Media Literacy Week: Teach Students How to Avoid Being Used by Social Media

Nothing pains me more than seeing my own children or other young people being duped by the information they see online or when a post on their social media account has the potential to adversely impact their immediate or future lives. 

We have all seen examples of students losing scholarships, or young adults getting passed over for a job because of something they posted online or from long ago. Most recently, a story from my home state erupted when a 24-year-old’s viral sign resulted in an avalanche of monetary donations, a beer company, a children’s hospital, and tweets he sent at the age of 16 were dug up by a local reporter and spiraled out of control. 

Teaching students and educators about media literacy have been passions of mine for many years, and while I do not expect all educators to have social media accounts that they use frequently, the absence of this critical conversation and the teaching of the skills needed to navigate the digital sea has dire effects on our students. As Media Literacy Week approaches, I ask you

How are we teaching students to avoid being USED by social media, and instead USE social media to benefit themselves and others? 

Shaelynn Farnsworth

Because of this question that drives many of the talks I give, and to celebrate the upcoming #MediaLiteracyWeek, I have created templates for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook that you can use in the classroom in a myriad of ways. Here are some of my quick thoughts:

  • Consume and create social media posts. Analyze message, bias, authenticity and then have students respond in the same mode through questions, evidence, and arguments. 
  • Exit or Entrance Tickets over conceptual or topical learning during the week. Important takeaways to share. 
  • Create social media posts in the voice or lens of an author, politician, character, advocate, or historical figure.
  • Promote positivity and share for good! Create and share positive messages about the school, community, today’s youth, etc. to flood the internet with a different kind of message. 
  • Model and practice how to approach bias online, how to advocate for self, how to discern information with a critical eye and respond thoughtfully with messages they disagree with.
  • Model and practice how to deal with bullying, trolls, and bots online. 

The possibilities are endless! And I would love to hear your ideas as well, so drop them in the comments below.

The templates are editable for you to customize based on intent, objective, and audience. And if you share examples on Twitter, be sure to tag me in them, I would love to see what you created! @shfarnsworth

4 Ways to Use Single-Point Rubrics

Feedback is one of the best ways to support student learning. According to John Hattie, Feedback has an effect size of .64 and is often considered as one of the top 5 influential factors on student learning, BUT… it is also the most variable. Most of the time the feedback students receive consists of answers to the questions: Where am I going? How am I going? But neglect the thrid essential answer to the question, Where to next? Rubrics can support this need and provide the type of feedback, by self, peer, or teacher, to move all students forward, but not all rubrics are created equal. 

Rubrics are a traditional part of most classrooms. Web20Classroom thought leadership expert, Steven Anderson and I are big fans of a type of rubric you might not have heard of before, the single-point rubric. We believe the single-point rubric should be a part of every classroom and because of its flexibility, there are multiple ways educators can use them in the classroom or with colleagues.

Rubrics have been a part of the assessment toolbox since at least the mid-1990s.  In fact, we would guess that many teachers reading this post have created quite a few over the years. Traditionally they have fallen into 2 categories, Holistic and Analytic

Holistic – Criterion is written as a paragraph. Assessed overall achievement on an activity or product 

Holistic Rubric Example

Analytic – Written with levels of achievement as columns and assessment criteria as rows. It allows you to assess participants’ achievements based on multiple criteria using a single rubric.

Analytic  Rubric Example

But there is a more impactful and flexible rubric everyone should be aware of, the single-point rubric.

The single-point rubric was first created by Mary Dietz in 2000 and has been gaining popularity in recent years. Different than the Holistic and Analytic Rubric, Single-Point Rubrics identify one achievement level for a set of criteria. This single column based on proficiency for each identified area allows students and teachers the opportunity to provide targeted feedback instead of a circled number or grade. The clarity in success criteria (.88 effect size) not only supports self-efficacy within students but contributes to teacher clarity as well. 

Single Point Rubric – Display a set of criteria written with a single level of achievement for each demonstrating quality work. No alternative levels included. Open space for feedback, goal-setting, or evidence. 

On top of that, the Single-Point Rubric can be used for a variety of purposes across multiple grades and disciplines. The core content areas like math and language arts can certainly benefit from the use of the single-point rubric. But other content areas like physical education, art, music, and others can use and benefit from the single point rubric as well. 

Single-Point  Rubric Example

Benefits for students:

  • Increased Analyzation skills to identify areas of strength and growth [Part of the process (self-assessment)]
  • Increased Achievement
  • Increased Motivation 
  • Personalized Learning
  • Feedback before grades 
  • Student truly own their learning

Here are 4 Ways to Use Single-Point Rubrics: 

