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.

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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.

 

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(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.

 

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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.

 

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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).

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

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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: morgetron@gmail.com.

 

 

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.

Rigorrrrrrrrrr

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seth m via Compfight

I like what (most) educators mean when they say RIGOR (and OF COURSE I love love love the bojangles out of relevance, which typically leads to engagement) but truth be told, the word rigor just makes me think of stiff corpses …

<tenting hands à la cartoon villain>  … You’re thinking about them now … aren’t you? …

Unfortunately (for me and anyone like me), any time you get a bunch of dorks together to talk about curriculum the dead body word comes up, every stinkin’ time. It’s been in use for a good long while now too, so I think it’s outlived the buzzword phase. We’re probably stuck with it. However, after typing rigor into thesaurus. com, I’ve curated a brief collection of of alternatives for the aforementioned word that I would very much like to avoid, if possible, when discussing anything but the state of a cadaver from this point forward:

AUSTERITY –> After all, standards should be of a stern and unwavering nature, no? (Curriculum should not be austere; standards should be.)

FIRMNESS or RIGIDITY  –> Standards should be unmoving, stationary targets. (Again: The curriculum should be fluid, adaptable, and ever-evolving to best meet and exceed standards, but the standards themselves should usually stay put–until we discover a problem. Then they should be altered immediately.)

PRECISION –> Of course standards should be clearly defined and exact–so should curriculum.

ASPERITY –> This one means harshness or sharpness, which is way worse than THE WORD THAT SHALL NOT BE NAMED’s definition, but as a word, it is much more auditorily pleasing.

TRADITIONALISM or CONVENTIONALISM –> These are, after all, qualities that curriculum and standards sometimes take on if rigor’s intended meaning is misconstrued. Maybe, if we called it one or all of these things, it could serve as a warning to people when they started getting away from academically or intellectually challenging (the definition I use for rigor) curricula to stale, inflexible, stoutly traditional or boringly conventional curricula. (There’s nothing wrong with some traditional or conventional methods, so please don’t slay me with your words, dearest readers who favor traditional or conventional methods in education. I just firmly believe that educators need to stay fresh and open to the idea that there is always a possibility of something better out there as we continually learn more about learning.) In other words, when we are dealing with a rigorous curriculum–cool. When we are dealing with a stale, unwaveringly, boring, traditional-for-the-sake-of-tradition curriculum we can say … Whoa, slow down there, doggy. We’re getting into the realm of inflexible traditionalist conventionalism and we’re going to need to shorten your leash a little.

OBDURACY –> This means unmoving, stubborn, unyielding … When you get down to it, standards should be these things, but the people who write them shouldn’t be. WE, the keepers of the curricula, have to be flexible enough to see when something that was “set in stone” needs to be sandblasted.

PUNCTILIOUSNESS –> This is my favorite. It is more in line with what I think of when I think of what curriculum and standards should be, but is also just a cool words that does not conjure up any morbid thoughts for me. It feels pleasant on the tongue and sounds lovely in the air. Punctiliousness is an attentiveness to detail. Isn’t that agreeable? Maybe even … charming? Okay … that’s probably taking it too far, but it’s a heckuva lot better than corpses … frozen, immalleable, ossified corpses. (Shut up! I’m closing out of the thesaurus.com tab right now …)

None of the words on the above list mean fun things–not that education ALWAYS has to be a circus of entertainment. (Though wouldn’t it be cool if we actually included a standard for fun? Then again, any attempt to standardize fun would probably make it less fun … so, never mind.) Education should be fun when it CAN be, but it can’t always be. Curriculum should be suitably challenging, even difficult at times (not that fun and challenge are mutually exclusive). And again, I think that rigor (gag!) as it is usually intended in curricular discussions IS a good thing. I just wish we could agree on a more palatable* way to say it.

*I thought up the word palatable without the assistance of thesaurus.com.

Drama Games For Every Classroom*

*This post was inspired by this week’s #slowchated.

