5 Ways to Use A Classroom Blog During Formative Assessment

Posted by Matt Berringer on March 4, 2015

by Heather MacCorkle Edick, M.S.Ed
Part 3 of 3

Formative AssessmentBefore asking minors to post anything online, make sure that you have received permission from administrators and parents/guardians.

How can you use a classroom blog during formative assessment? Here are five ways:

To Deliver a Bell-Ringer Assignment
At the beginning of class, any number of things could happen. Students need to ask the teacher questions, so they stroll up to the teacher’s desk. The teacher needs to take attendance, so she is trying to answer the question as she rubbernecks around the student to see who is in their seats already. Students see that the teacher is distracted, so they start talking to each other about the game last night or that party they are going to this weekend. The noise level rises, and the minutes tick by until five minutes of a forty-five minute period has been wasted on what we call “housekeeping” issues.

Instead of that, try posting a bell-ringer assignment to the classroom blog and create a routine for your class that includes going to the classroom blog at the beginning of the period. The assignment should be relevant, meaning it is aligned to the learning objectives and standards of the unit you and your students are working on. It should not take just a few seconds to do, either, but no longer than five or 10 minutes. Some examples of bell-ringer assignments include: writing prompts, a problem set based on the math concept the students are studying, an ungraded quiz built using a poll plugin, and a riddle about a scientific topic that the students need to solve. There are many sites on the Internet that can give you ideas for bell-ringers. Instead of asking students to write their answers on paper, have them use the comments section of the blog to submit their answers. In the case of a poll quiz, students can usually submit their answers using the poll embedded in the post.

After the students finish the poll or quiz, the teacher can present the results to the class and open the floor for discussion.

To Deliver a Homework Assignment
Click this link to see an example of a homework assignment delivered using a classroom blog. In this example, I pretended that I was in a traditional classroom. Our lecture that day had been about the short story element called “conflict.” I gave them a recap of the lecture then asked them to read the story The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry and respond to the post with the conflict(s) they discovered in the story and to explain their answer. None of the comments will be visible until I approve them, so I can control which comments end up on the blog and which do not. As I review the comments, I can assess the students’ learning, make changes to instruction if necessary, or celebrate their accomplishment with them during the next class.

To Deliver a Lecture at Home
Your blog can become home to lectures that you record and upload to Screencast.com, YouTube, Vimeo, SlideShare, Reveal.js, Office Mix, or any other site. You might use many products to create your lectures, so why not have one central place to store links to them? That makes it easier for you and for the students in the long-term. Storing links to them along with other materials makes the most of blogging platforms such as WordPress, which are really content management systems that people overwhelmingly use just for blogs. WordPress has so many more capabilities, many of which I'm just starting to discover.

Here’s an example of a post that contains a YouTube video called Training the Accidental Trainer Lecturette. After creating the slides and recording the video, I uploaded the video to YouTube. Then, I created a post, embedded the video, and wrote a short description of the purpose of the video below it. If I'd wanted to check students’ understanding of the content, I could have added a poll or a quiz to the post for them to complete or asked them to answer some questions using the comments section.

Since formative assessment is a process that requires communication between teachers and students, it’s good to mention that you also can reply to comments. Usually, the person who made the original comment receives the reply through email. This is a great way to give your students feedback and encouragement.

As a side note: Posts can be tagged with keywords to make them easier to find and organized according to category so they display on “Pages” within your site. So, you could have a page for homework, lectures, Bell-Ringer Assignments, Projects, or whatever other category makes sense to you.

To Record Team Meeting Minutes
If your students are working on a team project, ask the note taker to record the team minutes in a blog post and let them know you are monitoring the posts. As an administrator, you would be able to see these drafts when you want so while they are working in a team and the note taker is recording the minutes you will be able to follow along. The trick to this would be to preview the post instead of viewing it in the editor. Refresh the post every few minutes or so. Be ready to jump in when you see an issue brewing within the team. This is a great way to assess students’ listening and collaborative skills and help students become better teammates with constructive feedback.

I guarantee that the students will be excellent note takers by the end of their time with you, if they know you are watching. Well, all right, perhaps not. One can dream though, right?

To Create Learning/Response Logs (Journals)
This last suggestion might actually have been the first one you thought of. Students can use the classroom blog for journal entries if they are in your system as contributors. Once they submit their journal entry, it goes into a “Pending Review” status. Well, it does on WordPress, anyway.

As the administrator, you are then able to read those posts and make comments on them using the comments box provided. This allows for collaboration between you and the student on all sorts of topics: writing skills, grammar, spelling, thought process, organizational skills, the content you are working on, and the list goes on. You can ask the student to edit their work according to your suggestions, and recommend ways they can improve their writing and organizational skills. As the students practice writing these journal entries and receive your guidance, they will become better writers and thinkers.

You do not have to publish these posts, although you might want to publish the stellar ones. That would be up to you and the student.

I'm sure there are many other ways to use a classroom blog during formative assessment. I welcome your comments below.

Heather MacCorkle Edick, M.S.Ed, is Team Lead—Staff Education, SunGard K-12 Education. She blogs regularly at THIS LINK.

Topics: Formative Assessments