Thursday, November 2, 2017 - Better Peer Feedback

This is a guest post from Nateil Carby

In preparation for our Fall Break (Monday, October 9th), I asked my students to craft an argumentative essay about Columbus Day. The writing prompt was, “Should we celebrate Columbus Day or not? Be sure to cite textual evidence from BOTH passages to support your claim.” Students read two articles from our Performance Assessment Workbook about Columbus Day and then they used those sources to write their first draft.

For any extended writing piece, I have students organize their thinking using a graphic organizer. I’m an advocate for using the 4-Square Writing Model. There are different variations but I used one that looks like this. You can learn more about the 4-Square Model HERE.

Anyway, because I printed out the 4-square model for everyone, I couldn’t print out my peer-evaluation rubric. Typically, once students craft their first-draft, I have them peer-evaluate each other’s essays by hand!! But that requires MORE paper!! We have a limited number of copies, so I was thinking about how students can peer-grade each other’s essays online and that’s when I came across

This site is AWESOME!! Students can single sign-on with their Google Accounts, you can import a roster from Google Classroom, and then the app randomly distributes THREE essays to each student! There is a rubric that is created by the site, or you can upload/create your own. The feedback that students give is anonymous, so that eliminates the number of revenge-seeking students on the receiving end!! The site is easy to navigate, but it will take teachers a minute to learn how to properly set up the Hand-In & Feedback Window. However, once you figure it out, you’ll never go back to paper and pencil peer evaluations! This site is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to an English teacher’s toolbox. The writing process won’t ever be the same!!

About the author:
Mr. Nateil Carby is a 7th Grade Mathematics & Language Arts teacher living on the southside of Atlanta, Georgia. He is married with a 7-month old son named, Prestin. He’s also the new STEM Director of his school and he’s finishing up his second Masters degree. He enjoys reading, writing and boxing in his spare time. Follow him on Twitter at @NateilCarby

Use the ClassTools Power Search to Find Educational Games is one of my favorite places to find free educational games and templates for creating educational games. Russel Tarr, a history teacher and developer of ClassTools, has made so many games that the site now needs a power search function. You can use this search function to find games and templates according to the topics that you teach. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to find free educational games on

Applications for Education
All of the games that you find by searching on can be modified by you to match your students' needs. Use the search function on to find games for the topics you teach. But if you don't find an exact match to what you need, use the games you do find as a template for making your own through the tools on

Providing Every Student in Your Class With a Voice

I was the quiet student who always sought out the back row. I never willingly participated in class discussions, not because I didn't have anything to contribute, but because I preferred to communicate my thoughts in writing. Many of our students sit in class quietly as their peers dominate the discussions, wishing they could add to the conversation. Some might lack the confidence to speak in front of their peers while others prefer to formulate their thoughts in writing.

There are plenty of digital tools that allow all students to have their voices heard. Sometimes we refer to these tools as backchannels because they allow conversations to happen at the same time as the main conversation or event that is taking place. This is a common practice at events like conferences where attendees use platforms such as Twitter to have discussions about what they are learning while they are learning it. The attendees usually include a specific hashtag in their tweets to make their tweets visible to others who are following the backchannel. Using Twitter as a backchannel can work with students, but there are numerous tools that are specifically designed for this purpose.

Two of my favorite tools for backchanneling are TodaysMeet and Backchannel Chat. You can use either service without creating an account which means you can start a chat and be up and going in less time than it took me to type this sentence. Both platforms are free, but Backchannel Chat does have a premium version that cost $15 per year. The added features make it worth more than with the small cost.

Applications for Education
Backchannels are an alternative to answering questions during a video. They are a great way to get students to think about the content and make connections to their lives. Backchannel "chat rooms" can be left open for long periods. Teachers can use them to create a virtual community for their classes where students can go to get (and give) help. No matter which of the numerous platforms are used, all backchannels serve the very important role of providing all students with the opportunity to participate and have their voice heard.