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Why school? Because: Relationships. Relationships are why education is.

It is for the above-stated reason that I spend so much time at the beginning of a semester (even for year-long classes at the beginning of second semester) front-loading rapport-building activities. As far as I’m concerned, content and skill development can wait because without a student-teacher rapport, learning will suffer. I have a friend who lives by the mantra: “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” If you invest this time connecting to students, you don’t even have to think about classroom management later on. When you earn your students’ respect, you set the stage for smooth production.

In my current position, I teach English and drama. Some of the same games we use to build performance skills in drama class are also brilliant community-enhancers and can be used in any classroom for such a purpose.

Why do drama games work for building classroom community? They’re fun. They’re a little silly. They give license for people of all ages to play together in a low-risk situation that has no other goal than to strengthen the relationships in the room. (SRSLY, doods. Everyone wins. Every. Single. Time.)

In this post, I’ll discuss drama games that have worked well in non-drama classes for the purpose of relationship-building. Some of these games came from books that I have acquired over the years and some came from workshops that I’ve attended. I will give credit whenever memory serves me well enough to do so. Many of these games are much like oral literature in that they are passed by word-of-mouth over time and tweaked by each new recipient, so the way I present them are versions of the way I learned them, but I’m certain they have changed from the way I was taught in a subtle or maybe even sometimes drastic way, just as I’m sure that the way I was taught was personalized by the teachers in some way, shape, or form as well.

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THE GAMES

☆☆☆ —> THE MAGIC SUBSTANCE

The Wizard
Photo Credit: Sean McGrath via Compfight

Source: A Drama Workshop (but I can’t remember which one–sorry!)

Premise: Suspend your disbelief. Sit in a circle. One person (the starter) in the circle has a magical substance. It can take any form or shape. The starter should play with the substance for a while, changing it’s weight, size, texture a few times before passing the substance to the person sitting next to him/her. (S/he may choose to the left or to the right.) That person must receive the magical substance as it is delivered to him or her, but then s/he must change it somehow before passing it to the next person. Each person, in turn, must receive the substance as is and change it somehow before passing it, until it comes back to the starter.

Note: You may not change the substance into a thing. For example, you can’t change it into a cell phone or a gun. It must just be an indefinable, but constantly-morphing, magical substance at all times.

 

☆☆☆ —> DEFENDER

i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i ! i i i i i i
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Ol.v!er [H2vPk] via Compfight

Source: Theater for Community, Conflict and Dialogue: The Hope is Vital Training Manual by Michael Rohd (with a foreword from one of my all-time favorite educators, Dr. Doug Paterson from University of Nebraska at Omaha)

Premise: Move around the space freely. While in motion, everyone must SILENTLY and WITHOUT OBVIOUS FANFARE choose a Defender and an Enemy. In the time remaining (5 minutes or less) continue moving (still silently) around the room, but the object is to always keep your Defender between yourself and your Enemy.

Note: In some cases, individuals will select a Defender who has selected him/her as an Enemy. This only adds to the complexity and challenge of the game. Encourage students to choose others who they would not normally choose. (For example, someone may choose their best friend as their “enemy” for this game, or someone with whom they’ve rarely talked as a defender.)

☆☆☆ –> BLOB TAG

 

Source: I don’t remember. (EEK!)

Premise: One player is The Blob. (In traditional tag, this person would be called “IT.”) Everyone else must try to stay away from The Blob. The Blob must try to tag everyone else. Once The Blob tags someone else, that someone else, hooks arms with The (original) Blob and becomes a part of The Blob him/herself. Each person who is subsequently tagged becomes part of The Blob until EVERYONE is part of The Blob.

Note: You will want to set boundaries in the space, especially if you are in a large one. A stage, a commons area, a gym, or an outdoor space works well for this.

 

 

BONUS: Blog Tag + Costumes (This was taken during Homecoming Week on Cartoon Day.)

