I have favorites that I tend to use over and over.
I think having something eye-catching and fun helps the tone of a course and especially in an online only course, it helps with class culture.
I use a lot of gifs and memes in weekly announcements as well. Because they ARE fun. And I like finding course related things.
Another hold over from teaching for that high school, I do keep a running Google Doc of announcements, so if I found something really cool I can reuse it.
But for this post, I wanted to talk about and share the Web 2.0 tools I use, and what formative assessments I use in class. I've posted about the big assignments in class, but I want to share the building blocks that get us there.
Some of these are programs where you can provide/screenshot an image, some you can embed right into your course. The embedding of the html code is super easy, just copy and paste.
Web 2.0 Tools
Bit Strips: I love this program. It's easy to use, free, and fun. You choose your panel size, then fill in the background, your avatar, and type in your dialogue. I made this one to post in announcements a change to how I'm doing movie nights.
Voki: The kids don't always like these, they've told me that the fact that the eyes follow your cursor freaks them out. I love it. This one is more dramatic, but you can also have "normal" ones. I usually choose an avatar that resembles me. I like to use these for introductions to modules. I type in the text, which I then also copy and paste into the module text for accessibility.
Fotobabble: This is a cool tool for art responses, which I like to do a lot with. Students can choose a photo and then record their analysis. This would also work really well for movie or tv classes where students could screenshot a scene and analyze it. I made this one for announcements for Twelfth Night, as we focused on the cross dressing aspects of the play. It's a fun tweak on just copying and pasting the art in a discussion board.
Flipsnack: This is a fun one because you just upload images, then can type in text to make the book. I made this one as a fun introduction to Twelfth Night. It works great for intros. I also made one that walked students through how to analyze a line from Midsummer.
Other programs I like:
- Animoto is great for intro videos although the free version time limits you.
- SlideShare, Google Presentation, Haiku, Brainshark, Prezi all provide fun ways to embed presentations.
- I also really like Blendspace for mini-lessons.
- Dipity makes great online timelines
- Glogster makes great online posters
These programs are fun for announcements but I wouldn't classify them as instructional:
- Countdown clocks
- Flaming Text
Formative Assignments: I assign usually two assignments a week that are prep, or practice for larger assignments. A lot of times I split the difference between a discussion board plus a submitted assignment.
All of these assignments are participation grades, low stakes worth 15% of the final grade (and we end up with something like 35, 40, so a few missed ones also don't hurt). They are usually graded on completion, following directions, with emphasis more on the feedback I give and applying the lessons moving forward.
- One of my all time favorites is the Dialectical Journal. This version is a variation of Jim Burke's. This is a great way to introduce students to how to analyze pieces. I introduce it early in the course (with our first play) and then build on this. It also emphasizes revisiting lines to unpack them which I like. It also walks students through HOW to analyze, which is good for students who are unsure.
- The Dialectical Journal also preps students for our first big paper, a close reading. After they submitted the journal, they also analyzed Puck's last speech. In Twelfth Night, they chose quotes that referred to cross-dressing, then had more close reading practice. I provided this image/example for them before they were given this assignment, to practice close reading. The instructions for this were to write two paragraphs, one that analyzed the lines, and then the second one needed to talk about how that line represented the play as a whole.
- I also like the Character Wheel, which also has an emphasis on the textual evidence. There were some issues with this so far as formatting with the text in the circles but the instructions did say students could type on it or print out, write the answers, and then take a picture of the work to upload. There didn't seem to be any issues, the students adapted. In the future, I might make it squares so it's easier to type in. Also, while there was no filled in example in the course, I did end up scanning the example from Jim Burke's English Teacher's Companion and emailing it to students who asked.
- For some assignments, since these are formative, in their feedback I provide examples and say something like, "now check your timeline against the one provided, did you get them all? Were there any differences?" This encourages students to check their work in addition to using the feedback to improve.
- I tried to bridge the close reading with the thematic paper. This assignment starts with the close reading, but then builds on the work we've done of "talk about how it represents the play as a whole." So this practice builds on what we've done, and then leads to the next step, the organizer.
- Since the next big assignment after the close reading is a thematic paper, so I've provided some organizers for them to use. Since this is later in the course, these aren't required, but suggested. It helps them see what the assignment requires, and how to get there.
- So our play order is A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice, Titus Andronicus.
- We practiced close readings during Midsummer, Twelfth Night and Hamlet. The close reading paper was due after Hamlet.
- The thematic paper was due after The Merchant of Venice.
- The final paper, project is due after Titus Andronicus.
- Each assignment, and the formative assessments in each play module builds on the previous. I encourage students to build on their close reading for their thematic, and
even for their final. They don't have to revisit the same ideas, but I tell them they can if they like the ideas.
- Since this is a new course, and this is the first semester, some formative assessments are added after the fact, for the next time I teach it, and since I built this shell for the department. One of the comments on the beginning survey was that students wished for a FAQ or something for the beginning of class. So I added this, with the most common questions asked as the game.
- I tend to make notes about changes (like to movie nights, rethinking Twitter) on my notes, but add formative assessments as I go. This is a work load thing- it's easy to change language on the syllabus, building extra assignments are a little more work, and I want the course "complete" by the end of the semester when I archive it.
So what formative assessments do you use in your course as a way to get them to where they need to be?
How do you build up to the big assignments?
How do you create assignments to teach students the skills they need to succeed?