Tag Archives: blog

What’s best on TOAST? JAM makes it all the sweeter!

Recently, while perusing Reddit (the best place to waste time online), I stumbled across a quote where someone said something to the effect of YouTube being the place where logic, clarity, and civility go to die. While I’m not sure how 100% official that is, I think, to at least some extent, there is some truth to it. Online discourse is emotional, petty, illogical, and often times very hate-filled, and while my main duty, as an English teacher, is to instruct students on reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills, as an Educational Technologist, I have a responsibility to teach students how to disagree and argue effectively, fairly, and lovingly.

Recently, I posted my TOAST blog rubric, which is how I assess student writing success in blogposts. However, I don’t always stop there. Often times, after assigning a blogpost, I’ll ask students to visit each others articles and comment on what they saw. It’s important to me that they learn to communicate in a distinguished fashion, so I also developed a follow-up mnemonic to TOAST to help them remember how to comment.

And honestly, what makes TOAST better than a nice scoop of JAM?

Source: Tumblr

Source: Tumblr

I instruct students that, when commenting on each others’ blog posts, they MUST use do at least one of the following:

  • Join the conversation by adding new information, opinions, or perspectives.
  • Ask a question related to the post.
  • Make a specific compliment about the post.

No “THIS STINKS” or “I LIKE IT” or superficial statements—what goes in must contribute to the article and support it.

Just like with my post about TOAST (#rhyme), feel free to take this and incorporate it into your classroom—just let me know how you use it so I can better serve my students!

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Got students blogging in class? Teach ’em TOAST!

In the past few months, there seems to have been an increase in the number of teachers considering using student blogging for their classes. There are a lot of excellent posts as of late that one can look to to get them started—for example, this—but I have yet to see anyone address how a teacher can easily grade and give points to students who do quality work. 3 years ago, when I began having students blog assignments, I recognized a need to assess the level of their work, so I started researching what a good blog post looked like:

Weak blog posts Strong blog posts
contain obvious, easy-to-correct grammatical mistakes. look like they’ve been proofread, edited, and checked a few times.
echo things that have been covered on countless other sites. bring something new to the table.
jump around topics, without any sort of main idea or point. quickly and effectively get to the point and present clearly.
aren’t aesthetically pleasing; don’t include any sort of media. look classy, sophisticated, and tech-savvy.
have no heart. motivate an audience to be interested in the subject.

There are some similarities between blogging and, say, writing an essay; however, a teacher really shouldn’t be grading an informal blog post and an end-of-the-semester essay the same way. So then what should students be focusing on?

In my classes, I’ve instructed my students to consider TOAST when writing their posts:

A giant sticker of TOAST expectations in my classroom.

A giant sticker of TOAST expectations in my classroom.

  • Technical elements: grammar, linguistics, spelling, etc.
  • Originality: creativity, new perspectives, different outlook.
  • Appropriateness: Completion of the objective of the assignment (e.g required length, subject matter, quality).
  • Supplements: Inclusion of applicable multimedia (e.g. images, video) and formatting (e.g. lists, links, blockquotes, text formatting).
  • Time invested: visible effort put into the assignment, not simply thrown together.

When it comes time to grade posts, I read through the entire thing 5 times—once for technical issues, once for how original/different it is, once for how appropriate their response is to my expectations, once for how “pretty” or cool the post is, and once for the overall je ne sais quoi. Each element gets rated on a scale from 0-to-3, and each element gets an explanation from me on why they earned a 0, 1, 2, or 3.

Screen Shot 2013-06-18 at 9.28.15 PM

An example of a student blogpost

The last part is most controversial—both the scores and explanations are posted publicly as comments underneath the post. This happens for each students’ posting, so they, their classmates, and the entire world can see how well I think they reached my expectations. While a few students aren’t thrilled about their grade being open, I find that most of them rise to the occasion and work even harder to meet my standard of excellence!

In fact, the biggest reason I personally love student blogging over a contained universe (ala Moodle or Edmodo) is that there is the peer pressure to put their best foot forward.

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