 

 

☆☆☆ —> BUNNY

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Source: A Church Youth Leader, somewhere in Minnesota … 

Premise: Form a circle. Choose someone to be the Starter. The Starter places his/her two thumbs on the side of his/her head with the rest of his/her finger stretched outward. (Think of the nanny-nanny-boo-boo gesture.) S/he wiggles his/her hands and says “Bunny, bunny, bunny, bunny, bunny, bunny, bunny.” On the 7th(ish) “bunny” s/he takes his/her hands off of his/her head and puts his/her palms together and “sends” or “zaps” the bunny to someone else in the circle. Whomever the Starter points to then receives the bunny, by placing his/her hands in the aforementioned “bunny” stance AND the person to the receiver’s right, places his/her right hand on the right side of his/her head and the person to the left places his/her left hand on the left side of his/her head and all three people chime in with “Bunny X 7ish” until the middle person zaps the bunny across the circle again. If any of the three receivers do not react quickly enough, or make the wrong gesture, that person is OUT and steps out of the circle. As more and more people get OUT, the circle tightens until it gets down to three. The last three will be the quickest paced portion of the game because ALL three people will be involved in ALL of the bunnies. When it gets down to TWO, you must have a VEGETABLE DUEL. (A vegetable duel can be used to settle all sorts of classroom scores, by the way.) For the vegetable duel the last two people must stand back to back, until the duel master spurs them to take four swift paces away from one another. Then the duel master must call out the name of a vegetable. Upon hearing the name of the vegetable both duelers must turn and do an impersonation of the chosen vegetable. Whoever makes the best impersonation of said vegetable (as determined by duel master or by clapping vote–house rules) WINS.

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☆☆☆ —> CIRCLE DASH

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Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley via Compfight

Source: Theater for Community, Conflict and Dialogue: The Hope is Vital Training Manual by Michael Rohd

Premise: Form a circle with one volunteer in the middle. The object of the game is to get out and stay out of the middle, but it’s also to challenge yourself with taking a (safe) risk with the help of another student. When the person in the middle isn’t looking, make eye contact with someone at least one person away from you. Make eye contact with that student and give a slight nod, raise your eyebrow, or make some sort of tiny gesture to indicate that you want to trade places with that person. Once you and the other person have silently agreed to trade spots, make a run for it. When you are in transit, the person in the middle will try to take one of your spots. If s/he does, then you will take his/her spot in the middle and try to take someone else’s spot, when s/he trades with another student.

Note: This is the only game during which I have been positively FLATTENED by a student in her zeal to trade spaces with the student who was standing next to me. It hurt like HELL, caused bruising, and the student felt awful about it, but it was also really really funny. The students couldn’t believe I wasn’t mad. I explained, “That’d be like me getting upset that I got tackled in a mosh pit. It’s all good.”

—> BABY I LOVE YOU

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Source: A Childhood Game

Premise: Everyone sits in a circle. Someone volunteers to be the Starter. The Starter turns to the person on his/her left (his/her choice) and states, “Baby, I love you, but I just can’t make you smile” using any voice or facial express s/he desires. However, s/he may not touch the receiver. The person who receives this message must follow these guidelines: Eye contact is required. No sucking in cheeks or biting lips. S/he must not smile or laugh. If s/he smiles or laughs s/he is out. If the Starter gets that person out, s/he must repeat the process with the next person in the circle. If the Starter does not succeed in making the Receiver smile, then the Receiver must go through the process with the next person in the circle. As more and more people get OUT the circle must tighten and those who are out can become the audience. When it gets down to the “stone cold killahs” you can choose new bizarre phrases for them to try out on one another. (For example: “I baked you a muffin” or “I’m a cotton-headed ninny muggins” could work, but you know what will make your group giggle.) The last person standing is the winner and should be celebrated as such with joyous aplomb.

Note: I usually play the games with the students, but this is one from which I abstain, simply because it is too weird for kids to be telling me they love me, even in jest.

