Getting Over the Tech Hump with your Students

Monthly Mondays with Meghan: Getting Over the Tech Hump with your Students

‘Twas the night before Edcite, when all through the house,
not a teacher was stirring, not even a mouse!  
The assignment was designed and created with care,
in hopes that the students would answer the questions there.  

When the next day began there arose such chatter,
I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.  
“How do I scroll?”
“Do I click on one word or the sentence as a whole?”  

I ran to my board, to my students gave a whistle,
and taught them the basics before the end-of-day dismissal.  
As I packed up my things, they heard me proclaim,
“Before rolling out Edcite, there are skills to explain!”

All this to say – the first time I used Edcite in my classroom, I excitedly told my students to open their chromebooks, login to Edcite, click on the assignment and eagerly exclaimed, “You may begin!”  Note to self: Make sure computers are on and functioning before doing anything, because within the first 5 minutes there were far more hands in the air and confused faces than I had bargained for!  They were loving the new experience and Edcite layout; however, they had a lot of questions regarding technology and computers in general.  After hearing a few of their questions, I paused the entire class, taught the lessons I am about to share with you and then had them continue on with the assignment.

One important detail to note:  Given the need for the following lessons – the first time you use Edcite in your classroom, plan for an additional 10-15 minutes to teach some of these essential skills!

Now, onto the 4 lessons I wish I had planned for–in hopes that your start with Edcite can be smooth sailing!

Lesson 1: Sending the assignment

Monthly Mondays with Meghan


Happy New Year!! Am I still in the time window to say that?! Previously I shared my experience (check out my first blog post here) with getting hooked on Edcite and creating online assignments.  Thus, it’s time to put my money where my mouth is and share how I will be using various assignments in my own classroom.

Overarching lessons I learned when creating an online assignment:

  • Consider what students are typically used to doing with paper and pencil.  Go through that thought process yourself, and then consider, “How is this similar or different to reading this question on a computer screen?” For example, I realized I needed (or wanted) a sheet of paper to write down the number I was on, the answer choices and then as I crossed out the answer choices on my sheet of paper I could write a brief reason WHY I was crossing out this answer.  I’ve taught students to do this on paper/pencil assessments, so I added in a blank sheet of paper and taught this system with online assessments now as well.
  • It is CRITICAL to vary the question types used in an assignment.  1) This teaches students to critically think through content in ways outside of eliminating answer choices.  A variety in question types teaches students to prioritize events, sort, evaluate significance and connection to other evidence, etc. 2) It engages students with technology in different ways and teaches additional basic computer skills (drag and drop, move and re-order, selecting text). 3) It is simply more FUN for students.
  • I realized an assignment does not need to be completed in one chunk during a class period. Initially I thought I would teach a lesson, then they would take an assessment to test if they learned the lesson, and that would be the class period.  However, in creating this assignment, I realized it can be broken up with instruction at various parts of the assignment.  For example, I can model a skill or strategy through the first question in the assignment.  Then, I can have them work through 1 or 2 questions in pairs or groups.  Then, they can complete the assignment independently.  This actually gives me more accurate data because I am able to see where the exact breakdown in confusion begins and coach students individually.
  • I realized I can use questions types outside of my content area.  Initially I felt limited to only using questions types designed for my content area.  In this assignment I used math and ELA question types!


For NON-ELA teachers Systems are key.  Decide how you want to break down the assignment in class OR if you want students to complete the assignment after you have taught the lesson.  Tell students how you will be using Edcite in class AND have a clear direction for pausing them and gaining their full attention when they are on the computer.
For ELA teachers Have a plan for text annotation. Be explicit with what students should highlight and why.  If they are taking notes, do you want them typing in a separate document or jotting notes on a scratch piece of paper.  Plan for it, teach it to your students, and hold them accountable for the system you create. See lesson plan below for more ideas.


