Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fostering Creative Thought Through Tweets

The other day I began conducting formal observations of my teachers.  My second observation of the day took me to an English class. During the opening moments of the 9th grade English class I was pleasantly surprised when the teacher quickly reviewed the summer choice reading assignment that was due in a few days.  She used social media, specifically Twitter, to increase student engagement as well as relevancy and meaning.  Below is a description of the assignment that was handed out to the students:

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Choose 4 characters from your book – the protagonist, the antagonist, and two others.  Then write a set of three tweets that the character might send if he, she, or it had access to technology (Total of 12 tweets, 140 characters or less).  This assignment must be attached to your final product.

Requirements for each set of tweets:
  • The first tweet should be a message the character would send at the beginning of the novel and should illustrate the character’s concerns, conflicts, and character traits.
  • The second tweet should be a message the character would send at the climax of the novel (or the point of greatest conflict) and should illustrate the character’s role in that conflict.
  • The third tweet should be a message the character would send at the end of the novel and should illustrate the character’s feelings about the book’s resolution.

The teacher also included an example of an actual tweet from a current student as well as a detailed rubric providing students with the performance requirements on how they would be assessed.  The rubric stressed creativity, original thought, and in-depth knowledge of characters all in 140 characters or less.  There was even a note encouraging creativity, but reminding students about digital responsibility.

I was really pleased to see a new teacher at my school developing a creative assessment centered on Twitter, a social media tool that is growing in popularity amongst youth across the globe.  She could have chosen to assess the summer choice reading assignment in a typical fashion, but instead decided to try something a bit more creative.  Based on the questions that I observed the students asking it seemed to me that they were eager to participate in this project.  One of my suggestions going forward with an assignment like this would be to create a specific hash tag so that both the students and teacher could see the assignment come full circle with the effective integration of technology. 


  1. Would love to see the rubric. Will the English teacher share?

  2. Great idea! I've seen these sorts of activities becoming more popular and also effective. This lesson format follows the idea of ...if they can't come to you, you go to them.

  3. Yes, please - rubric needed! I assign mini-sagas (fifty words exactly) for chapter summaries, and this would tie in nicely!

  4. Love this! I mostly have my students tweet summaries of chapters read to me but they love using Twitter and this would be a fun activity for them. Rubric, please???

  5. I just added a hyperlink to the rubric.

  6. I think that this is a great first step, especially if the teacher will build on this during the year. That said, it is worth pointing out that all Twitter is being used for here is a different vehicle for delivery to the teacher. She could just as easily have said, "Email me your response in the form of a haiku." The question for me is how can Twitter change the nature of the assignment. In this case, Twitter might have been used to support collaboration to transform a summer assignment, assignments that are usually one-off and done in an isolated fashion for the teacher.

    The following would be easier if students are readin the same book, but could just as easily be done with characters talking to each other across a variety of books as they try to find a line through their different experiences.

    Using the hashtag is important, but the assignment might have asked the students to engage in a conversation as the antagonist/protagonist. For example, the student who posts first about the beginning of the book gets to choose from whose perspective s/he is writing the tweet. The next student then searches for the hashtag and has to respond from the the alternate character's perspective. In this way, the students are responding to each other even though separated by summer's time and space. There is an interesting back and forth as students in character explore the beginning, middle and end of the book. They come to school in a different place because they have had a shared reading experience.

    The bottom line is that Twitter doesn't add that much if we are still doing the same thing. The question is how do we see the new opportunities that lie behind the shine of these technologies. It's really about transforming teaching practice and not technology.

  7. I respectfully disagree. The nature of a tweet was used in this case to have the students synthesize the story in a critical fashion. It also afforded them the opportunity to be creative with their responses. With that being said, I do like some of your suggestions related to the use of the hash tag and taking the assignment to another level. I will pass these along to the teacher.

  8. Glad you're into the project! Just got observed myself and used Twitter. We'll see how the report comes in. :)

  9. I enjoyed reading this article, although I'm not ready to incorporate Twitter into my classroom just yet, I do see some benefits from it. Still need more research before I make that leap though.