Monitoring Progress in Schoology

I spent time this week working my way through Monica Burns’ new book #FormativeTech: Meaningful, Sustainable, and Scalable Formative Assessment with technology.

In this book, Burns’ writing meets the needs any educator, be it the new teacher wanting to get a handle on the importance of formative assessment, the teacher new to technology looking to leverage the power of apps, or the teacher who sees themselves seasoned in both formative assessment and technology’s power to get feedback from his or her students.

I’m leaving this book with this thought: We cannot talk about formative assessment enough. According to Fisher and Frey, we need to engage in formative assessment every five to ten minutes (qtd. in Burns loc. 246). I’m staggered by this.

As I’ve written about before in my blog, as a technology integrator, I’m working to find ways to continue to use the tools we know how to use to do the things we want, rather than find new tools that we have to learn, purchase, and use with students. At Canandaigua, we’re continually finding new ways to put Schoology to use to help us with this.

Below is a short Tech Tip I made to help teachers see how we can use Schoology as a formative assessment tool when working with them on long-term projects.

It’s no new news that to use technology effectively, it needs to be driven by solid pedagogical objectives. When I said, above, that we can’t spend enough time talking about formative assessment, I mean it. We can help teachers see the power in tools like Schoology, Schoology assessment, Kahoot, Quizziz, Recap, Mentimeter by reminding them that constant check-in with students is necessary.



Inform CA!


It’s been a busy couple of weeks in English 103. Kids have been making Google Sites to inform on issues, creating ads to bring traffic to those sites, and building surveys to collect information from peers on those issues. Yesterday, the project went live and public. Ads were posted in our school’s central atrium, for ease of access for the eighty-plus students in this class, and at the same time, opened these sites and surveys to the entire faculty and student body.

My motivation for this project


Details About the Process

At the start, we told students that they had to create a web-site to inform peers about an important problem within the issues they were researching, that they would have to make an ad, and develop a survey to collect opinions of the peers on these issues. I’ve found in this project, those first days are the challenge as there are a lot of pieces for students to digest.

To keep things organized, all of the content and resource material are housed in Schoology. While we put these materials in as a series of steps, students jumped around between tasks and steps as they needed to. Little direction instruction was given. Instead, students watch videos, completed readings, and as teacher, I walked around to provide assistance and answer questions. If you look below, you’ll see the layout.

informca schoology

This project was done by students over the course of 2 weeks. We originally aimed for a week and a half, but students needed time.


Below are some pictures of ads that students created.



Reflections and Future


Cilantro & a Reading Round-up

Several books have come across my desk that I’d like to write about briefly.

The first is Beyond Literary Analysis by Allision Marchetti (@allisonmarchett) and Rebekah O’Dell (@RebekahODell1).

As I’ve written about these writers and what I’ve learned from them in the past on this blog, particularly around infographics. I’m a huge fan of their work and the Moving Writers blog. When I learned that they were writing a book about literary analysis, I flipped.

After over twenty-one years as an English teacher, most of the them teaching courses like AP Literature, English 102, and IB English Literature HL, I’m starting to feel pretty spent teaching literary analysis and explication.

Knowing that their book was coming, I had a feeling that I’d be rewarded in the reading, and be given ways to breath new life into analysis for students and for myself. That feeling proved true when the book arrived and I dove in. Full disclosure, I started the book on the beaches of Playa Mujeres, just north of Cancun in Mexico during winter break. I wasn’t going to work over break, but I just had to read this book. In writing my review I might be experiencing  a strange synthesisia of white pages, good writing, sunscreen and cilantro.

If you are familiar with Marchetti and O’Dell’s work you know that they preach the gospel of the mentor text. Not familiar? Well, the concept is simple enough. Have students read the work of professional writers, identify the moves made by these writers, and work to replicate it in their own work. Makes sense, no?

Beyond Literary Analysis is broken into three main sections, making for clear reading when reading from cover to cover, but if you are looking to surf the book, each section provides distinct information.

First, Marchetti and O’Dell redefine analysis into 4 simple parts.

Second, this book is practical. They focus on the common issues found when working with the four parts of analyssi in student writing, provide a chart of these issues, and then activities for each of these issues.

Here is an example of such a chart:


Each of the exercises or protocols to improve writing is described on a later page.

In the third part of the book, there’s a close look at specific analysis assignment with different kinds of texts.

Throughout the book, these writers give lots of examples of student work and the moves that writers can make. Excellent models to use when working with students.

I’ll be honest. This is a book that I’ll reread over the summer, and put into action next year. While certainly, the strategies provided can be a savior when you are looking for dealing with a problem tomorrow, what I love about these writers is that they approach the concept of mentor texts as an entire driving philosophy that makes for good writing program. My IB kids are 5 weeks away from examining. We’re engaging in full on-slaught exam prep, so looking at analysis in NPR blogs or Radio lab podcasts isn’t where I’m going to focus my energy. Still, these teachers give us a way of approaching a curriculum and working with students over months.