Before sharing how I use an assignment to teach an entire lesson (or class period), here is a little context about my own classroom:

  • I currently teach 6th grade, but have taught 4th/5th, 7th and high school English Language Arts. The lessons that I am working on are for my 6th graders, but can easily be adapted to either 5th graders or 7th graders.
  • There are approximately 28-30 students in each of my classes (4 blocks total).
  • I have 55 minute blocks, so the following lesson fits within that time frame; however, it can be modified for shorter blocks or included as a portion of a longer class period.
  • Each student has a tablet or chromebook as well as a notes packet (usually 1-2 pages) on their desk.  Throughout class, we transition between the Edcite assignment and their paper notes.  (Maybe one day I will go 100% paperless.  🙂  For now, I find some comfort in mixing a little paper/pencil with technology.)

Click here to access my google document containing the entirety of my lesson plan for this assignment. Feel free to borrow, copy, and take as much or as little as you’d like! This lesson plan accompanies the Sequencing Lesson – Multiple Passages – Segregation and Civil Rights – I Do, We Do, You Do & Exit Slip assignment.  (This assignment and lesson is especially beneficial given Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday this month!!) Anytime I have scripted what I will say in my own lesson, I have written SAY followed with my planned script.  Lastly, I’ve included some bonus tips for increasing class engagement and adding some joy factor into your lesson!!

Feel free to reach out if you have other questions, want ideas for additional attention getters or have suggestions for other ways to teach this lesson!!! My email is


Next month I am excited to tell you about my experience of rolling out Edcite to my students for the first time and share with you the unexpected (and slightly hilarious) lessons I learned and wish I had known!!

The Shift from Persuasion to Argument

As a new school year begins, teachers are busy prepping lessons and assessments using the Common Core State Standards. At many schools, teachers are sitting down together and comparing the old standards with the new ones, paying attention to the shifts in learning. One shift that is often highlighted is the move from persuasive to argumentative writing. This affects not only English Language Arts classrooms, but also History and Science classrooms, since students are expected to write about the informational texts that they read.

So, just what is the difference between persuasion and argument?

First let’s take a look at the anchor standard in writing:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

shutterstock_147904637The key words that really set argument apart from persuasion are reasoning and evidence. Argumentative writing is based on logical reasoning which will convince an audience. Arguments are objective and use facts only – rather than opinion. For example, question 2 in this “O Captain! My Captain!” assignment asks students to use textual evidence to support their reasoning. In this “The Highwayman” assignment, question 4 asks students to write a response which includes evidence to support their claim.

Argument also analyzes opposing viewpoints. Aristotle once said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” For instance, an argumentative essay may bring up several counterclaims, respecting that they are valid, but ultimately providing evidence which proves that the writer’s argument is stronger. For example, question 3 in this Susan B. Anthony assignment assesses whether or not students understand counterarguments.

The next question then is – how is this different than persuasive writing?shutterstock_77780575

While persuasive writing does use logic and facts, it also relies on pathos. Pathos is a tactic used to appeal to an audience’s emotions. Persuasive writing is more subjective and often based on the personal convictions of the writer. The writer may use storytelling, personal experience, or passionate calls to action to appeal to an audience’s emotions. For example, this Patrick Henry speech relies heavily on emotional calls to action.

Persuasion may not address any opposing viewpoints, and if they are addressed, they are strongly dismissed without being fairly validated. 

Pro and Con StatueArgument-Aligned

In the end, both types of writers want to convince the audience. A persuasive writer’s audience is convinced through strong emotional appeals. The writer of an argumentative essay, though, keeps a fair and balanced tone, providing strong reasons and research to convince the reader.

For example, how would you scaffold this writing prompt for History so that student writing is aligned with argument rather than persuasion: Which ancient civilization most influenced how our own government was shaped? How about this science-based writing prompt: Is testing on animals a solution or problem?

As curriculum continues the shift into Common Core, it is important for teachers to collaborate and create strategies to help developing writers in all classes support their ideas with text-based evidence. A great way to collaborate is to upload assignments for argument-aligned writing on Edcite! Or you can customize assignments that have already been uploaded and tagged to Writing Standard 1 (ex: W.8.1 or W.7.1)!

profileNicole Bixler has been teaching middle school in Los Angeles for nine years. She has taught English, Theater Production, and Creative Writing. This year she is teaching Humanities — a combination of English and History — for the first time. Nicole uses technology often in her classroom. She specifically loves Edcite “because it was a quick way for me to assess their knowledge of specific standards, and they also became comfortable with Smarter-Balanced style questions. They felt very confident when it came time for the end-of-the-year test.”