  1. Self-Assessment–Part of what makes single-point rubrics so effective is the focus on metacognition. Whether students are proficient in a set of criteria or go above and beyond the proficiency marker, they have to explain their thinking and provide evidence that demonstrates understanding. These reflective activities are at the heart of how students grow and both outputs have high effect sizes, Self-Reported Grades 1.33 and Self-Efficacy .71). 
  2. Peer Feedback–As a student matures in age, peers play a more important role in academics, motivation, and self-esteem. Typically, peer feedback consists of single words “good” or “nice” which do little to increase understanding for either. Using a single-point rubric provides a perfect scaffold for giving meaningful feedback. Research shows that when students discuss their work with each other there can be opportunities for improvement and also this dialogic learning has been shown to help background deficiencies. When done effectively, peer feedback is powerful. 
  3. Teacher Feedback on Processes, Performance, and Product–Similar to peer feedback the conferring that takes place between the teacher and student can be opportunities for growth. Single point rubrics place the focus on success criteria and evidence that demonstrates meeting and exceeding the marker. When used during the process, single-point rubrics act more as a type of formative assessment and opportunities for direct instruction based on student needs. 
  4. PLC Analyzing Student Work Samples–Collective Teacher Efficacy and Teacher Clarity have the highest effect sizes when referring to Hattie’s research, but it makes sense. When teachers are crystal clear on what the learning target and success criteria are coupled with the belief that they, together as a team, can reach all students, achievement skyrockets. If you want to truly know your impact as a teacher and consistently refine your practice, all the proof you need is found in student work. Yes, there will always be outliers, but looking at student work that is consistently produced in your classroom is an effective way PLCs can work together. Student work samples provide information that allows individual educators and teams a tremendous amount of information, from instructional practices to directions given. When done as a PLC, examining student work allows educators to learn from each other, increases common expectations, and moves all teachers closer in range when assessing subjective disciplines. 

SIngle-Point Rubrics are quickly gaining popularity in today’s educational landscape. And while they can function as a traditional assessment tool, their versatility allows educators and students the ability to reimagine its use and adapt to multiple uses in the school. 

Here is an example of the above Infographic Single-Point Rubric (online course released soon) in a Microsoft Forms with Branching  

To Learn More:

12 Quotes About Writing from the Experts Teachers Love

I love teaching writing. Well, let me rephrase that, I love teaching writing, now… It wasn’t until I was in my graduate studies that I actually learned how to teach writing. Sure, I wrote in college, learned grammar and convention rules, explored genres, and had writing classes during my undergraduate work, but a class on how to actually teach writing… I don’t recall that being part of any course I took for my education degree.

Following my graduate studies my philosophy on the teaching of writing changed. I found my students more interested in writing and sharing their thoughts. I, too, began to write more and eventually started a blog to share with other educators. And along with an increase in enjoyment and confidence, the skills and craft of writing strengthened.

Now, I work with other educators on how they can best refine their instructional practices. And when I am lucky, I get to also share my best practices in the teaching of writing. One thing is certain when I share my love of writing with other educators; I have been influenced by many experts in the field of writing. The following is a small sampling of what I feel are important quotes, suggestions, and affirmations on the teaching of writing.


A person can read without writing, but he cannot write without reading. If we neglect writing, it is also at the expense of reading.


Linda Rief


The world of writing is a mural, not a snapshot. Students’ notions of genre should be expansive, not narrow.

Tom Romano


Writing is not thinking written down after all of the thinking is completed. Writing is thinking.


Donald M. Murray


We are living in a new era of literacy, one in which participation is key – participation in:
A digital culture
A democracy
A global conversation
What this participation mostly entails is writing.


Randy Bomer & Michelle Fowler


Writing taught once or twice a week is just frequent enough to remind students that they can’t write and teachers that they can’t teach.


Donald H. Graves


You don’t learn to write by going through a series of preset writing exercises. You learn to write by grappling with a real subject that truly matters to you.

Ralph Fletcher


Teach the writer, not the writing.

Lucy Calkins


Studies over time indicate that teaching formal grammar to students has a negligible or even harmful effect on improving student writing.

Regie Routman


Very young children can write before they can read, can write more than they can read, and can write more easily than they can read—because they can write anything they can say.


Calkins; Graves; Harste, Woodward, & Burke; Sowers


Writing, in this instance, is a particularly powerful tool for helping adolescents listen, reflect, converse with themselves, and tackle both cultural messages and peer pressures.

Peter Elbow


After all, teachers should not be able to grade all of the writing students do. If they can, they aren’t inviting students to write enough.

Douglas Fisher & Nancy Frey


But of all of the strategies I have learned over the years, there is one that stands far above the rest when it comes to improving my student’s writing: The teacher should model writing – and think out loud while writing – in front of the class.

Kelly Gallagher

Teaching students to write is something very few teachers learned how to do during their undergrad. But when we do teach writing, the voice that is developed in our students carries with them into their adult lives. It’s hard, difficult at times, but definitely worth it! And just when we least expect it, a former student drops you a line like this one on Facebook!

Laptop Expectations for the Classroom

In 2008, the school where I taught implemented a 1 to 1 laptop program. While excitement was in the air for the first few weeks with students and staff, I quickly learned during week #4 the honeymoon was over and I needed to develop new rules for our changing education environment.

Every year since then, I have revised the set of “Laptop Expectations” I created so long ago to keep up with new language and needs. I often re-share the document because implementing technology use in the classroom is always new for someone. I also have come to realize that it is much easier to have a document to start from, for ideas, suggestions, examples, and work to make it my own.