 

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☆☆☆

Other Resources that I <3 <3 <3 (in no specific order)

  • Games for Actors and Non-Actors by Augusto Boal (translated by Adrian Jackson)
  • 3-Minute Motivators by Kathy Paterson
  • Theater Games for the Classroom: A Teacher’s Handbook by Viola Spolin
  • Children Tell Stories: Teaching and Using Storytelling in the Classroom by Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss

This Feels Like Failure: Why Are So Many Students Dropping My Advanced Placement English Class?

I teach an Advanced Placement English class. It’s a challenging class. It’s hard. Really. There are times when it’s not fun. High school me would’ve struggled with it. Undergrad me probably would’ve struggled with it a bit. Shoot! Come to think of it, there are days when I would struggle with it now, if I were juggling what my students are juggling.

The students have to learn difficult vocabulary–words that show up frequently in classic literature–and they have to use said vocabulary in context. They have to learn how to identify AND write in sentence structures that I didn’t learn about until college or after. They have to read challenging, sometimes dense, sometimes archaic, sometimes confusing (but beautiful! controversial! poetic! lovely! wonderful! universally truthful), texts, rife with figurative language, dripping with irony, loaded with difficult-to-decipher symbols (but that have withstood the test of time). They are in charge of leading discussions. They are responsible for analyzing literature through writing.

I view this class as not just a way to prepare for the Advanced Placement test they will (hopefully) take (and DOMINATE) in the Spring, but to prepare them for college, and more importantly, to ready them for the cruel world after college. In it, they are exposed to rich content, but even more importantly–they practice and (usually) master transferable skills that they will use for the rest of their lives: effective writing in multiple modes, critical thinking, creativity, idea generation, collaboration, decision-making, time management …

They blog. They analyze. They interact face-to-face. They interact digitally. They do or do not hit deadlines (and there are consequences for both). They write. They speak. They think. They think. They think. They think and think and think!

They are currently synthesizing their skills in the form of a mimesis–an assignment that requires them to create an original short story that mimics (in more than one way) the work of a famous author, whom they have studied in depth. It is–to use one of their vocabulary words–arduous. It is hard work. It takes time. It takes tenacity. It’s not something most people can write in an hour and half (though I have a student who claims he did … !)

And, at the end of last week and today, nearly half of them brought me paperwork to drop my class at semester.

Herein lies my feeling of failure.

Some of the students have legitimate-sounding excuses for dropping the class. Some of them do not. However, underneath all these reasons–legit or not–is a nagging question: What did I do wrong?

I want this class to be rigorous. In fact, it’s required, by College Board standards to be rigorous. My district requires it to be rigorous. However, I don’t want to be so rigid as to drive away my students. They are, after all, some of my favorite people in the whole world! Don’t get me wrong: I realize that not every students is cut out for Advanced Placement English, and it is a typical event for some of them to drop at semester, but the sheer number of drops this time around has me in a bit of a stupor.

As a result of these drops, I’m not feeling like the greatest teacher. Not that I ever feel like I am THE greatest teacher, but today, I am feeling pretty down. It is my instinct to keep these feelings to myself or maybe to whine a little to one of my mentors, but I have decided to reflect here–”out loud”–because I don’t think we lament enough in public. It’s important to put our best selves forward to the world when we can, but it’s also okay to reveal the moments that are the most trying. This week has started out with a fizzle, but this anticipated mass exodus of students has deepened my resolve to continually improve myself as a teacher. But for today, I’m going to take some time to marinate in this feeling of disappointment and to labor over my aforementioned question, along with these:

  • What can I do differently to retain more of my students?
  • What can I do to impart–to students and their parents–that what you learn in a class is more important than the almighty grade?
  • Is this class’s level of rigor befitting a entry-level college English literature and writing course or have I taken it too far?
  • Are my expectation too high? (I don’t think so–but believe me–I will think about this.)

I’m holding onto the hope that tomorrow and the next day and the next day will be better days–as a result of reflection and time. I’m holding onto the hope that next semester, I’ll be a better teacher–as a result of this semester’s events and as a result of this public reflection on some very raw feelings.

