DRAFT: ELA: Online Interaction

4-3.1 Online Interaction in the Language Arts

Review foundational knowledge about Online Interactions in K-12 Blended Teaching (Volume 1).

ELA classrooms thrive on interactions with and between students. Both in-person and online interactions and feedback provide students with ways to share and support their positions, give and receive feedback, and to present both written and spoken opinions and positions with both civility and evidence.

4-3.2 Student to Student Interactions

Teachers Talk: Zombie Collaboration

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Reflection Questions: How can you use the online space to enhance student creativity and interaction?

Teachers Talk: Collaboration


Todd Jepperson

Jamboard was great because it's like this giant open space. Kids just click a spot and start typing. I've had like infographics that students collaborate, and when it's an online tool, you can have several different contributors to the same thing. And they don't have to all contribute right now, today, but they can get to it later on this afternoon. So you do your stuff now and I'll go and do my stuff later. Then we can come back together and revise together.

Talking, discussing, reading, sharing, writing, and revising are at the heart of English language arts classes. Conversations around these activities can help students to build critical thinking skills, express themselves, listen and civilly respond, and revise their opinions, writing and speaking techniques, and discourse when needed.

There are many technologies that support online discussions. Here are a few of them and how they can be used in ELA. (You might want to become proficient with one technology then branch out to another one. Don’t try too many at once.)

Just like in-person discussions and interactions, online interactions can become stale if they do not include variety and contrast, inviting students to think deeply and/or creatively. 

Here are some ideas that are relevant to an ELA classroom.

Table 1: Online Discussion Ideas

   In-person Online 
Book Introduction (Pride and Prejudice)

1. Read the biography

2. In class, pair students with different biographies to present the character of the biography they read and compare the two. 

3. Reveal that the two biographies are of the same person (but have vastly different biographies).

1. Give each student online access to one of two (contrasting) two-page biographies of the same real person.

4. In an online discussion, group four people together (two for each biography) and discuss what they learned from the exercise. 


1. In a full class explanation (with video backup) explain what it means to compare and contrast two items.

3. Have the groups meet in-person in the classroom. Have them make two lists, one of the comparisons and one of the contrasts, adding evidence from the text (or movie) to support their claims. 

2. Divide the class into small groups (4-6 people) in an online discussion. Give each group two things to compare and contrast (two paragraphs about the same topic from two different writer, a scene from a boook with a corresponding scene from a movie of the book, or two poems with the same author, time period, topic, or theme.) Set the discussion up so that students cannot see posts of those who have written before them until they have posted their own ideas.

Role Playing 1

1. Have students meet in small groups, assigning each group a character from a novel you are reading. The students brainstorm character qualities of their person using evidence from the text. 

3. Discuss new insights the students gained about the character and about characterization as a class.

2. Divide the students into new groups with a representative from each character in the group. Give the students a scenario. Each member of the group responds to the scenario in the discussion board as if they were the character they were assigned. (You may wish to follow up by having students create a video of the situation.)
Role Playing 2

1. Students read a non-fiction text. As a class brainstorm key ideas and takeaways from the text.

3. Regroup students according to the role they performed (putting all of one role--conformer, for example) into one group. Discuss insights they gained from acting in that role. 

2. In the discussion board assign students one of the takeaways/ideas and give each person a role: defender, devil's advocate, peacemaker, summarizer, encourager, conformer, rebel, teacher, etc. The students react to the takeaway representing the roles they have been assigned. 
Role Playing 3 2. Students who had the same literary elements gather to create a poster of their findings. 

1. Students in a discussion group read the same text, each one looking for different literary elements: setting, symbol, alliteration, vocabulary, literary point of view, similes/metaphors, characterization, motifs, etc. They share what they found in the discussion. 

Giving Peer Feedback 2. Students individually brainstorm and record the following in a Google doc: a topic/argument and explanations and evidences to support their views. They write an introductory paragraph, including a hook. 

