When you think of the word “assessment” what comes to mind? I am sure many of us were assessed using multiple choice/scantron tests. I have, in fact, written many of these tests throughout the years. As easy as they are to grade, are they really assessing students in an effective way? I think it comes down to what we value as educators. Do I value memorization or application of skill? I can tell you that I certainly value application of skill more than I do memorization. Students can Google ANYTHING. But the real question for our students is what can they DO with the information they Google? Can they synthesize information to create new perspectives, arguments, and products? Can they craft new ideas? How can they use what they know to influence the thinking of others? Certainly I still am required to give my AP students the M/C practice on scantrons. However, I can prepare them through assignments like blogging and they see it as “fun” versus AP exam prep. You see, when they blog they become writers making choices for their purposes and audiences. When they take the M/C AP Lang exam they are analyzing the choices writers make for their purposes and audiences. As a result, they analyze nonfiction more effectively when they are writers of nonfiction themselves. Conclusion? Blog assignments are an alternative (and preferred!) means of assessment that require students to use technology. How can you use a blogging platform in your classroom?
I researched and found that Edublogs.org offered better control of student and class management that other platforms so I paid the $39.99 for the year. Blogger through Google and WordPress are two other options. I admitted to the students that although I keep a professional blog using wordpress.com, I had never used Edublogs. We jumped right in together to figure it all out. I think I have discussed in previous posts that it doesn’t matter if I don’t know how to masterfully use a piece of technology, the students are always willing to help. This is exactly what happened in class.
I gave some basic instructions and then put the technology in their hands. I have to admit that I didn’t keep up with the blogs as much as I should have in the fall. By spring, however, I figured out that they needed weekly blog prompts and inspiration to keep them (and me!) accountable. As a result, I wrote prompts each week based on the writing modes we studied and the mentor texts we read. They were allowed to choose the theme and topics they wrote about (because I am all about choice and creativity!). Here is why I love assessing students through their blogs:
- Students commit, feel ownership over the process, and take risks in their writing.
- They welcome this type of creative assessment while still
- They demonstrate their understanding of how to apply the skills outlined in the anchor standards
- They work toward master of Writing Standard 6:
Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
- They have an audience that spans far beyond the teacher.
- They improve in the area of digital literacy
- They write far more than I can possibly grade…and practice makes them better writers.
Here are some examples:
Blogging has allowed my students to send their voices into the world. This is why when Vanessa Perez (“Madame” to her students) invited me in to see her students blogging (in French!) I jumped at the chance!
I now turn over Hart Literacy to Madame Perez to impress us with her lesson and her fancy French…
Bonjour tout le monde!
I am in love with French: the musical tone, the poetic expressions, the mind-numbing idiosyncrasies, and the spell it casts upon the most mundane word, rendering it inspirational. My goal in the classroom, therefore, is to impart my love for the language upon my students, facilitating their personal journey towards language acquisition and the ability to effectively communicate. It is a challenging journey, but one wherein the enriching rewards last a lifetime. In order to help my French 3 students gain a deeper, more personal relationship with the language, I have them read the novel Jean de Florette by Marcel Pagnol. For most of my students, this is the first time they have ever read a story of this caliber in French. They always begin it with trepidation; unsure whether to believe that this could be a tale to which they will relate. At the end of the novel, however, they are emotionally invested, and find themselves asking important questions global citizens must consider, such as: For whom are we ultimately responsible?
The culminating activity for this unit involves students writing a blog from the perspective of a character from the novel. Each blog was required to have at least 15 posts (10 sentences each) from the character of their choice, and two comments per post from other characters. In addition, each blog had to include pages on the town in which the story takes place, historical information on the time period, and a bonus page wherein students had full control over the content (regional recipes are a popular choice). On the due date, students examine their classmates’ blogs, searching for interesting facts, and making peer assessments.
I find projects to be a requisite in my class, as they offer students an exciting method by which to express themselves, as well as to be assessed in their acquisition. The level of language fluency required to write a ten-sentence post from someone else’s perspective far surpasses that involved in choosing C on a scantron test. With language acquisition and effective communication in French as my goal for my students, I must continually challenge them with legitimate connection and realistic expression in the language. Through interesting projects like the Jean de Florette blog, I am able to foster a deep connection to literature, the desire to become responsible members of the global community, and the ability to successfully communicate in a language with which they, too, have hopefully grown to love.
Some candid, (and not-so-candid) shots from peer review day:
Sample pages from the blogs:
How would blogging work with your content area?
In what ways can you design alternate means of assessment for your students?
Contact me for ideas!