Make a young person’s day by leaving a simple comment on a blog! #comments4kids

*Updated from my April 2013 post

My students, like many writers, crave feedback! Here is a LINK to a roster of their blogs: http://morgetron.edublogs.org/my-students-passion-blogs/  If you have the time and the *positive* energy to share, please visit one or more of them and leave them a little (or big) message. It will make their day!

The best types of comments are
A. questions that extend the conversation
Why do you believe the unicameral is such a positive thing?
OR
Do you believe that this will change the way we do business in America?

B. observations about the content or style of the post
I noticed that you are very passionate about aliens!
OR
I’d never thought about deer habitats from the perspective of a deer before I read your post.

C. counter-points to a position (done respectfully)
As someone who has experienced hunger first-hand, I disagree with your stance on welfare.

D. personal or observational connections you made to their post
This reminds me of the time I made my teacher laugh so hard, she cried.
OR
Your writing reminds me of David Sedaris’s!

E. compliments!
Wow! This is some dandy writing!
OR
Keep writing! This is goooooood stuff!

In all honesty, though, I believe ANY comment–even brief ones–can encourage students to continue writing. Just knowing they have an audience will propel them.

Thank you for your time!

 

WRITE AN EPIC MONSTER STORY!  

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EPIC POEM BASICS

  • The HERO is an nationally (or internationally) important (often legendary or historically significant) figure who is (usually) physically imposing and/or attractive.
  • The SETTING is vast — it may span the nation, the world, even the universe (or in our case, it might be local — as in the school or Springfield.
  • The QUEST consists of good deeds, bravery (sometimes at a supernatural level), supernatural powers and interference or assistance from forces beyond the realm of humanity (“the gods,” angels, or other heavenly–or otherwise–forces).
  • The writing STYLE is one of grand simplicity and is told objectively.

ASSIGNMENT

YOUR story MUST have

  • a HERO (like Beowulf) and
  • a SOCIAL PROBLEM, as represented metaphorically by the MONSTER (like Grendel and his representation of the Devil or anything that worked against Biblical teachings).
  • Your HERO must accept a QUEST and
  • some sort of supernatural interference or powers must be present somewhere in the story.
  • Your STYLE may be presented objectively, or you can approach it in a more contemporary narrative style.
  • It is okay to exaggerate the social problem for the sake of increasing your story’s excitement.

The paper should be TYPED, and DOUBLE-SPACED.

Image Credit:

“The New Guy.” Florida Center for Instructional Technology. Educational Technology Clearinghouse. <http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/ 86500/86537/86537_the-new-guy.htm>. September 10, 2013.

(Vine + Vimeo) X (Macbeth + Make-believe) X (Costumes + Cadence) = Engaging Excercise

Shakespeare’s work is a tricky thing to teach to high school students. The main barrier is the difficult language. If you can get them past that, or used to that, or to understand that, or to accept that–you’ve made quite an accomplishment.

When I was in high school, Shakespeare really wasn’t even on my radar (for the aforementioned reasons paired with my inherently distracted nature). In college, I TRIED to understand Shakespeare and had moments of clarity, but still … not much sank in for me. In my younger years of teaching *I* didn’t even *LIKE* Shakespeare’s work, which made it really hard to teach effectively. After nearly a decade and a half of teaching Shakespeare’s plays (Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Hamlet, and Macbeth) I have grown to LOVE his work — FOR the LANGUAGE, no less (!!!), for the genius characterization, for the uncanny (and timeless) portrayal of human nature and universal themes, and for its amazing relevance TODAY. Right here. Right now.

But the language …

*whiny voice*

… it’s sooooooo harrrrrd.