1. Students watch a video about how to write a persuasive paper.

3. Students share their documents with a small group, who comments on what they have written and asks questions.

Thoughts, Questions, and Epiphanies (The TQE Method)

2. To prepare for the in-class discussion, the students write thoughts, questions, and epiphanies they have had from the reading on different white boards.

3. Using the boards for ideas, the students discuss the work in-person.

1. During in class reading time, students read a text online (such as Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" for example). They respond to the text online in a "They Say, I Say"  document. (See below.)

4. Each person follows up in an online discussion, adding new or different insights, experiences, thoughts, questions, or ephiphanies.   

Figure1: Example of  a "They Say, I Say" Document.


Here is a longer list of ideas that could be done online, including socratic seminars, gallery walk, affinity mapping, etc.) Use your creativity to modify them for use in both the online and in-person space.

Teachers Talk: Ideas

1. Practice literary elements by modeling them from a piece of writing your students are studying. For example, if you were reading A Christmas Carol, you could have students each create 10 “as dead as” similes (from the first paragraph of the book) and share them in online discussion groups. In person, have the students choose the top five or ten similes from their group. Post the similes on the wall or on an online bulletin board.

2. Randomly assign students one of 7 or 8 plot outlines of different short stories. (Hawthorne’s “My Kinsman, Major Molineax” works well for high-school students, but you can use appropriate stories from any level. You might also want to assign the stories based on student reading level.) Each student writes a story in a google doc based on the plot, creating their own character traits, settings, themes, and style.They post a link (with editing permissions) to the discussion board. Each student in the group reads two other students’ stories and comments on the differences and similarities in one of the elements of literature to the story they wrote and how they influence the final impact of the story. Each student creates a chart showing the theme, style, setting, and characters for his or her story. The groups meet together in person to create a similar chart for the original. They discuss the similarities and differences between the original story and their individual stories. Conduct a whole class discussion on how plot influences theme, character, style, and setting.

An online discussion is most effective when the instructions are clear.  For a review of how to create an effective discussion board post, see 5.2.2 Building Community and Setting Expectations in K-12 Blended Teaching (Volume 1). 

In your Blended Teaching Notebook create an online discussion for the lesson/content area that you are addressing with your problem of practice. How will you make it engaging for the students? How will you target your problem of practice?

Not all online interaction has to take place in a discussion. It can take place in a shared Google Doc, in a real-time Zoom meeting, through blogs or social media, through visits to each other's websites, etc. 

Figure 2: Example of Online "I Found" Board for Literary Elements in The Tempest.


Teachers Talk: Power of Peer Interactions

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Reflection Questions: How can you use peers to help other peers in your classroom?

Teachers Talk: Authentic Conversations and Butterfly Feedback

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Reflection Questions: How can you facilitate conversations between students outside of classroom? How can you teach students to give helpful, kind feedback?

Teachers Talk: Austin's Butterfly

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Reflection Questions: How can you use the principles presented in this video to help your students give better feedback to their peers?

4-3.3 Teacher to Student Interactions

Teachers Talk: Responsive Pedagogy and Timely Feedback

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Reflection Questions: How can you use feedback to improve student learning and strengthen relationships with your students?

Interactions between students and the teacher are also important in an ELA course. Experienced blended teachers often report that their interactions with students online have strengthened relationships and contributed to student growth. What are some ways teachers can foster these interactions?

