Linking Social Networking to Language Arts
How to tap into students' social networking experiences to enhance learning in the language arts classroom.
By Dawn Dodson
Social networking is undeniably a large part of students’ lives. Having been able to integrate and connect that aspect of their lives to language arts class has helped me to improve student engagement, enhance student interest in assignments, and spurred project completion. It has also served as an informal assessment during various units of study. There are many ways you can incorporate aspects of social networking into classroom curriculum; the ideas are endless. For example, you can do anything from utilizing students’ texting abilities to having them explore social networking templates. The following are two ways to easily and appropriately incorporate social networking into the language arts curriculum.
Social Networking and the Book Report
From book reports and dioramas to a book-in-a-bag projects—my sixth graders have been exposed to many different ways to describe the books they have read. My objective in assigning book projects is to assess students’ reading skills and understanding of the concepts studied in class. At one point, however, I found that the engagement level of students was waning when I assigned these types of projects.
At that point, I decided it was time to try something new. During our introduction to an informational text unit, I assigned a Facebook biography project and presentation. Using PowerPoint software, students were able to find a template that mimicked the social networking site. Following that, I had my students research a person of their choice and create a profile of that person with pictures. They were given a rubric to guide their research and the construction of the profiles. Over the course of the project, I was able to make the template available for students on our class website. The final projects turned out amazing! My students put forth the time and effort to produce quality work, and they were very proud of themselves. It was obvious to me that they learned a great deal, and were enthusiastic about sharing what they had learned.
Delving into Character Analysis
Another way I use the social networking model is by making a copy of the Facebook profile template I used in the previous activity and utilizing it as a part of a characterization lesson. When my class read Natalie Babbitt’s novel Tuck Everlasting, and we studied the development of each character in the story, I had each student choose a character and complete a profile template. They had to identify the chosen character’s traits and actions during the course of the story. After students completed the profiles, they exchanged papers with another student in order to post messages. The posted messages were supposed to reflect the characters’ interactions in the story. Students enjoyed this activity, and at the conclusion, they wrote a character analysis about two different characters and their interactions in the book.
Enhancing Teacher/Student Interaction
Another way I integrate social networking in my classroom is by allowing students to 'text' me questions and facts regarding the day’s lessons. Students either turn in a slip of paper as they are exiting class, or send me messages through our class website. This activity allows me to get a quick snapshot of students’ thoughts and any questions they might have about the day's lessons. Therefore, I allow students to use texting language. The text messages I receive has helped me make quick instructional decisions.
By connecting learning to students’ lives though creating a simulation of social networking, I have been able to help keep my students engaged and producing quality work. In my classroom, it’s served as a new way to share our thoughts and questions. There are many tools like this available for the taking! What follows are more ways to integrate students' real life interests into classroom curriculum.
Language Arts Lesson Plans and Activities:
Students research and produce a travel brochure. They utilize podcast technology as well as Excel and Internet resources.
Students do research on popular art forms, and then produce a comic strip that reflects their learning. Students utilize a variety of materials for both research and the project that make this lesson the “something different” for your class.
In this lesson students read the novel Tangerine by Edward Bloor and create news clips dramatizing the story. Students accomplish this by using digital photography. This lesson can be modified for use in other content areas and with a variety of topics.
Students watch a 2008 political debate in order to create advertisements and a position paper that reflect the views expressed. Students work in groups, and read and watch commercials in order to guide their learning.