We make baby steps. If you can get the kids to playyyy with the language, they begin to build confidence in it. If you can show them that it–STILL, to this very day, after 14 years of teaching, two college degrees and the purchase of your very own bust of Shakespeare, YOU have trouble with it sometimes, YOU have to look up the meaning of a word or stare blankly into the abyss sometimes, or ponder the word order of a sentence sometimes–they feel less fear towards it. If you give them access to silly wigs and costumes and beg them to use zany accents (relevant OR irrelevant OR reverent OR irreverent to the original play itself) they can have fun (even just a little … they MIGHT even admit to said fun–GASP!) with the universality of it all.

Very recently, I was turned on to an app called Vine, which is a simple iPhone video capturing service (which links and embeds nicely with Twitter) that also is compatible with the iPad. It features a “hold and shoot” style video camera that maxes out at seven seconds, which (obviously) limits what you can fit into a clip. When you are trying to build students’ confidence in Shakespeare, this is a welcome limitation. If you ask a student who is hesitant to read Shakespeare to make a five-minute video portraying an scene, that might overwhelm him or her. Methinks pretty much anyone can handle 7 seconds of Shakespeare. The “hold and shoot” feature also allows for easy “special effects”. It’s hard to explain, but you will see what I mean when I show you a handful of example videos.

The assignment was as follows.

MACBETH VINE

1. Pick your favorite character from Macbeth thus far. (We had read through Act III at the time of the assignment.)

2. Pick your favorite line that character has delivered thus far.

3. Think of how that character would deliver that line.

4. Try to “become” that character. (Costumes were available in the classroom. I am the drama teacher, after all.)

5. Using Vine, have a classmate capture you delivering that line.

6. Tweet me your vine, including my Twitter handle (@morgetron), the class hashtag (#phsWORlit), the character you chose, and let everyone know it’s from Macbeth.  If you don’t tweet, send me the video via email and I will tweet it on your behalf. If you don’t want your video posted on the web, say so in your email. (I HAVE to respect my students’ desires to stay off the web and some parents are not crazy about their kids online either, which is understandable.)

Now those were the instructions I gave, but, as most plans do, these plans changed, particularly when we got to numbers 5 and 6.  Number 5 became an issue for students who either didn’t want to or couldn’t download another app on their machine for whatever reason or students. Vine crashed on 2 of the 23 students involved during the process. This issue was easily solved by reverting to the built-in iPad camera and then students just emailed me their videos. The only challenge with that was that the students had to make sure that they remained under 7 seconds.

Once students realized that in order to tweet me their vine link, their video would be showing up in their own Twitter feeds, some were reluctant to tweet. This is where we hit the first snag with number 6. One student even said, “If I send this to you, YOU can post it, but I don’t want to post it to my followers.” In response, I offered the email option to ALL students, even Vine users. (If you allow Vine access to your photos, it will store all of your Vine videos in your iPad’s camera roll.) A secondary snag for number 6 came into play when I realized I could no longer embed the students’ videos into a tweet as a vine, so I had to upload the emailed vines to another video sharing service. (It would be nice if Vine added an email option.) I chose Vimeo.

Once the videos processed, I tweeted the links to them, tagging each tweet with our classroom hashtag. (This makes it easier when I send information to parents who want to see what’s going on in class.) The problem with this, I found out after I had posted a handful of tweets with Vimeo links is that even though they appear to embed within the tweet, unless you are a paid Vimeo Plus member, they do not embed. This is annoying because, as I previously mentioned, they APPEARED to embed and they showed up on my profile with a thumbnail view of each video, but when one clicks on the tweet itself, a message appears stating, “Sorry. The creator of this video has not given you permission to embed it on this domain. This is a Vimeo Plus feature.” If I had known this prior to going through the process of uploading a slew of videos to Vimeo, I would’ve gone the Youtube route. LESSON LEARNED.  This was only a minor annoyance though. People who find themselves staring at my tweets promoting my students’ work can still click on the link itself and will be redirected to the Vimeo site where they can watch the video hassle-free. No bigs.

