Edge Enterprises, Inc.
CD (Program also available on a flash drive for an additional charge of $6.00)
Is this a restrictive adjective clause or a nonrestrictive one? Where do I put a comma in a quotation? Does this appositive need commas around it? Sometimes, all this terminology is confusing and complex. Fortunately, this computerized instructional program boils it all down to some simple rhymed phrases like, “Commas like to take out the trash!” Indeed, this program simplifies everything into six easy commas lessons that students can work through at their own pace. Students learn a simple poem that helps them remember the comma rules, and they learn a strategy for each rule. Included in the program are an instructor’s manual, the instructional program, and all the materials (e.g., pretest, posttest, handouts, worksheets, answer keys) needed for the program that can be printed out, if necessary. Nevertheless, students can print the materials themselves as needed at various points in the program if their computers are connected to a printer.
For the most part, students can work through the program independently since the program provides feedback on student performance during all computerized activities. An instructor is needed to score papers and provide feedback toward the end of each lesson when students must write sentences that demonstrate their use of the comma rules. Additionally, the instructor administers quizzes at certain points to check student understanding and provides “pass codes” that allow a student to progress from one part of the program to another once a rule has been mastered by the student. The program has been very successful in teaching students to find comma errors in others’ writing and to use the comma rules in their own writing. All ages can benefit, starting with fifth or sixth graders through college. With purchase of each digital program is a license to download it onto eight computers.
Edge Enterprises, Inc.
CD (Program also available on a flash drive for an additional charge of $6.00)
The Comma Strategies Program is an interactive multimedia program that students can use to learn how to use commas in their writing. Two studies have been conducted on this program. In the first study, 12 students with LD participated in a multiple-baseline across-students design. The students were enrolled in grades 9 -12.
Two measures were gathered in this study. Students took a series of tests. Each test was comprised of 25 sentences in which students had to insert commas in order to make the sentences correct. They also wrote their own sentences to demonstrate their understanding and use of commas.
Figure 1 displays the mean percentage of commas errors students corrected in sentences as well as the mean percentage of comma rules they demonstrated correctly during baseline and after instruction. The mean baseline test score on the commas correction test was 40% (range = 16% to 72%). The mean post-instruction score was 71.89% (range = 48% to 96%). The mean test score on the final test administered after students had completed the whole program was 78.67% (range = 52% to 96%). The effect size was 4.5, calculated using Cohen’s d which was adjusted for the correlation between the pretest and posttest scores. This is a very large effect size.
With regard to demonstrating use of the commas rules, the mean baseline test score was 9.52% (range = 0% to 50%). The mean post-instruction score was 64.83% (range = 25% to 100%). The mean test score on the final test administered after students had completed the program was 89.58% (range = 75% to 100%). The effect size was 3.1, calculated using Cohen’s d. Again, this is a very large effect size.
This study was a larger field test of the Comma Strategies Program than Study 1. A total of 82 middle-school students and 41 high-school students with LD participated. They were randomly selected into an experimental and a control group at each level of schooling. Students in the experimental group worked through the Comma Strategies Program. Students in the control group worked through another CD program for the same amount of instructional time. A pretest-posttest control-group design was used.
Figure 2 displays the pretest and posttest results for middle-school and high-school students on the test where students inserted commas into sentences to correct errors. The mean percentage of errors that both experimental and control students corrected on their pretests was 36%. On the posttest, the whole group of experimental students corrected an average of 90% of the commas errors, and the whole group of control students corrected an average of 36% of the errors. The experimental students’ results (M = 90%) compared favorably to the results of same-age comparison students without disabilities who inserted a mean of 50% of the missing commas correctly without instruction. An ANCOVA indicated that the difference between the two groups of students on the posttest was significant [F(1,120) = 497.28, p < .0005], in favor of the experimental group. The effect size (partial eta squared) was .806, a very large effect. There was no difference in the way the middle-school students and high-school students responded to the program. (See Figure 2 for the results for the middle-school and high-school students.)
