Friday, May 8, 2009

CES: Using the GROUPS feature for Discussion Boards

Joe Pullia, 5th grade teacher at CES, conducted a unit of study with his students on the Newbery Award. He chose to use the Discussion Board tool in Blackboard as a way to motivate students to have "conversations" about five books that received the Newbery Medal. Utilizing the Manage Groups feature in Blackboard [Control Panel/User management/Manage Groups], student groups were created.
The 5 groups were set up to include their own discussion board with specific students enrolled in each group. When a new button was set up for the groups a Tool Link was added, with the tool type being Groups.
Mr. Pullia noted that the discussion boards have motivated students to write more, share more, and go deeper into various issues and characters in the book. He said that that one huge advantage of the groups feature is the ability to differentiate instruction, since a group can be created for even a single student. Janna Bell, assistant principal, has been included as part of the discussion groups and often responds to posts and asks questions to promote dialog.

Here is a sample section of one books discussion with student names erased (click on image for larger view):
One student said that she really enjoys using discussion boards and especially the Newbery discussion board because she can "talk" with her classmates even when she is home. She said that she gets some ideas about the book that she didn't even think about, and she gives other kids new ideas about the book too!

The GROUPS tool adds another way to manage discussion boards and provides a system for supporting differentiated instruction.

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