Since Vine was a new app to most of the students, some of our time was spent exploring Vine’s offerings, which includes looking through the videos housed in Vine’s collection. (It is a video sharing service, so there are countless videos available for perusal. Some redirecting was necessary. The “hold and shoot” feature is different than the usual “click and record” function of the iPad camera, so this took some getting used to as well.  To some, this might feel like time wasted, but I view it as “frontloading”. What I mean by that is, it’s time spent wearing the newness off the app in addition to learning how to use it.  In the long run, it’ll actually save us time because I won’t have to deal with (as much) covert video-watching, or (as much) explanation of the app’s features.

The resulting videos were overall fun and demonstrated a playful attitude towards Shakespeare’s difficult language. What follows are a couple of examples.

This one is posted on Vine, while the other ones are posted on Vimeo.

Kyle as Multiple Witches from Jodie Morgenson on Vimeo.

Michelle as a Weird Sister from Macbeth from Jodie Morgenson on Vimeo.

Payton as Macduff AND Lady Macbeth from Jodie Morgenson on Vimeo.

Emily as Lady Macbeth from Jodie Morgenson on Vimeo.

 

Good learning is good learning.

This blog was originally concocted in an effort to document my experience as a teacher in the first year of a 1:1 iPad school. I certainly haven’t blogged as often as I originally intended, but I’ve noticed that most of my posts are not centered around iPads at all. My first post set that up though –> I wasn’t expecting our iPads to transform our school into some sort of megaplex of learning (anymore than it already is), but I was hopeful at the chance for all of my students to have equal access (or closer to equal access) to resources that were, at best spotty, in previous years. Closing that gap between HAVE and HAVE NOTS was what I appreciated most about the prospect of going 1:1. I believe our 1:1 initiative has done just that.

However, what this blog turned out to be more than anything was a place to share things that work for me (so that others may benefit) and to promote my students’ work and experience. Some of these things, work, and experiences involve iPads as a “star,” but most do not. In other words, though having iPads at our fingertips has been (mostly) wonderful, it hasn’t changed what I do in the classroom very much. It’s given me different ways to do it, but I’m still striving for the same outcomes, rolling with the same punches, and having similar successes and failures that I’ve had in years past.

When it comes down to it, most teachers I know have a knack for finding what works for their individual students regardless of the resources provided to them. I am grateful that my job and my students lives are easier because of the incredible educational instruments we as a school community have close at hand every day, but bottom line –> good teaching is good teaching AND, more importantly good learning is good learning. Both can transcend the devices we have at our disposal.

 

iFixate (a post of gratitude)

When I find something that works, I tend to fixate on it. Right now I am fixating on my students’ blogs. I have a few “greatest hits” as far as things that I’ve tried that have gone over well in my career and I’m officially adding blogging to the top of that list. I’ve tried blogging or some form of it in the past and nothing has worked as well as this year’s blogs. One year I had students “discuss” novels in the comments of a blog I posted. Another year I had students respond to literature in their own personal blogs. In the grad class I teach in the summer, I’ve tried group blogging and I’ve tried individual blogging, and grad students will do pretty much whatever their instructor asks, but that doesn’t mean that they will do it passionately. (It doesn’t mean they WON’T either, but it is the exception and not the rule.) One thing that I did differently this time is I asked the students to generate their own topic based on their personal passions. This seems to have done the trick for most of my students.

PASSION was the missing ingredient.

How silly of me to have overlooked this precious commodity. I mean, I have meant well over the years. I’ve made attempts to INSTILL passion in students, but when you get down to it, passion is innate, it is familial, it is written in the unique code of our DNA. It CAN be contagious, but there must be a seed of interest there in order for it to grow. YES, I am passionate about reading and writing, and so are SOME of my students, but for those who have other interests (which would include nearly every single student I encounter), blogging provides an opportunity to dig into their interests whilst practicing invaluable skills! It’s a win-win and it’s going to help us meet and exceed some standards along the way too.