Figure 3 displays the pretest and posttest results for the test where middle-school and high-school students demonstrated use of commas in their own writing. On the pretest, averages of 10% and 11% of the commas rules were demonstrated correctly by the whole groups of experimental and control students, respectively. On the posttest, the whole group of experimental students demonstrated 92% of the commas rules correctly, whereas the whole group of control students demonstrated 15% of the rules correctly, on average. Again, the difference between the two groups of students on the posttest was significant [F(1,120) = 943.66, p < .0005], in favor of the experimental group. The effect size for the difference (partial eta squared) was .887, also representing a very large effect. No differences were found between the middle school and high school students’ performances.
The Commas Strategies CD program is an effective means of teaching comma strategies to students with LD. All students reached mastery on all the lessons in the program. Experimental students’ use of the strategies increased from pretest to posttest, and their posttest scores far exceeded the scores of a control group and a same-age comparison group of students without LD. Experimental students’ posttest scores were significantly different from the posttest scores of the control students after the pretest scores were used as a covariate. Effect sizes were very large across the measures. Since no differences were found between middle-school and high-school students’ scores, the program appears to be equally effective for students at both school levels.
Schumaker, J. B., & Walsh, L. (2008). Effects of a hypermedia program on the use of commas by students with learning disabilities. Phase II Continuation Report for SBIR Grant #5 R44 HD043618-03.
Jean B. Schumaker, Ph.D.
My Background and Interests
I grew up with a concern for children who need special help. One of my earliest experiences was organizing birthday parties for children with disabilities at the Matheny Medical and Educational Center in New Jersey. After the birthday parties were over and all the decorations had been cleaned up, I spent time with the children, putting them to bed, reading to and talking with them, and singing to them. Through those experiences and others as a camp counselor, I found that I loved being with children and teaching them. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to be a clinical psychologist, and I went to college and graduate school with that goal in mind. However, along the way, I got hooked on doing research! In particular, I got hooked on research related to ensuring that children learn. I’ve worked with children in schools, group homes, hospitals, and clinical settings. Across all those experiences, I’ve learned that all children can learn. I’ve learned that, if we hold high expectations for them and use special teaching methods, they usually meet those expectations. I continue to do research with the goal of helping teachers teach and students learn.
The Story Behind the Commas Strategies Software Program
I started developing instructional programs for writing skills in the 1970s when I was a graduate student at the University of Kansas. My graduate program required me to take part in an internship at the probation department of the Douglas County Juvenile Court in Kansas. I was assigned several cases of truant secondary students. In working with these students, I learned that they could not write. They told me that one of the reasons they avoided school was that they were embarrassed because they could not complete the work assigned to them. I also learned that there were no instructional programs available to teach them writing in an intensive way. I embarked on a journey of developing writing programs that continues to this day. Over the years, my colleagues and I have developed and tested programs for teaching students to write sentences, paragraphs, and themes, and to check their work for errors.
Nevertheless, even though these programs are very successful in teaching students the skills targeted for these programs, I realized that students still did not use many of the complex rules associated with the mechanics of writing, and that they were being required to apply those rules on state writing competency exams and college entrance exams. We began to work on the development of programs to teach students sophisticated rules associated with the mechanics of writing such as comma use. We also wondered whether we could teach students to apply these rules by teaching them cognitive strategies through the use of a computer program.
My Thoughts about Strategic Instruction
Strategic instruction is one of the few instructional methods that have been shown to be effective through empirical research to produce student improvement in learning and in academic performance for at-risk students. The study conducted on the Commas Strategies Program showed that a variety of students, including junior-high and senior-high students, students with disabilities, and students representing a variety of minority populations could learn to apply complex comma rules to edit someone else’s written work and within their own writing. Moreover, their performance exceeded the performance of normally achieving peers on comma tasks.
Teacher and Student Feedback on the Commas Strategies Program
Teachers and students have been very positive about this program. Teachers report that students not only learn to write by using the program, but that their reading skills improve as well. They report that navigating through the program is very intuitive and that students immediately are able to work through it with a minimum of instruction. Teachers have used the program in a variety of settings including general education English classes, resource rooms, and after-school programs.
My Contact Information
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