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AI For English Teachers: 3 Ways It Can Serve You

If you have ever wondered if AI is your friend or foe, this post is for you. I’d like to share three super simple and handy ways that that AI can actually help you as an English teacher. 

I’m not going to lie–the world of AI is changing so fast, it’s hard to keep up, and that can seem overwhelming. It’s also no secret that AI has turned our classrooms a bit upside down in terms of what we assign. But there are definitely some great things that AI can do for us.

First, I do want to note that it’s important to discuss with your students how AI should or should not be used in each assignment you give them. These expectations can vary depending on the assignment, so it’s important to communicate clearly at the beginning of the school year. 

We’ll be diving into that topic more in a future post.

Pull out quote that explains how important it is that we discuss with students when AI can and can not be used in our classrooms for assignments.

But for now, here are a few ways you can use AI as an English teacher:

1.) Use Draftback To See Students’ Writing Process

First up as we discuss AI for English teachers, let’s talk about the reality that sometimes students turn in work that is not their own original writing on an assignment that did require they turn in their own original writing.

What It Is: Draftback is a chrome extension that can allow you to see students’ key strokes as they write a paper. 

Why Use It: This can be an incredibly helpful tool if you find yourself wondering if a student actually wrote this paper or not because it will show you if a large section was copied and pasted. 

How To Get It: Chrome extensions are pretty simple to install. This article walks you through it.

How To Use It: You can’t rely on this method to prove unequivocally that a student turned in work that they did not write on their own, however it is a starting point for a conversation. Simply hit the button, and you will see the whole process of the student writing the paper. 

Picture of the chrome extension draft back which allows teachers to see keystrokes on an essay to determine if it was plagiarized

If you feel like a student turned in writing that was not their own, you can run it through Draftback and see if sections of it were copied and pasted. If they were, then you can go to the student or parent and present your concerns. You might say something like, “I have a program that shows me whether or not you copied and pasted parts of your essay, and it shows that you have. Can you more fully explain your process involved in writing this?” Or something along those lines. 

Whether or not a student admits that they turned in something that was not their own original thinking, you now have evidence that they did get it from somewhere, unless for some reason they wrote it in another document and copied and pasted it over. 

The first time something like this happens, you might want to give the student a chance to rewrite the essay in front of you before or after school where you have a view of their document the whole time. You’ll want to be sure at this time that a student is absolutely clear on the expectations of the assignment and whether or not any assistance (from AI or anywhere else) is permitted for the assignment. 

Banner that says Three Ways AI can help english teachers with a picture of a computer

2.) Use Brisk To Give Feedback

Formative assignments require feedback, but as English teachers, we know this is time consuming. Enter the second tool that’s helpful regarding AI for English teachers.

What It Is: A Chrome extension that runs through an essay and gives feedback according to the rubric you have given it

How To Get It: Here’s a guide for how to install a chrome extension

How To Use It: Brisk walks you step-by-step through how to upload your rubric, and from there you’ll just hit “go” on an essay and it will provide feedback on the essay via comments. You can approve and edit individual comments.

More On This: Brisk is really only as good as your rubric, so it’s important to spend some energy fine-tuning your rubric, so that the software can be as effective as possible. If you fine-tune your rubric, Brisk can give great feedback and really save you some time. 

picture of the chrome extension brisk which helps teachers give feedback on essays

It’s best to use this type of feedback only on formative assignments and of course proof what it’s spitting out. However, with meaningful feedback on formatives, ideally you should have very few comments to make on summatives.  This concept of providing detailed feedback on formative assignments and relatively little feedback on summative assignments is becoming accepted as best practices in English education. We want students to have all the feedback on the formative assignments, so they have opportunities to improve before the summative. 

3.) Use Gemini or ChatGPT to Generate Book Lists and Book Recs

Last, let’s chat about how ChatGPT can actually help us (and not simply destroy our students’ abilities to think).

What It Is: You’re probably familiar with GhatGPT and/or Gemini, but in short, they are programs that allow you to ask specific questions and get a clear, detailed answer. 

How To Get It: Both of these are free and available on the web. 

How To Use It: Though there are many uses for both of these, one incredible way I’ve found these programs to be handy is by providing book list and book recs for me and my students. 

For instance, let’s say you are teaching a unit and have this essential question:

“What is the relationship between love and courage?”

Let’s say one text you’re using is Romeo and Juliet, but you also want your students to do book clubs to examine this question. However, you don’t know what books to have your students read that will involve topics similar to Romeo and Juliet that can help them work with this essential question. 

In that situation, you can ask ChatGPT:

Give me a list of 6 books that are written for older teens that have to do with a whirlwind romance and include the topic of fate where at least one character does something courageous. 

picture of a question in Gemini and the answer that it produces

Chat GPT will provide you a list of books that are excellent for book clubs for this EQ. Of course, you’ll still need to verify that these are appropriate novels for your students to accomplish what you want to do in your classroom, but I’ve used this method many times, and the book lists these programs have given me are truly outstanding when I give it a detailed question.

More on This: The more specific you can be with these programs, the better results you will get. However, this is truly a game changer because you simply cannot keep up with all the books being written (especially YA), and this gives you an awesome way to get appropriate books for book clubs for your students. 

This also works great with recommending books for students in general. For instance, if a student comes to you needing a book rec. and they say they loved the book Scythe by Neal Shusterman, you can ask ChatGPT for books that are similar and have a list of 5 books to suggest to this student in seconds. This is also fantastic because we just can’t be constantly on top of all the books coming out especially in genres that frankly aren’t our favorite. 

Takeaways:

AI can actually help you as an English teacher! Maybe it is indeed more friend than foe? The jury may still be out on that, but for now, we can at least embrace a few ways that AI can help us. 

At the English Teacher Vault, we will take a deeper dive into this topic in the summer of 2024 during our first summer workshop! You can get instant access to all 3 of our summer workshops when you become a member of the English Teacher Vault. We will also be providing members with a no-prep lesson for you to use with your students to explore the layers of AI and its role in school and your classroom specifically. 

Want to know more about the vault? Check it out here:

how to join the English teacher vault to get more access to resources that help with AI

 

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