This document is a perfect place to start. Please feel free to make a copy of it, edit it, share it with a colleague, or even use as it stands (replacing my name of course). And let me know if I have forgotten anything you would add or needed to add during the school year. Again, the language for a few of the numbers is specific for my classroom and devices we used but the expectations can be changed and used for any device in the classroom.

Enjoy and Happy Back to School 2019! Looking for other ways to communicate with students, parents, and community for #Back to School? Check out the new post by Steven AndersonTweet, Snap, and Gram Your Way to Better School Communication.

Link to Document

8 Brain-Friendly Practices for Middle School and High School Students

It used to be thought that brain development was complete by age 5 or 6 and reached adult-size and volume by age 10. During the last few years, brain research has found that the adolescent brain is still developing and the experiences a child has during the ages of 11 to 18 wires the brain and become “fixed” into their adult life. Meaning, what a child does during these years, the routines they establish, skills, attitudes, and coping mechanisms have direct consequences for their adult lives. 

“You are hard-wiring your brain in adolescence. Do you want to hard-wire it for sports, music, and math – or for lying on the couch in front of the television?”

Jay Giedd

Since a large percent of an adolescent’s waking life is spent in school, educators can have a profound impact on the brain development of their students. While it is true that we as educators have no control over home-life, peer pressure, and other outside influences; most education institutions have practices that are “brain-hostile” rather than “brain-friendly”. These would include such things as:

  • Zero-tolerance discipline policy
  • Emotionally flat classroom climate
  • Ban on social media apps in the classroom
  • More homework, tougher requirements, and a longer school day
  • Early start time for the school day
  • Public posting of grades, test scores, and behavior
  • Locking students into a set learning path
  • Elimination or shortening of study hall, physical education, and movement in class
  • Teacher-centered, lecture-based, textbook-driven curriculum

(Thomas Armstrong) 

Instead, educators need awareness of brain-friendly practices in which to align their instruction, strategies, and lesson design after. These practices provide educators with current brain research to support positive brain development in adolescents. 

8 Brain-Friendly Practices for Middle School and High School Students

  1. Choice – The opportunity to choose what they learn, how they learn, and how they demonstrate understanding. This brain maturation and practices in student-choice helps promote making less risky decisions and more sensible ones. Examples: Choice in books, Choice in product creation, Involvement in discussions and debates, Passion projects or Genius Hour. 
  2. Self-Awareness Activities – During adolescents, students are beginning to establish and articulate who they are. Self-Awareness activities allow exploration and expression of self. Examples: SEL Activities, Interest and Emotional Quizzes, Connect learning to personal lives, Meditation, Journals.
  3. Peer Learning – During adolescence, peers play an important role in development and self-esteem. It is important for students to have positive, meaningful interactions with peers through peer teaching, collaboration, and group work. Examples: Group projects, Peer teaching, Mentoring, Peer Feedback. 
  4. Affective Learning – With adolescents comes the full-range of emotions that are erupting and changing on a whim inside our student’s body. Instead of ignoring or punishing these emotional young people, affective learning includes strategies to address these occurrences head on and bring joy back into the classroom. Examples: Build relationships with students! Know their names, celebrate successes as well as negative feelings. Encouragement and Goal-Setting. Teachable moments. SEL. Social Justice and Discussions over controversial topics. 
  5. Learning by Doing – Having students sit for a whole class period while the teacher lectures only increases disdain for school and boredom. Get kids up and moving to not only increase blood flow, but also to increase executive functioning. Examples: Exercise or brain breaks, Drama and Kinesthetic while learning concepts and topics. Hands-on activities, Stations. 
  6. Metacognitive Strategies – Around the age of 11 or 12 students move into “formal operations” (Piaget) and start thinking about their thinking. Introducing mindsets, strategies, and critical thinking skills help students move beyond concrete learning to more abstract and are better able to form own opinions and challenge others. Examples: Inquiry Learning. Design Thinking, Evaluation and Analyzation of sources or views. Think Alouds. Heuristics. Goal-Setting.
  7. Expressive Arts – Robust creativity and artistic development occurs between the ages of 5-18, but during adolescence, students get fewer experiences in the arts, drama, music, etc. During this time, expressive arts allows middle school and high school students the opportunity to express thoughts and emotions in thoughtful and socially appropriate ways. Examples: Creative Writing, Visual Design and Art Classes, Choice to Demonstrate learning through drama and dance. Integrate video, gaming, and photography into learning. Include music to enhance learning.  
  8. Real-World Experiences – Provide students learning that not only connects to their life but also demands them to plan, think, organize, and make quick decisions mimicking the types of demands they will encounter throughout life. Real-world experiences also include civic life and their contribution to family, community and society. Examples: Volunteering. Apprenticeships. Service Learning. Community-Based Learning. Entrepreneur Learning. 

While not everything is known about the brain, research continues to provide all of us valuable information in which to inform our practices. As late as the 1990’s, many thought the brain stopped growing and full-capacity potential reached by age 10. While we now know this to be untrue, there are many things we currently do that goes against current research. It is time to align our instruction to what we know now and consider the 8 brain-friendly practices mentioned above. 

Source:Thomas Armstrong. The Power of the Adolescent Brain. 2016.