I use Twitter to help make the text-marking and annotation process a social activity for students.
Traditionally, students annotations are a “one-way conversation” between the student and a piece of paper. However, Twitter provides an opportunity for students to interact with each other while engaging in the reading process:
–First, instead of text-marking or annotating their book, students tweet their comment to our class hashtag. They highlight a sentence or two in their actual text, take a photo of that and then write about it in their tweet. This is exactly the kind of skill that common core wants to see–and its more engaging and social for kids because it’s digital.
–Next, students interact on Twitter and learn from each other by clarifying points of confusion. This type of discussion is another common core skill. Even though students don’t engage face-to-face, the opportunity to socialize academically dramatically increases their engagement.
–Then I read through the class Twitter feed to see what students are struggling with and what have they already mastered. I can see when errors occur and choose when and how I want to intervene. This in turn informs my lesson plan for the next day. And: rather than collecting students’ books midway through the reading process and spending several days reviewing their annotations, I get real-time insight on the students’ understanding. Not only does this speed up my feedback turn-around time, I can drive what’s happening in the process.
One of the additional benefits of this approach is the community it creates. Kid’s interaction much with outside of class fosters a better environment inside the classroom. Students feel like they know each other better, and they engage with students they might not have otherwise interacted with because of the safe digital space.
When it works best, every kid feels valued and wants to participate.
What I did well (in sharing this practice with other teachers)?
One thing worth highlighting is the first small group discussion. These two talk about it’s a challenge to talk deeply about text in 140 characters. This is something you will hear from your students if/when you try this; however, concision is a skill with which most students struggle in any form of writing, so this becomes great practice for that, and also, it’s important that students be equally adept at writing on multiple platforms.
What I would do more of, better, differently (in sharing this practice again)?
The conversation about assessment didn’t get to the depths of the assessment theory behind this practice. One of the essential elements for success is a firm understanding of your own assessment philosophy before thinking about using Twitter and having to navigate the assessment conundrums associated with it. For example: do you give reading quizzes? What do those look like? Are they plot-based or analysis based? Anchoring your thinking in the answers to these questions, regardless of the use of technology or not, will easily allow you to figure out what, if any, assessment practices you need when students are Tweet-marking.
In what ways do I still want to learn and grow in using this practice in my classroom?
There are two elements of this practice that I am still trying to improve/figure out: pace and passion. Starting with passion, it was my hypothesis that by making reading more social, “that student” (the non-reader) would want to read more. I am still working to try to find the balance of navigating these two very different types of students – those who love reading and those who don’t. The second element that I am still working through is pace. I want students to stop and THINK about what they read, and this has done this; however, students are busy, and I think it is the role of teacher to be aware of and, as much as we can, accommodate that fact. So, I am still working on this juxtaposition.
About Christopher Bronke
Christopher Bronke has been teaching English for 13 years and is in his 5th year as English Department Chair at Downers Grove North. In this role, ...