  • Participate in online discussions. You don’t have to chime in and respond to everyone’s posts. Instead your role in a discussion board is to guide and facilitate the discussion. You can monitor what is said for civility as well as content. If a discussion is going in a nonproductive direction, you can gently guide it back. You can respond honestly to good ideas and interesting insights. You can suggest further resources. 
  • Provide feedback. Students appreciate and need feedback. Teachers find that giving some types of feedback online is much easier than feedback with traditional paper and pen.
    • Give feedback on assignments through the LMS you use. Check out the ways your LMS allows you to communicate with students about their assignments. If you are using rubrics for grading, you can give very specific feedback then allow your students to improve the assignment. Your LMS may have additional ways to contact students.
    • Use written, audio, or video feedback. Some students prefer written feedback because they can access it easily; others prefer audio or visual because it’s easier for them to understand and feels more personable. There are also times when it's easier to provide audio or video feedback compared to typing out feedback comments. For instance, Mote is a Chrome extension that allows teachers to quickly add audio recordings to Google Document and Google Classroom gradebook. There are also several free screen-recording tools that allow you to create quick video recordings and then share them with students using an unlisted link. There are times when text, audio, and video feedback are the most effective and you can use all three during the year.
    • When students are online working during class, walk around the classroom, answering questions and giving verbal feedback as needed.
    • Schedule one-on-one meetings with students to discuss their progress and provide feedback. 
    • Alternatively, if students are writing online on a Google Doc, for example, you can pull up as many documents as your computer will allow and give real-time feedback as they are writing. Students are more likely to rewrite when they receive feedback during the process of composing writing.
    • In your feedback, share personal anecdotes that their writing brings to your mind. Let them get to know you. 
  • Explain to students your process for receiving emails from class members. Encourage them to email you with questions, explain when you will be available to look at emails, and answer them as promptly as possible. 
  • Email students who are not in class, letting them know that they were missed. 

Teachers Talk: Journaling


Jenifer Pickens

In our class, we have daily journal prompts. They have very few parameters: write four sentences and use best grammar, punctuation, and spelling. They are usually open ended, and if they don’t like the prompt, they can respond to something that is on their mind. They write their journals online. The students have really opened up in this format. Before I had them write online, I collected their journals every other week or so and just glanced through it to make sure it was done. But now, I can look through them quickly every night and read them. It gives me a good read on what is happening in the lives of individual students. I know so much more of what they are thinking and what is going on in their lives—even of the quiet ones—and I can comment on things that are important to them. They seem to really appreciate it.

Teachers Talk: Feedback


Jenifer Pickens

Using a blended approach has allowed me to create a lot of assignments that grade themselves. It also makes it easier to give feedback, because I can do it from the gradebook and I can give audio or video feedback, which doesn’t take me as long as writing it would, and I am able to give better feedback. Interestingly, being able to grade more assignments has increased engagement in my classroom. More students participate and complete assignments than before I blended my classroom.

Teachers Talk: Student Ownership


Brianne Anderson

I can have one on one conversations and conferences with students through technology. We can talk through video conferences or even just the chat feature in Zoom or the messaging that we have in Canvas. Kids will approach me for help and for clarification. Sometime, they will write me and say, "Hey, I know the assignment didn't ask me to do this, but I had this really cool idea and I was wondering if I could do it instead." I saw a little creativity bloom in there, especially from students that wouldn't otherwise have approached or bothered.

Teachers Talk: Relationships

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Reflection Questions: Mr. Jepperson talks about three kinds of interactions. What are they and how could they benefit your classroom?

The online space significantly increases opportunities for interaction between students and content, students and other students, and students and teachers. Students who never or rarely speak in class may find themeselves suddenly communicating on a regular basis. The results of learning through a combination of content, interactions, instruction, and feedback can improve student outcomes, investment, and engagement with the subject matter. You don't have to start all at once. Just choose one interaction that looks promising to you--and begin. 

In the next chapter you will begin to explore data practices in your blended teaching.

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ELA :: Why Blend? :: OL Integration & Mgmt :: OL Interaction :: Data Practices :: Personalization 

Suggested Citation

(2021). DRAFT: ELA: Online Interaction. In , , , & (Eds.), K-12 Blended Teaching (Vol 2): A Guide to Practice Within the Disciplines , 2. EdTech Books. https://edtechbooks.org/k12blended2/ela_olint

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