Throw Out the Journals: Twitter in the English Classroom

Don’t throw away your journal or composition books just yet! But Twitter is a great alternative for writing and reading comprehension in the classroom.  After a Twitter chat this past weekend with fellow educators, the discussion turned to how to use Twitter in the classroom.  As a middle school English teacher and daily Tweeter, I have slowly integrated Twitter into my classroom for checks for  understanding and various writing activities.  

I request that my students create Twitter accounts to use in my classroom for educational purposes if they already have a Twitter account.  Twitter is a tech tool that any teacher can use for content area teaching, checks for understanding, analysis and synthesis, and to promote positive digital citizenship.

Here are five ways to utilize Twitter in the English classroom:

1. 140 Character Micro Story or Poem. Twitter is a micro blog that allows 140 characters (punctuation and spaces included) or less to communicate in a tweet.  Hence, one needs to keep a tweet short and simple. 140 characters is all that one has.  I want my students write clearly and concisely, with little rambling and filler.  Twitter is great in the sense that one has to communicate his or her message effectively in so few words.  From a creative stand point, students can create 140 character stories or poems.

2. Exit Tickets & Quick Responses. Need a short summary of a key idea or concept.  Want to check for understanding. Have students tweet their responses to a writing prompt or question.  

3. Backchannel for Film Discussions. If the class is watching a movie in class students can use twitter to have a silent discussion during the film.  As students are watching the film version of a book read in class, students can tweet the similarities and differences between the two texts. This activity meets CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.7.7 Compare and contrast a text to an audio, video, or multimedia version of the text, analyzing each medium’s portrayal of the subject (e.g., how the delivery of a speech affects the impact of the words).

4. Book Discussions and Literature Circles. Last spring I had my students initiate their own book discussions about To Kill a Mockingbird and bring in the transcripts of the Twitter discussions.  I was so impressed by my students questions and reflections about the book.  This semester I am having my students engage in Twitter book club discussions (meeting once a week) with the book Bystander by James Preller (A must read for any middle school teacher). 

5. Be the Character. What would the main character say, do, or think?  How might they react?  Tweet the unspoken words or tweet from another character’s perspective.  You can do this with a fiction or non fiction text. Students can take on a persona and give voice to someone who has been silenced in the text.

To collaborate with other English teachers or gleen ideas on Twitter you can participate in the weekly #engchat discussion on Mondays at 7PM EST or Wednesdays at 7:30 PM EST participate in #tcrwp (Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project) twitter chat on topics related to literacy. 



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