by M.K. Jarvis

Happy End of the First 9 Weeks!  You’ve probably just ended or are getting ready to end the first quarter of the school year.  One down, three to go.  I wanted to share a couple of activities my seventh graders and I have done in these last few weeks.  I have been using online surveys and discussions to engage my students while assessing whether or not they are comprehending the skills I’m teaching.  

 There is nothing new about online surveys and discussions, I know, but twelve-year-olds think they’re cool.  Anytime a seventh grader gets to talk to his friends and give his opinion, life is good. I use essential questions before and during lessons.  Sometimes I use them as a warm-up, but answering a question on paper or even in Schoology and submitting it is boring.  Answering a question and then seeing statistics and responses from the rest of the room is a little more interesting.  

I started out using a survey from SurveyMonkey to ask a couple of our unit’s essential questions about adventure and risk.  Are you adventurous?  Do you take risks?  What are the benefits of taking a risk?  I chose three yes/no questions and one short answer question.  It was super easy to set up and put the link to the survey in Schoology.  They loved taking it and then seeing the results.  

The cool things about the survey were …

  • It was easy to set up and can be used to assess understanding and gather opinions.  I can ask if they comprehend a skill or if they’re happy with the classroom status quo.  It’s anonymous, so they can answer honestly.
  • I can find out if they understand the meanings of words or phrases by the way they answer the question.  For example, in our survey, the short answer question was “What are the benefits of taking risks?”  Quite a few students answered broken bones or bruises or you might get in trouble.  It was evident they are not sure of the meaning of the word benefit.  It reminds me I can’t take for granted everyone is on the same level.


The uncool thing about the survey was …

  • I couldn’t figure out how to send them the results.  I realize the results of a survey are for the person asking the questions, but the students enjoyed seeing the results when I displayed them on the Smartboard.  There is probably a way to post them to Schoology.  It’s just a matter of searching for it.


This year Kanawha County Schools adopted Schoology as the learning management system for all schools.  The first couple of months were bumpy, but I’m getting used to it.  Taking a class and comparing notes with my cohorts have helped me discover new and fun ways to engage the classes.  Schoology, like most systems, offers a discussion element.  It is effortless to create a discussion and easy to use.  The students were off and running with it in seconds.

I posed a question and the students answered it and then responded to two classmates.  They could respond to more if they wanted.  

The cool things about the online discussion in Schoology were:

  • I can set up the discussion so that the student has to respond before they see their classmates’ responses.  No copy-catting.  
  • Unlike traditional face to face discussions, everyone gets to respond, no matter how shy.  The students who have something to say can do so a bit easier, and are not crowded out by those few who always raise their hands and respond.
  • It isn’t anonymous and everyone is accountable for what they say.  Most of the time, snide comments are not made, but if one is, the student is accountable.


The uncool thing about the online discussion in Schoology was:

  • There is no face to face discussion.  While it is a good thing for the shy ones, I feel like we are losing some of our essential communication skills when we go virtual.  We aren’t learning how to talk, debate, and argue constructively in person, but maybe that’s a rant for another post.  


I knew online surveys and discussions were winners when the students asked for more.  It was unanimous that surveys were awesome, and I knew the discussion was a hit when a hush fell over the classroom and everyone was on task.  It didn’t hurt when, after we finished, one of the students said, “I love discussions.”


WVCTE is wondering … have you found a hit in your classroom this fall?  How are you engaging your students?  Tell us about it. Leave us a comment, Tweet us your thoughts @WVCTE, or connect with us on Facebook!


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