I had a teacher brave enough to try out a site called TodaysMeet. I had used it at a couple of conferences, heard great things about it, but had not had a chance to use it yet. But now, I have!
TodaysMeet is a website where you get a chance to have students back-channel. That is explained more in this post and this post.
Before the lesson, I showed students what TodaysMeet was all about, how to sign in, expectations, proper commenting, etc. We broke them into 3 different rooms with about 6 students per room. We did this to make the chat window a little less overwhelming. I highly recommend that for the lower grades and for just starting out, especially if you are allowing for free-talk throughout a lesson.
Students listened to their teacher, Mrs. Thompson, read a really interesting article about garbage patches in the Pacific Ocean (and if you have never heard about these, wow, look it up). They typed their thoughts as she read, but she also posed questions for them for two reasons. One reason she did this was so that students that were struggling to come up with something, had a prompt. Other times, she needed them to comment on a specific question.
In order to have students reflect back over what the others wrote, she asked for volunteers to read their comments OR the comment of someone out of their group. I liked this method because there were quite a few students that really liked what someone else said.
Students told me they really liked this because they were all able to have a voice and contribute to the conversation. Looking at the comments, it was awesome to see what some of their thoughts were. They were pretty profound and deep. I am going to attach some screenshots of their conversations below in the gallery.
I highly recommend this method of discussion in the classroom. Students and teachers could benefit from this resource. If you want something like TodaysMeet, you could also try Padlet.
Fifth grade teacher in a 1:1 iPad classroom, sharing my journey with technology in the classroom