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Taking Student Essays to the Next Level With Edpuzzle

Illustration by Edpuzzle Staff

We’re constantly inspired by the new and innovative ways teachers use Edpuzzle, which is why this tweet caught our eye:

We asked high school English teacher Stefanie Oudiz to share her process for this lesson with all of our Edpuzzle community, so read on to discover how you can create the same fantastic assignment to evaluate student essays with Edpuzzle!

Using Edtech With Essays

I think almost any English teacher will agree that getting students to look at, understand, and use essay feedback is a constant challenge. I recently tackled this problem by making an Edpuzzle activity: I screen-recorded myself editing a sample paper, and then I uploaded it to Edpuzzle, adding questions about why I marked certain parts and how to improve the writing.

The idea came to me early in the spring semester with my Honors English 1 class. I found that after fall semester, my students were grasping essay structure well, but they needed to work on their analysis skills, so I designed some focused activities.

My first idea was to give the students several sample essays: each student would screen-record herself editing one draft; then she would pass her recording to a partner who would add narration explaining what the first student was marking and why.

However, after reviewing the results of this exercise, I saw that my students needed a more scaffolded approach to breaking down a sample essay.

At that moment, I thought of Edpuzzle. Though I had heard great things about Edpuzzle in the past, I had never tried it before. I was pleasantly surprised at how simple and quick the process was.

How to Edit a Sample Essay on Edpuzzle

First, I opened a PDF of a sample essay on my iPad using Notability. I turned on my iPad’s screen-recording function and proceeded to annotate the essay with simple notes for improvement.

I created an account on Edpuzzle and uploaded my video. I thought I would stumble a few times as I learned to use the program, but instead, I found it very easy and straightforward.

At various parts of the video, I added questions in Edpuzzle that asked students to consider why I made certain comments, to interpret what my comments specifically meant, and to make suggestions for improvement.

Here are some examples:

  • Which part of the wording is awkward? How might you fix it?
  • Why doesn't "disarming" support the thesis?
  • Why does the author perhaps need more evidence for the diction?
  • What does the author need to include in the analysis here?
  • Why change the comma to a colon?
  • Rather than just stating "this highlights," she needs to explain HOW. What does that mean?
  • What might you do to make this sentence less confusing?
  • What, in the thesis, does this writer need to connect her analysis to?

My six-minute video had 16 questions. From editing the sample paper to completing the Edpuzzle, I spent no more than 30 minutes making the entire assignment!

Student Results

During our next class, I explained to my students the objectives for this assignment and how to complete it. I posted the assignment with a link to Edpuzzle on our school’s learning management system, Schoology, and the students had no problem immediately accessing it.

Because Edpuzzle lends itself so well to independent study, I was confident that the students could complete the assignment on their own rather than during class. They reported that the assignment took no more than half an hour to complete, and they seemed pleased with the format.

When I read their answers, I was elated to find that they were finally digging deeper into what an essay needs with responses such as:

  • “Relevance means: why does it matter? This analysis needs to be relevant to the theme.”
  • “The first clause sets up the second clause, and therefore a colon would make sense.”
  • “‘Herself and emotions’ and ‘which are conveyed’ are awkward wording. I would say: Isolated diction conveys Edna’s detachment from others.”
  • “The evidence is very vague, one word does not give enough detail to back up a claim.”
  • “She does not explain how it highlights a battle in her head she needs to explain how acknowledging her turmoil is leading to her inner battle.”
  • “The writer needs to connect the imagery of weather with Edna following her desires.”

The following class period, we went over the questions and answers together. I provided the students with a PDF of the sample essay with my annotations on it, and I asked them to add more annotations (using Notability) as we reviewed the Edpuzzle questions. They shared their answers in a class discussion, and I added my own thoughts to clarify the answers.

Expanding on the Lesson

Our next writing activity was a collaborative analysis paragraph intended to build on the skills covered in the Edpuzzle assignment.

At each stage of the process, both within the groups and between the groups, students applied their revision skills to question, suggest, and improve upon the writing. I was pleased to see that their final products showed a marked improvement in the quality of their analysis.

In the future, I plan on having my students create their own edpuzzles when doing peer-editing. Once a student has edited a classmate’s paper or a sample essay, she can go through the same process as me of uploading her video and adding questions. Then, either the writer or a third partner can respond to the questions, reflecting on how best to improve the writing.

Create your own essay video lesson
Filed underTeaching today

Stephanie Oudiz

English Teacher at Mercy High School

Stefanie is a high school English teacher with 11 years of experience spanning grades 4 to 11. Her passion is cultivating each student's identity as a learner, someone intrinsically motivated to grow in her skills and equipped with the scholarly habits needed to do it. Stefanie, in turn, is also a learner, seeking to continually improve her own practice with research-based methods. An alum of UCLA (BA) and USC (MA), she is a Google Certified Educator who loves sharing her classroom with the bright young women of Mercy High School, Burlingame, CA.