Recipe Name: Underground Railroad using Student Wikis

This past week, our 6th grade teachers spent several hours during their common planning brainstorming and learning how to use their student’s wiki. My brain was fried from working on all the technical issues and updating laptops. So, I decided to share the training manual we used as my post this time. I searched DE Screaming’s videos for ideas to use with this training and found the “The Underground Railroad: Escape from Slavery” title. It has black line masters ready to download. However, due to budget constraints coupled with research, our teachers know that worksheets don’t build dendrites.  Here are the minutes from my PD sessions.

Essential Question: How can student wiki pages be for informal assessments?

Pair-share the essential question with a partner.

[Participants navigated to the student wiki, logged in, and walked through the process of creating a new wiki page, copying and pasting test, adding tags, and titles, and saving their page.]

In this lesson, teachers will learn how to facilitate students creating short answers and comments about the Underground Railroad using their Apple student wiki pages and blogs.
Teachers will practice using the student wikis.
Ingredients (Resources)
Scholastics Online activity:

Blog and wikis needed:

1. On the Plantation. Using your favorite reading strategies for the online content, students will become familiar with “On the Plantation” passages. Wiki pages and the Blog feature. In this part of the lesson, students will comment on the questions linked in the blog post. The instructions are on the blog post at: [link deleted, it is on our Intranet and is password protected]
2. ESCAPE! is the second part of the Scholastic online activity?  Please have your students use the online activity.
3. Reaching Safety:  [link deleted, it is on our Intranet and is password protected]
4. Reaching Freedom: Use the online activity found on Scholastic’s page. It is super!
5. Tell the Story, the last part. In this activity, use the student wiki page to record student work. [link deleted, it is on our Intranet and is password protected]


Part 1: On the Plantation – Guided Practice-Writing Activity:
In Fannie’s Shoes students will:

Use the prompt: “Now imagine yourself in Fannie’s shoes when she was a child. Post their answers to these questions on the blog post as COMMENTS!!!”

Use this Blog on the student wiki: [link deleted, it is on our Intranet and is password protected]
Part 2: Escape – Students, you will read and complete the letter writing activity where you are an agent on the Underground Railroad writing to a stationmaster in Philadelphia. <follow steps online>

Part 3:  Reaching Safety – The Underground Railroad – escape from slavery

[link deleted, it is on our Intranet and is password protected]

Post a Comment to answer these questions.


1. Follow the link to the website. Find the correct answer to the questions.
2. Copy the question to use in your comment.
3. To Post a COMMENT, scroll down to find the word “comment” and click on this.
4. Save your comment. It will not show up immediately.
5. THEN continue this process until you correctly answer all questions on this blog.

Part 4: Reaching Freedom – use the online resources for this part, they are super!!

Part 5: Tell the Story – students create their own wiki page to answer questions.

1. Tell the Story – Students will use this blog: [link deleted, it is on our Intranet and is password protected]
2. Select and Copy the text of all the questions below.
3. Click on the + icon to create a new wiki page
4. Enter the name of your new wiki page. Give the page a name like Nikki’s Telling the Story Wiki. Click the Create word to open the new page.
5. Click on the pencil icon so you can edit your new page.
6. Paste the text with all the questions below into your new wiki page.
7. Save the wiki page by clicking on save.
8. Tag your wiki page with your name. You may want to bookmark your new wiki page so you can find it easier. Tip: use another New Window to open both your new wiki page.
9. Read the questions and click on the links to navigate to the online resource.
10. Read the material linked to and look for the best answer to the question. Read carefully!!!
11. Navigate back to your new Telling the Story wiki page and click the pencil icon to edit.
12. Type in your answers.
13. MAKE SURE YOUR FULL NAME IS ON THE WIKI PAGE [this helps searching for student work]
14. Add Tags to your new wiki page with your name and another tag Tell the Story
15. View “The Underground Railroad: Escape From Slavery” on DE Streaming.


Informal question and answer while students are reading and listening to the content online as you move around monitoring students.

* Teacher created rubric for writing projects.
* Peer-assessments to evaluate each other’s writing.
* Use North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s supplied writing rubric.
* Exit slips to check daily progress.
* Teacher created K-W-L or other graphic organizer.

Integration of Technology/21st Century Skills

* Information literacy
* Effective written communication
* Technology using wiki and online resources

Integration of Other Academic Areas

* Communication Skills
* Social Studies


* Auditory learners use headphone
* K-W-L for visual learners
* Modification for EC – fewer questions, learning pairs to create common wiki page.

Tech Facilitator Reflections:

For students that had not used our student wiki prior to this activity, the learning curve was steep. However, many of our students have been using their student wiki on a daily basis to post comments, photos, videos, music, and writing assignments. A positive experience that a teacher shared with me was when a teacher was telling the students about how to create a new wiki page. The teacher made a mistake and several of her teachers were quick to point out that she had made told them the incorrect procedure. The teacher made the transition from “sage on the stage” to coach on the side. Students have an opportunity to serve as mentors, peer tutors, and tech experts when there is one teacher and 27 laptops or computers in a lab setting. I tried to talk to the students that the teacher told me were their experts. I could not catch up with them so I pulled up their wiki page and left a positive comment and asked our principal to leave a comment of their pages.

Mastering how to create wiki pages requires several sessions. Teachers have their own teacher wiki pages. However, it is different when they are trying to tell middle school students how to use them. Having setup the student wikis as a social network and encouraging them to share photos and things that they like for example- dogs, hunting, baseball, books, vacation trips, and even trips to the D.C. This usage let them explore the wiki environment. We posted tutorials and FAQs for students to use as they learned how to use the wiki. Teachers on the other hand commented that they just did not have enough time to learn how to use the wiki. They would find it hard to believe that some of their students comment on their classmate’s wiki posts after 1:00 AM and as early as 5:30 AM – and these are middle school students!

Should our student’s wiki be public or remain private. In my humble opinion, no. I was surprised at the number of our 6th graders that bragged about having their own MySpace page. One Friday, our content filter device died and our school filter was inactive. I was in a classroom when the students discovered the hole in our filter. As I walked around that particular classroom, about 1/3 showed me their pages. All of them had password protected their profiles and all knew about the dangers of MySpace. By having our entire student wiki behind our firewall and password protected, the students generally approved of this arrangement. 7th and 8th graders do not have laptops this year and the student wiki is most populated by 6th grade students. I have had one student complain about using the wiki to post his assignments. His complaint is well founded. He complained that if he posted an assignment on the wiki, that anyone can change it. To combat this issue, students are instructed to post their documents in a pdf format. Also, students can post their presentations as movies. Keynote and PowerPoint documents can be exported as movies. Students can post movies with their names in the titles and credits. This seems to slow down copycats and vandals. So, private wikis have a place in our program, even if students are not exposed to “a larger audience”. Maybe after using the private wiki in grade 6, they will be ready to move to a live blog and wiki environment next year.


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