Plus, I’m thinking about bringing back reading-logs. I want kids reading and reflecting and engaging in mentor text work on a regular basis. The sustained change in the practice of teaching analysis and getting kids to produce it, i’m not looking for the Friday bandaid. I want to practice in sustainable change. While I hated reading-logs when I first started teaching, and quickly abandoned them, I want students consuming input on a regular basis and reflecting on what they are learning about these texts as writers. Some form of reading-log combined with blog post may be a way to do this.

I also got to read Angela Stockman’s (@AngelaStockmanHacking the Writing Workshop. I’ve been into Stockman’s work for a couple of years now since I read her first book. Stockman is very accessible on Twitter and friendly at Edcamps.

Like other books in the Hack Learning series, Stockman’s new book offers concrete suggestions both in the book as well as with QR codes, which take the reader to shared Google Drive folders with additional resources. Reading this book was a multimedia extravaganza where I read and highlighted the book, and zapped QR codes on my Chromebook.

If you are looking to start a workshop, or looking to reinvent what you do currently, this is the book for you. Here at Canandaigua Academy, we are slowly working to redesign one of our classrooms to be a project-based, learning space with flexible seating. Stockman’s book will help us elevate that space into a room that works to foster productive work for students.

These books are made by writers who get the teaching profession. I believe they know the needs and temperament of the weary, March-drained teacher, much because I suspect that they live these lives themselves. As such, these books are straight-forward, practical, and give you stuff to work with immediately, if that’s your need.



Helping Them Navigate the Fake News Conundrum

Part 1: The Instructional Stuff

So, I came to the part of English 103 when we teach evaluative writing. This culminates in students creating Annotated Bibliographies on the sources they’ve been reading for research.

Leading up to this, we examine criteria associated with evaluation of sources, and how authorship, currency, domain, evidence impact the validity of sources and arguments.  We explore various resources on the web for collecting source material–students compare Google, online databases accessed through our library, the DMOZ, and Google News. They consider the kinds of information they find in each of these spaces and how each of these tools might be valuable in different research contexts.

These activities are par for a course on research. But, I had a couple of other things in play this year that forced some additional class time, but opened up some powerful conversations. More on this in Part 2, below.

First, I am working on my Common Sense Media (CSM)Teacher Certification, so I was looking to bring in instruction in that focused towards this end, and incorporated some parts of the vast wealth of resources found at I would say this is one of the go-to places for developing media awareness and literacy. As an educator, if you are trying to figure out how to work with your community, you have to start here.

Second, I wanted to do work with students around the concept of fake news. I wanted to help them define what this is, how to spot it when it’s happening. I wanted to bring into the conversation words like perspective and bias. At the start of this conversation, students let me know that this was a topic that they were very much interested and concerned about. Many felt the inability to detect fake news or how to separate inaccuracies and falsehoods from

At CSM, they have a set of pre-created lessons on Fake News, which culminate in student making web-based products called “Digital Bytes.” I found one of these units on Fake News. However, I wasn’t too keen on just sending my students there, so I borrowed their material and repackaged and organized it in Schoology.

Screenshot 2018-03-23 at 10.37.21 AM


This allowed me to be guided by the CSM materials, use their ideas and videos as a jumping off point while giving it to students in a format they were familiar with.

What we did:

  1. Watched videos on internet hoaxes, and then had a discussion in Schoology focusing on our own experiences with sham stories and the internet.
  2. Did close readings and analysis of “fake news stories,” and students generated lists of characteristics of fake news. We combined these lists into a master list of “fake news” characteristics.
  3. Created Google Sites of fake animals, like this one about the Northwest Pacific Tree Octopus, and students had to use a required number of “fake news” characteristics. They published these sites so that peers could read them. These are available for world-wide consumption, because Sites allows for the audience to be inside of our school domain.
  4. Students went on to engage in evaluation of sources.

Looking back on this, I feel like this is some of the most important work I did with students all year, and I’m getting to the part that was super important. Students started this exploration saying that they weren’t sure how to identify fake news, to creating lists of characteristics, to producing it.

Part 2: The Interesting Part

The instructional stuff came a week after the mass shootings in Parkland, Florida. The media was full of debate about school shootings, gun control, school safety, arming teachers with firearms.

It’s easy in the midst of all of this washing over us, to forget that children are getting the same exposure.

Our superintendent, Jamie Farr (@BravesSupt), was interviewed by local TV as part of coverage of how schools were operating in the wake of what happened in Florida. Shortly after the story aired, Farr wrote to community members, expressing dismay at how the coverage was inaccurate to his interview.

We were directly in the midst of fake news. My colleague, Tallie Giuliano (@TallieGiuliano) suggested we invite Farr to our classes to discuss the media coverage and his reaction. We did.

What followed was a day of kids asking really good questions about media, school safety, mental health. Their questions were thoughtful, concerned.


What started as an intended look at source evaluation and writing an annotated bibliography, turned into an experience of critical reading on the web, media creation, real-world connection, working with adult-expert speakers, and thinking about our consumption.