we’d encourage you to check out Scholastic’s annual Kids Are Authors competition, a wonderful opportunity for young writers and artists to pursue their crafts together on a serious level and possibly even get published!

The contest is open to all students grades K-8 in the United States, including its territories and possessions, and the deadline for submission is March 15th, 2016. There are two categories, Fiction and Non-Fiction, and the two grand-prize-winning illustrated books (21-29 pages) will be published by Scholastic and sold at Book Fairs throughout the country.

By the way, according to Scholastic this will be the final year for the competition, so now’s your chance!

For more information visit the official Kids Are Authors web site.

And to find out about other great free educational resources and opportunities, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


Good News

  • Oct 28, 2015


“We are all journalists now.”

Chances are you’ve run across that statement somewhere. More and more people are saying it, because it’s true. The line has been blurred. No longer do the professionals have a monopoly on published information. Whether you’re blogging or tweeting or posting things on Facebook, you are functioning—for all practical purposes—as a journalist.

But the question is: Are you a “responsible” journalist? Is the information you are publishing true, or propaganda, or (heaven forbid) an outright lie?

It’s an important question when you consider that we are all, each of us, now living in a virtual sea of information, and information is the stuff people use to make decisions. Decisions that have consequences. Information is a powerful thing.

I believe this point is especially relevant for young people, most of whom haven’t yet compiled enough savvy to recognize that not everything they read is accurate, or even true. Moreover, young people are digital natives, more likely than any other group to both publish and receive information exclusively via the internet.

For this reason alone, I believe that media literacy and a core understanding of journalistic principles are essential to modern education. And to that end, I bring you news of a new trio of resources from PBS Learning Media designed to foster media literacy and responsible citizen journalism in students grades 9 through 12.

Presented as learning modules comprising standards-based classroom exercises and support materials for teachers, the available topics are:

Writing and Reporting/Collaborative Research
A primer on news writing and reporting.

Current Events Awareness/Media Literacy
Consuming news with a critical eye.

Persuasive Writing: Take a Stand
How to state ideas clearly and back them up with proof.

These lessons and more come your way free of charge as part of an exciting new educational effort from the Emmy-winning PBS news magazine series, NOW. We highly recommend that you check it out for yourself.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Summer Learning is Fun with WordGirl!

  • Jun 18, 2015


There’s a lot to be said for a superhero that not only fights crime with the aid of a monkey sidekick, but also helps kids build their reading, writing, and vocabulary skills.

That hero is WordGirl, and she’s out to take summer learning to a whole new level.

PBS Kids invites students K-3 to spend some fun time building their word power this summer with new episodes of WordGirl every Wednesday and Friday (check local PBS listings), accompanied by a free, downloadable Super Summer Fun Book filled with educational activities.

It’s also a great activity for families, one that will enhance a child’s education and help combat summer learning loss.

Check out the video playlist below for a sample of WordGirl’s word power.

And to stay abreast of other great educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio