How to Twitter Chat

Twitter website screenshotCreative Commons License Spencer E Holtaway via Compfight

*This was originally posted on Aug. 13, 2013. Updates were made on April 26, 2016 and February 7, 2017.

If you’re getting ready to participate in a Twitter chat for the first time, this little post may be helpful to you.

I’ll be using #nebedchat (Nebraska Education Chat) as an example because it’s a chat I’m involved in either as a moderator or more frequently, as a participant.

1. The first thing to remember is always use the chat’s hashtag in all of the tweets you send in response to the chat. In this case, the hashtag is #nebedchat. Make sure that you leave enough space in your tweet for that hashtag because it counts against your 140 character.

2.  When you use a hashtag like #nebedchat, it creates a backchannel. A backchannel is just a place where ALL of the tweets that include the hashtag show up. You’ll notice a variety of tweets below. I captured this series of tweets whilst in the #nebedchat backchannel. Notice that all of the tweets include the #nebedchat hashtag.

NOTE: Click on the images in this entry to get a larger, clearer view of the screen captures I posted.










3. Make sure you are in the LIVE backchannel (This shows everything that was tweeted.), rather than the TOP TWEETS tab, which will only show you the tweets that get “favorited” a lot.

Some people use an app like TweetDeck to keep an eye on multiple hashtags, but when I am participating in a chat, here is what I do. I use Firefox, if I’m using my Macbook Air, and Safari, if I’m using my iPad, so that I can open multiple tabs simultaneously. I like to keep the backchannel for the chat AND my Twitter interactions tab open at the same time. That way I can see EVERY tweet posted in the backchannel as well as all tweets directed specifically to me.













(Any time someone posts something with my Twitter handle -@morgetron- it shows up in my interactions feed.) I toggle between these two tabs throughout the chat.

4. When you first arrive to a chat, it is usual practice to introduce yourself briefly–usually your name and occupation will do, but sometimes a moderator will ask for additional information.

In the tweet below, #nebedchat moderator, Chris (@chrisstogdill) asked everyone to introduce him/herself by tweeting his/her name, the school where he/she works or is associated with, his/her current position in said school and he briefly explained the preferred format for that night’s chat.






Many time there will be someone else designated as chat greeter too, so don’t be surprised if after you introduce yourself, someone other than the moderator welcomes you to the chat (though sometimes the moderator does double as a greeter as well). During busy chats, this practice is sometimes dropped, but #nebedchat-ters are notoriously friendly and odds are someone will pipe in with a warm welcome.

5. During a chat, the moderator typically uses a specific format which he/she generally will explain at the beginning of the chat (but not always). The most common format is this: The moderator poses a question, using the Q1, Q2, Q3 format. Like this:

Chris was the moderator and posed Question #2, by indicating Q2.






6. Then, when you answer a particular question, you use the corresponding A1, A2, A3, etc.

Cynthia (@cynthiastogdill) responded to Chris’s Q2 by indicating A2 (Answer 2).





I like Lenessa’s (@lenessakeehn) explanation for this practice as well:






6. During a chat you can respond to the questions posed by the moderator OR you can respond to what other people are saying. For example, you will notice that Laura (@mandery) responded to one of Chris’s questions. Then TJ Meyer (@tjmeyer12) responded to Laura’s tweet and included Kid President’s handle, (@iamkidpresident) since Laura mentioned him in her tweet. Laura tweeted back at TJ and then Daisy (@DaisyDyerDuerr) responded to Laura, TJ, and Kid President.











7. If you’re responding to what someone else says, you can just click on the REPLY link in the tweet to which you’re responding which should automatically format your tweet with that person’s (or like in Daisy’s case, people’s Twitter handles). You should still include the chat’s hashtag in your response though so that others involved in the chat can read your responses. Below, I included a screen capture of what it looks like when I clicked on the “reply” function on Daisy’s tweet. It automatically formatted my tweet to include Daisy’s, Laura’s, TJ’s, and Kid President’s Twitter handles. If I wanted to just reply to Daisy, I would remove the others’ names.







8. The main thing about Twitter chats is this–> You’ll be sharing in learning by communicating with people from all over. (You’ll notice that many people who participate in #nebedchat are educators from Nebraska, but others will be from elsewhere. For example, Daisy is from Arkansas. We have people joining us from all over the U.S. and from other countries as well.) View it as a friendly conversation–like people gathering at a coffee shop to discuss common topic of interest. It’s really low-pressure and you will be able to both give and receive helpful information.

9. If you are new to Twitter or new to Twitter chats or just a nervous lurker with a desire to break free from lurker status into active Tweep, #nebedchat is an excellent place to start. I would argue it is one of the friendliest chats out there. As long as you are there in the spirit of learning, everyone will deliver a warm welcome to you.

Are you still unsure about this? It’s okay to try things of which you are unsure. If you are really nervous though, tweet me (@morgetron) or send me an email and I will answer any questions you have:



My friend@THLibrariZen and I will be moderating #nebedchat (Nebraska Education Chat) on Wed. February 8, 2017 at 9 PM CST. Rather than a topic, we will have a theme, and all of our questions are inspired by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. We hope you can pop in.

Student Reflection … YES … but how?

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”

~ John Dewey

Nice View . . .

Creative Commons License David Robert Bliwas via Compfight

We added an unconference-style element to our in-service today with breakout sessions, lead by various staff members. I facilitated a breakout discussion on Reflection’s Role in Learning. I chose this as a topic of discussion, not because I’m an expert in it, but because I want to get better at eliciting reflection in my students. I recognize the importance of reflection in my own learning process, so naturally, I want teach my students how to use this tool. In fact, my goal is to embed it so effectively into my classroom process that it becomes an automatic response for my students.

However, achieving buy-in with students can be a challenge. Reflection can be viewed as busywork by some, as Erin Konecky, pointed out today during one of the sessions, so teaching students the WHY behind reflection is important. As the blog post “Scaffolding Student Reflection” by my Twitter friend, Rusual Alrubail reminds us, “relevance=motivation.” (However, how to gain buy-in exactly is a mystery at this point!) Erin also pointed out that students reflect all the time–it’s not necessarily a conscious act though. It more often takes the shape of a fleeting thought rather than a formal response. Moreover, these momentary reflective thoughts are not always as deep as is necessary for the full benefit of reflection. And, some students are more adept at reflection than others. So, like in all classroom processes, we must teach what we want to see.

Throughout the course of two breakout sessions, a few things became apparent:

A. We reached consensus that reflection is an important part of learning.

B. We found that we all ask students to reflect in different ways–on a wide spectrum of depth and formality. None of us have perfected it, but we’re all seeking to improve it.

C. We can’t assume that students will come to us knowing HOW to reflect. We must teach them how to reflect or formalize their existing reflection process.

D. Reflection can take different forms and offering students choices in demonstrating reflection can be beneficial for teacher and student. It can also be a very personal process, so finding ways for students to share reflection comfortably will also need to be a priority.

E. Personal growth in students is sometimes overlooked because “the system” is so focused on number grades. Reflection may be a way to honor personal growth and give a better overall picture of a whole student rather than distilling him or her to a number in the grade book.

In the first breakout, we used a variation of the “Save the Last Word For Me” discussion technique to examine Rusul’s post (linked above). We delved into the WHY student reflection is important and WHY we should be incorporating student reflection into our classroom practices and assessment. The article also gave us an opportunity to discuss what role personal growth should play in defining success for students.

In the second session, I approached the discussion a little differently. We started with the above-linked article, and then spent some time writing responses to the following questions in a padlet that I’ve embedded below. After that we used the same discussion technique as we did in the first session, but compacted the time a bit.

Made with Padlet
We had limited time today to answer the question, HOW do we use student reflection in a way that is useful to teacher and student? But it was a start!
Here are some additional questions for you to ponder in your reflection about reflection:
  • We know reflection is an important component of the learning experience. How can we convince students of reflection’s importance? 
  • How are you already using student reflection in your practice?
  • What are your concerns about using reflection in your classroom?
  • Have you seen anyone else use it successfully?
  • What were your takeaways from our brief discussion today?


03 Jonathan Zawada, Big Mouth Zine

Creative Commons License Will via Compfight

One time I heard one of my third grade teachers telling one of my classmates that he was loquacious. (This was the same teacher who threw her giant textbook as hard as she could on the ground in response to her frustration with this same student, so I tended to pay attention to all of their interactions. It was one of the juiciest teacher-student relationships I had ever witnessed.) I didn’t know what loquacious meant, and I was certain it was something horrible so I looked it up. As it turns out, it means “talkative.” Not so horrible, and I remember thinking, “Well, I am NOT loquacious (in school).” I think of that teacher and that classmate every time I happen upon that word, which up until very recently was not a frequent occurrence. However, all of that changed this semester, when the word loquacious showed up as a vocabulary word for my 10th graders. I guess this is one example of why you SHOULD use big words with your own children (and students). Most students don’t want to be left in the dust, so if they don’t understand what a word means, they will ask you, or even the quiet ones (like me) will find out meaning on their own. Even if they don’t immediately, at least they will have a layer of context to work with the next time they hear the word used again.

when breathing isn’t part of the curriculum

via Instagram

On Tuesday, a bunch of students were gone for track and drama day during my 6th hour class, so the remaining students proposed that we go outside.

“Is it nice out?” I asked.

“70 degrees,” several said in unison. In unison.

“But I was going to give you time to read today,” I said (half-heartedly trying to build a case for staying put).

“We will read at home,” one spokesperson stated, with authority.

via Instagram

We went outside. We ran around in the grass. We made funny faces and played with a magical substance. We admired the color of blue in the sky and the puffiness of the clouds. In other words, we made the right decision.

No regrets. This simple deviation from the schedule is something they were still celebrating on Wednesday. Most of the kids read the assigned reading too. Even if we had stayed inside, some of the students would’ve read the assignment and some of them wouldn’t have read it.

Tuesday was a good reminder that I need to build in more time to breathe, to soak in sunshine, to move, to be silly for the sake of it. It doesn’t necessarily connect to our curriculum. Building this time in will help improve relationships with students AND add to our overall health as individuals.

via Instagram

The Relateable Prince Escalus


Bill Lile via Compfight

During 6th hour today, I read the part of Prince Escalus in scene 1 Act I of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and I may have gotten into it a little too much.

It’s just that I relate to Prince E. He’s fed up with the shenanigans of his people, but when he speaks, he has trouble getting them to take him seriously, or even listen in the first place. Even with the threat of severe punishment hanging over the city, they are so wrapped up in their own affairs, they cannot be bothered to stop what they are doing to hear what he has to say. When he hears of yet another brawl stemming from the ridiculous ancient Veronian grudge, he enters the scene in a fury.

He addresses them, “Rebellious subjects!” (Everyone keeps fighting.) “Enemies to peace!” (A chicken flies past his head.) “Profaners of this neighbor-stained steel–!” (A friar gets stabbed in the eye and is wheeled out in an apple cart.) “Will they not hear?”

I mean what teacher CAN’T relate to Prince E? Maybe my students aren’t brawling in the aisles of the classroom, and so far I’ve never had a live chicken running around during class,  and the consequences I lay out are nowhere near as serious as the prince’s, but we have our moments when I want to start class and everyone else in the room has other concerns. That’s normal. Students have priorities. Teachers have priorities. Those priorities don’t always match.

As the day went on, my Prince Escalus performance became more and more passionate. By 6th period, I was really feeling it. I got louder and louder. And, now my vocal cords feel broken, but I had some fun playing the role of Prince Escalus today.

Instagram of the God/desses (a lesson plan, with handouts)

Gods @ Mount Olympus Ganymedes Costagravas via Compfight

To prep for our upcoming freshman English Odyssey unit, we are researching the gods, goddesses, and some other mythological friends. In order to avoid the boring Powerpoint/poster board format of the days of yore, my colleagues and I tapped into popular culture and asking the students to present their research in the form of a social media profile. I went the Instagram route.

My intention was to let them choose between Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, but as the day turned into night and the night turned into morning as I worked on the Instagram template, I decided to go to bed and so #Insta it was. (I toyed with the idea of a Snapchat template, but I just couldn’t pull that one out this time. By the next time I teach The Odyssey, there will be some other social media outlet for which I will need to devise a template.) The students had the option of printing off their template and drawing “photos” by hand, or creating a digital document using Pages.

Some things that went well:
1. The students who enjoy creative projects went to town and engagement was overall high.
2. Giving high and low-tech options met almost everyone’s needs. (With some minor tweaks, accommodations, modifications, everyone was able to meet the goals of the project.)
3. The students were focused and (for the most part everyone) used class time to its full potential, which also speaks to the engagement level. (There will always be exceptions to this rule.)
4. The research portion of the activity was effective. Every student could tell you something about the god/dess or mythical figure s/he selected. Most could tell you many things. Everyone learned something.
Some things I’ll do differently next time:
1. I apparently have no idea how to instruct students on where to save their documents so that they “travel” with the student. I thought I did, but I definitely did not. When we moved to a new computer lab, the students either had to walk down to the lab we worked on the first day and retrieve documents from the exact computer where they sat the day before or start over. This lead to many lost documents and lots of wasted time.  (This is my first year at the school, so I am still learning processes. I’m STILL not sure I know how to do this. I instructed several students to email themselves the most current version of their assignment. That worked, but it is not ideal.)
2. The template is a Pages document and it needs to be tweaked so that the objects/tables are not “wrapped”. Otherwise, when you move one object it moves the rest of the objects/tables around. The other thing I may do is create a template in Google Drawing, so that the students’ can keep their document in their Google Drive.
3. I should’ve front-loaded with how to edit a Pages document … masking, tables, etc. because most of them had never used Pages in that capacity, which lead to frustration for the students (and consequently me. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard that much whining … Ugh. My bad.)
4. Those who wanted to work at home could only do so if they have a Mac. Most do not. I sent them a PDF, but they could only print it off and do it by hand, since PDFs are not digitally alterable.
5. Some of the students, today (the third day of what was supposed to be a 1 1/2 day project) asked if they could just create a REAL Instagram account. This thought had occurred to me when I was making the template, but I didn’t think they would want to go through that process. I told them YES. Those who chose the option said that it would be so much easier than using that god-(or goddess??)-forsaken template. I will most likely make that an option in the future, if I can sort out some copyright issues. I made an assumption about their willingness to open a new Instagram account, and you know what they say about assumptions.
Aside: It cracks me up when a student wants to cite him/herself as a source! (This is not to discount the idea that some students are experts at some things–like a student who has grown up taking care of horses, or a student who has honed in on a passion for vacuum cleaners at age four–but usually, until you’ve published a book or received payment as an invited speaker on the subject, you have to cite your sources.) I suppose this would be a good time to teach or model humility …?
Questions I have for other educators: 
1. Copyright is a big deal to me. I want to make sure students are citing their information sources, but I also want them to cite their image sources, which is something I’ve noticed is overlooked.  With the template, this was easy. With the actual Instagram accounts, what is the best method for attribution, or is it even okay to post images that don’t belong to you in a parody Instagram account? This is something I didn’t think of prior to giving the greenlight to the students’ spontaneous proposal.
2. Do you have any ideas for creating a FAKE Snapchat template? Other social media outlets other than Twitter and Facebook?
In all, I think this went well. It’s, just like everything we do in education (and in life), a work in progress, but next year it will be better, and the year after that, even better.
You can find the documents I used for this project #BELOW.


What We Wish We Knew

Listen, Understand, Act

Steven Shorrock via Compfight

Have you ever wished to know what made a particular student tick? Why s/he behaves in such an unruly fashion? Why s/he seems so sad all the time? Why s/he never turns in homework? Why s/he doesn’t respond when you ask a question in front of the class?

At the end of last school year, a teacher from Colorado asked her third graders what they wished their teacher knew about them. She gave them the sentence stem of “I wish my teacher knew …” and let them complete the sentence. The results were telling and heartbreaking. The children’s honesty floored her and when she shared some of the responses with the interwebs, the people of the interwebs were astonished too. The hashtag #IWishMyTeacherKnew went viral. It even reached into my classroom. One of my students wrote a blog post that broke my heart and it inspired me to want to write something in response. However, the end of the school year happened, and then a new job offer happened, and then a summer class happened, and then starting a new job happened, and here I was in the midst of a new school year and I still hadn’t written anything. However, once I decided that one of the first assignments I gave my new students this year would be the high school version of what Kyle Schwartz asked her third graders to do, I knew it was finally time to write one too.

The assignment asked students to write at least one paragraph explaining what each student wished their teacher(s) knew about them. The students’ writing has been so honest and so helpful in learning about them in just a few sentences (or more. Some went well beyond the one-paragraph minimum). And so, I am still inspired and now I will write what I have been wanting to write, since Devon posted her #IWishMyTeacherKnew piece in her blog last May. As a result of this assignment, I have created a page dedicated to the subject of what #IWishMyStudentsKnew. The reason I’m making it a page and not a blog post is that it’s important to me that students (and their parents, and my colleagues) get to know me. It is just as important for me to get to know them and this assignment helped me get a little closer to understanding them as individuals. I also will shape and mold it as my career carries on. There will always be something new to add or subtract as I gain experience and as my philosophy evolves.

I encourage you to do the same. I think your students will be surprised to learn what you have to share with them. I think you will be surprised what you learn about yourself.

Here is a link to my page –> #IWishMyStudentsKnew.

I am an activist teacher.

X is for...340/365

Creative Commons License AndYaDontStop via Compfight

It’s amazing how a 20-minute conversation can change the way you view yourself. Just like that, I became an activist teacher. 20 minutes! I have never thought of teaching as a political act prior to today, and I feel naive admitting this, because now it seems so obvious, but in the interest of transparency and honesty I’m sharing this with you, dear reader. I’ve always considered myself a little bit of a quiet system bucker, even in my earliest days of teaching, but the word “activist” wasn’t on my radar in relation to ME.

Today the class I am in went and visited another class that has been studying teacher activism. We rotated through two of three stations and in one of the sessions they asked us to think of a time when we opposed a policy, curricular choice, or something else in our school and what step we took to oppose it. It was very easy for me (and my colleagues) to come up with several examples. The older I get the more squeaky of  a wheel I become. I cannot stand idly by and allow things that are not good for our students to happen.

When I think about the educators I admire most, (from those I’ve studied –John Dewey, Paulo Friere, Ira Shor, bell hooks, Jean Piaget–to those I’ve grown to admire more recently–Rick Wormeli, Ken O’Connor, Sir Ken Robinson, Diane Ravitch, many of my Twitter friends–and those I know personally–you know who you are …) I have come to realize that one of the reasons I am drawn to them is because they stand up for what is right for students.

Every time I make a decision in the interest of my students, even if it goes against the status quo, I am an activist. Every time I post something on my blog that aims to change the way someone thinks, I am an activist. Each time I defend public education to the naysayers, I am an activist. Each time I stand up for my students, I am an activist. Acknowledging this makes me feel brave.

I might be taking small steps in the world of activism compared to other more public figures in education or even some of you that I know more personally, but as my confidence builds, so shall my activism, especially now that I know I am an activist.



#phsCONlit Assignment: Response to Stitches, a [Graphic] Memoir, by David Small


Now that you’ve made (at least) one pass through Stitches, A Memoir, by David Small, your final assignment is to respond to the following questions in the form of an essay or a blog post. There are no length requirements, but your responses should fully explore the questions posed. Go beyond a surface-level response. Keep in mind that this your final for this unit, so you should handle it in a way that reflects your careful consideration.

Mama had her little cough … <KNH!> once or twice, some quiet sobbing, out of sight … or the slamming of kitchen cupboard doors. <WHAP!> <WHAP!> <WHAP!> That was her language.

For example–if you are working on responding to question 1, if you just tell me that you thought reading the book was “fine”, that it’s similar to reading a traditional memoir because “it tells a story”, and that it is different from reading a traditional books because “there are pictures”–that’s not a well-developed response. If you give me specific examples from Stitches to illustrate why you did or didn’t like it; you describe strategies and/or methods that work for reading both types of books; and you give specific examples of how the process of reading a graphic novel and a traditional book are different, you’ll be golden. The more specific you get, the better.

David: I … she … she’s … craze- y!

<creak> <creak>

Mama: Listen to me: I don’t ever want to hear you use that word again! Do you hear me? NEVER!

Before beginning your responses, you should consider engaging in a second read-through to “catch” things you missed on your first read. As I have mentioned before, I have read this book in the neighborhood of 10-15 times and I catch something new every time!

1. What did you think about reading a graphic memoir? How is it similar to reading a traditional memoir? How is it different?

2. How did the elements of the graphic novel contribute to your understanding of the story? For example, think of the graphic weight of the lines, and the frames; the surreal vs. real (How can you tell the difference?); changes in drawing styles; foreground, midground, and background; speech bubbles, thought bubbles, and special effects lettering; the facial expression and body language of the characters. Get specific. Give me specific examples from the book. Use page numbers and descriptions to explain your response.

And that is not all! What about the literature he’s been reading? Talk about that. All those books in his room. All that SMUT!

Before you answer the next questions, do the following:

Read this article —>  New York Times: Finding a Voice in a Graphic Memoir.










