Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Adventures With @5thGradeEnglish

Last year I introduced a class Twitter account to my 5th Graders, and while my students enjoyed the project very much, I had some hesitation about revisiting the project this year. I can't put my finger on what exactly what gave me pause about using Twitter in my classroom again, although I think it had something to do with doubting whether the experience was as 'valuable' as it was fun. I wondered if tweeting with my students was really a legitimate use of my English class time.

Well, I spent the last two weeks on spring vacation, and of course I found myself on Twitter quite a bit during that time. (When it comes to my personal/professional use of the social media platform, I am all-in!). I happened upon a #digcit chat in which several educators were sharing how they use Twitter with their students, and after a few tweets back and forth with them, I was recommitted to launching the project again this year.

Today, @5thGradeEnglish was dusted off, and I'm feeling more confident than ever that Twitter is an indispensable writing tool for students. Before getting down to business, I began by discussing the online safety and the importance of anonymity with my incredibly media savvy 5th Graders. We also reviewed what we knew about the platform itself - its advantages, limitations, and what makes Twitter different from other forms of social media.

Then, it was time to tweet! My students composed tweets sharing what we were learning about in English, as well as other interesting or fun things that had happened during the day. Watching them work collaboratively to compose a thoughtful, interesting tweet in 140 characters was inspiring. One student came up with the idea for a tweet, while another chimed in with a way to put that idea into writing. Still others tweaked the wording, added detail, improved our vocabulary choices. We chatted for a bit about what our goals were - what we hoped to convey to our audience with our tweets - and the students started editing and revising their 140 characters to try and hit just the right tone (in some cases a sense of respect, in others a feeling of good humor or irony).

We reflected on the process and together we shared the epiphany that the 10+ minutes we'd spent sending two tweets included all the characteristics of our longer writing projects. We brainstormed, wrote, edited, revised, looked for ways to add emotion and vivid imagery, and finally, published. After just one day of tweeting with my 5th Graders, I can't remember why I ever doubted the value and importance of using Twitter in the classroom!