Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Using a Discussion Board

Check out Word Press at

In my classroom this year, all of my students were set up to be part of a discussion board in order to discuss the ideas in the novel
Out of the Dust. I was quite impressed with their ability to write meaningful entries and also to agree with and disagree with one another.

The discussion board that I used was Word Press. Word Press is really a blogging site, much like "blogger." This was a closed discussion board, in that I had to provide a username and password for each of my students. But, this way, I could be sure that it was a safe site, without advertisements and would allow only registered users to participate in the discussion. The discussion board was simple and extremely easy to use. I did not have to approve comments, but I did have access to delete comments if it had been necessary.

One downfall to using this discussion board was that in order to create the student accounts, I had to provide email addresses for my students. I made up this data and it did not seem to impact the ability of students to use the site. Another issue was with grading! I had the expectation that my students would each post one time for the 6 sections of the book. But that alone was 180 entries. However, on top of that, I had given them the opportunity to earn extra credit for additional meaningful entries. I need to figure out a less time consuming way of giving my students a grade! Any ideas you have would be appreciated!


  1. Grading a discussion board can be very time-consuming. Remember in ET605, we had a similar situation (but you didn't have to do the grading; I did). In fact, it was pretty much identical, except I had 19 students and 8 articles and each student had to post at least twice (that comes out to 288 entries at a minimum). The way I handled this was to read each comment as best as I could throughout the semester and chime in myself as needed. When it came time to grade, I collected all the entries in order for each person. That made it easy to count that the required numbers were there and note any deficiencies. Then, I would skim through each person's entries and assign a grade. Skimming would work because I had already read them. This is helpful because I was able to get an overall impression of the body of work of an individual student throughout the semester, rather than one post at a time that might have been better or worse. An alternative method is to read each entry as they come in and assign some kind of quality indicator. It doesn't have to be a letter or number grade. It could simply be an indication of whether it was a "meaningful entry." This could lead to a simple tally at the end of the semester of how many "meaningful" entries someone posted.

  2. Wordpress is also a wonderful site for creating a blog! This year my teacher website is different, as I ditched TeacherWeb and made a wordpress blog of my own that I personally host. I really like it a lot better, and it didn't come with the $40 price tag that TeacherWeb does!

  3. Kirsten,
    Maybe you could use this for only part of the the book. In other words, they only have to post on one of the sections and respond to only one. I know that isn't what you initially intended but at least it would cut down on the amount of grading that you would have to sift through.

  4. Kirsten,
    Great post! I agree that is a wonderful opportunity to sit back and watch your kids discuss, debate, and even encourage one another on a discussion board. I have used Moodle in the past, but it sounds very similar to wordpress in some functions. I am always amazed what the students can do when we step back and let them work. As teachers I think some of the best work occurs when we are simply watching and supporting from the wings.