You already watched this video —

— but you can watch it again, if need be.

3.  How does reading this article and watching the video contribute to your understanding of Stitches, A Memoir? Was there anything that surprised you about either of them? (Be sure to explain why.)

4. Do you believe that graphic novels/memoirs should be included in an academic setting, like this Contemporary Literature and Writing class, or other classes? Why or why not?

You’ve been living in a world full of nonsense, David. No one had been telling you the truth about anything. But I’m going to tell you the truth. Are you ready?

Respond to the above four questions in a typed, 12-point, double-spaced essay OR post it as a blog entry. Your choice. Email me no matter what–either to send me your essays as a PDF or send me an email stating something to the effect of “I posted my essay as a blog post,” no later than Tuesday, April 21, 2015, by 11:59 PM.

I’ll be assessing your writing on…

CONTENT (65%): Are your responses fully developed, thoughtful response? Do you go beyond the surface of what the question is asking? Did you use specific examples? Were your responses accurate?

DICTION (10%): Do the word choices you made convey the ideas you are trying to express? Is there a way to say what you want to say more clearly?

CONVENTIONS (25%): Did you edit? Did you follow the rules of Standard English? Did you use paragraphs? Did you use 12-pt font? Did you double-space?

(All quotes in bold above are take from Stitches, a Memoir, by David Small.)

On The Danger of Books That Have Been Made Into Movies (and Potential Flim-Flammery)

Brookland Theatre

Bill Dickinson via Compfight

The title of this blog post is a bit alarmist, especially since I was specifically speaking from an academic standpoint. Some teachers fear that students who have been assigned to read books that have been made into movies will not read and will just watch the movies instead, presumably working under the assumption that the movie is exactly the same as the book. Alarmist indeed, especially since I don’t think there is any danger in this situation, even academically speaking.

If your student hasn’t read the book, you will know. After all, you can’t flim-flam a flim-flammer … eh? I mean we were high-schoolers once. We went to college! We know all about tomfoolery, malarkey,  funny business, and shenanigans. (I would’ve used another better-known saying at the beginning of this paragraph, but I like to keep this blog family-friendly … ish.) If your student hasn’t read the book, but watched the movie (or for that matter listened attentively during lectures or class discussions), s/he might be able to answer very basic content questions, but it will be nearly impossible for him/her to analyze or evaluate without being vague. This is when you can pull out your questions that pertain to the movie but not the book or vice versa … and BAM! you know you have a flim-flammer on your hands. Proceed according to your classroom policies regarding students who don’t do their work (which hopefully includes trying to get to the bottom of WHY the student is avoiding the work). Will there be the rare exception of the student who is so skilled in the art of bull-skooting that s/he will be able to dazzle her/his way through an assessment over a book s/he has not legitimately read? YES, but you don’t have supernatural powers, so there is nothing you can do about it, so let it go. As long as the student isn’t doing something to hurt her/his classmates, school property or you … for good gravy’s sake, let it go.

CONFESSION: I used to be one of those teachers who lived in fear of students poppycocking their way through a literary unit armed with only their cinematic knowledge of a piece of literature. What if they don’t read? What if they lie to me? What if they trick meeeee? What will my colleagues think of me? What will my principal think of me? Why am I so worried about me? Me? Me? Meeee? Why am I worrying about things that haven’t even happened yet and might not ever happen? Why don’t I trust kids? Why am I such a control freak? The older I get, the more I realize that, except for what I do and feel, I cannot control much else, which allows me to live in fear no more.  A conversation I overheard during a lit circle discussion a day or so ago helped to solidify this and I will tell you about it, but first, a digression:

In my Contemporary Literature class, one of my goals (which is-dare I admit this publicly?–NOT ATTACHED to a state standard—GASPPPPpppp!) is to take each of my students’ stance on reading and move it closer to LOVE.

Allow me to expound visually …

I'm just below considering Reading as marriage material.

Where do you fall on the Reading (the feels) Spectrum? I’m just west of considering reading as marriage material.


In other words, no matter where the a student is on the Reading (the feels) Spectrum, I want that student to be closer to LOVE when s/he walks out of my class at the end of the semester. Most kids walk into my class with a basic MERPitude toward reading. They don’t outright hate it, but it’s not something they crave. Some kids walk in somewhere between MERP and HATE. Even fewer walk in somewhere between MERP and LOVE. It is a rarity that a student is already in LOVE with reading when they walk in, but it does happen. In fact, every so often I have a student take Contemporary Literature because s/he wants to, even though s/he is already enrolled in another English class and doesn’t need the extra credit to graduate. When that happens it is a true compliment to English Language Arts–probably one of the highest.

In Contemporary Literature, (which originally was created for students who did not plan to attend a four-year college, but now has been overflowing with students of every post-high school intention imaginable … !!!) I use the following things to help move student closer to LOVE:

A. high-interest books: I do not pay attention to reading level or text-complexity. I look for well-written, interesting, books with relatable characters and topics that affect modern students. I don’t give a flying fig if it appears on some elite College Board or ACT list. I don’t care if scholars think it’s trashy, or simple, or cheesy. If it hooks a reluctant reader’s interest, I’ll take it.

B. self and group regulated activities: –like literary circles, for example. Activities like lit circles gives the students choice and independence–something that EVERYONE needs to thrive, whether they are 2 or 100. These are also elements that are too often left out of the classroom, sadly.

C. alternative texts: We dive into graphic novels, science fiction, articles from the web, podcasts, and movies. YES: Movies ARE a -visual- text.

And now back to my original topic … Sometimes books inspire students to watch movies. On the other hand, sometimes movies are the gateway drug to books. Yes indeedy: Movies can lead students to books! Sometimes a kid likes a movie so much that s/he decides to read the book. And, sometimes a kid is assigned a book that has been made into a movie, and even though the movie isn’t exactly like the book, it still helps the kid understand the book–either before the student reads or retroactively. Those are positive things!

Personally, I prefer to read a book THEN watch a movie. However, other people have different preferences. Just because that’s the way I like to do it DOESN’T MEAN EVERYONE HAS TO LIKE IT THAT WAY. (That’s hard for some teachers to grasp, I’ve noticed.) For me, once I’ve seen a movie, it’s hard for me to NOT picture the actor who played each character as I read, and I don’t like that, but not everyone has those issues. They are either able to block the actors’ images from their minds or they enjoy having a visual upon which to rest the mind’s eye.

sunny windless days

Read everywhere!


If you choose a book to teach (or allow students to choose a book to read) that has been made into a movie, will you have a percentage of kids who will watch the movie in lieu of reading? ALWAYS. Just like you will always have a percentage of kids who “replace” reading with Wikipedia or Sparknotes or LitCharts or the next newfandangled thang that comes along under the guise of helping people understand literature but which actually serves as a means for kids (and adults) to cheat on content-level tests (and book club meetings). (In fairness to the aforementioned entities, I will say that when used with integrity, they do serve as a resource for helping people understand literature–at a surface level.) That being said, if a kid is able to pass an assessment without reading the book, are you asking the right questions? (That is for another blog post, methinks.)

Now back to that conversation I mentioned earlier in the post. During lit circles the other day, I overheard students discussion the book, The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, which is not only a popular book, but also a popular movie. The group members had all seen the movie. They were comparing the book to the movie and making note of all of the differences. They were also evaluating the movie based on the book–what they liked about the book and what they thought the movie did better. They were also qualifying WHY they felt that way. This was a grown-up conversation, and they were doing this without my guidance and without micro-management of any sort. The lit circle provides a flexible structure for the students. They build outward from that structure. It is always an honor to lead a class in discussion, but it is an even more rewarding to listen to young people do it on their own. And guess what? They held each other accountable for reading. Based on my experience, students are more motivated to be prepared when they know their peers will be upset with them than they are when they just know that the teacher might be upset. And it is one thing to attempt to bamboozle a teacher. It is another thing to attempt to hornswoggle a group of your peers. They will call you out–publicly. And they will determine whether or not you read or just watched the movie and said you read. They will ask the trick questions outright!

The movie version of The Fault in Our Stars served as another point of dialogue for the students. It did not detract from the conversation. It did not demotivate them. They still read the book. They held one another responsible. They got into higher levels of thinking (analysis, evaluation) BECAUSE they watched the movie AND read the book.

Outside of lit circles, there will be kids whose interest is sparked enough by a movie that they will read the books that inspired the movies  … and they might even like reading those books … maybe even a little bit more than they enjoyed their last reading experiences.  As a result, they move a little closer to LOVE!

That is a good thing. That is what teaching is all about.