I don’t want to give off the impression that this has gone off without some hitches … In fact, NOTHING! … *REPEAT* –> NOTHING! I do ever turns out PERFECTLY … I’m convinced there is no such thing as “perfect” in education, and I do think we do not SHARE our failures and imperfections enough! I could blog exclusively on my daily fails, but it’s more fun to promote what goes well!

Some students are still experiencing a bit of writer’s block and some suffer from apathy or Senioritis, but for the most part, this whole blog thing has proven to be an effective way for students to practice their writing and in many cases, their research and to stretch their thinking and creativity. And frankly, this is more interesting for me as a teacher than reading 80+ canned responses on a piece of literature half the students weren’t interested in anyway. It’s pretty painful to read through so many similar pieces of writing only to discover they are nothing more than regurgitations of what I said in class or — worse yet — responses designed to appear as if they are regurgitated forms of MY thought, but it’s clear that the writer is just “faking” it because he or she DIDN’T read the text AND/OR DIDN’T listen in class. That’s REALLY painful.

These blog entries are a delight AND I’m learning things about the topics the students have chosen and more importantly about the students themselves.

So, I’ve been fixating on these blogs and my TEACHER dashboard lately. I’ve been tweeting out my students’ links like crazy! I’m just as excited as the kids when they receive a comment from outside of our classroom and I’m off-the-charts, over-the-moon excited when I see someone has made another post, on their own time, just because they WANT to do it. I stumbled into a Twitter chat last night on “visible learning.” Talk about visible learning! This is why I teach!  This is why I’m still learning!  My students’ PASSION BLOGS have reignited my passion for teaching writing and for someone who’s been in “the biz” for nearly 14 years, that is so valuable. My students have given me this gift and I am so very full of gratitude.

 

Zite in the Contemporary Literature and Writing Classroom

With as fast as the definition of “literature” is evolving and expanding, I have been looking for ways to inject relevant, current high interest texts into my Contemporary Literature and Writing classroom. Here is an assignment I’ve tried once and now tweaked (for a second go-around) for this class. I am going to model this for them tomorrow and then each student will have his or her chance to present an article once before the end of third quarter and second time during fourth quarter. We are using, not only Zite for this assignment, but also either Twitter (which MOST students have) or email (for those who have not yet made the TweetLeap). Last semester, I used this assignment, but made the silly mistake of NOT modeling what I wanted to see. This time around will be different. Tomorrow, my students will see me presenting exactly what I expect of them (or at least one variation of it).  This assignment works well in an ELA classroom, but I could see it working in ANY classroom (4th grade and up) really because Zite is so customizable and a teacher could give students a specific category in which to search to narrow the focus to the subject matter being studied.  Feel free to use this assignment in your classroom, with or without attribution. If you use it though, let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear some feedback on how to make it better.

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ZITE SHARING ASSIGNMENT

1.  Read through some articles in your areas of interest on Zite.

2.  Select an article that you find interesting, relevant, and timely.

3.  On the day of your presentation, TWEET a link to your article ~ (You can do this directly through Zite, if you connect your Zite account to your Twitter account, or you can copy/paste the URL into a tweet or a URL shortener like bitly.com.) ~ OR you can send the link via EMAIL, if you are not a Twitter user. (If you use the email option, just REPLY TO ALL to an email I sent out to the class, to ensure everyone in the class gets the link).

4.  When you present the article to the class, we will project the article from your iPad onto the screen in my room, so make sure you have your iPad here AND charged.  If you don’t, this will result in a deduction of your grade and you will have to reschedule your presentation, which will throw off the entire class’s schedule. Be courteous, and be prepared.

5.  During your presentation you MUST do the following:

A. SUMMARIZE the article. GIve us a nutshell summary of what this article is about (since most of us will not have read the article.

B. EXPLAIN why it is IMPORTANT and RELEVANT enough to share with the class.

C. PROVIDE your OPINION on the subject matter. (For example, if it is problem, provide a solution or talk about the root causes of the problem. If it is a human interest story, discuss why you believe it is so appealing. If it is about a scientific discovery, discuss how you believe this may change how we currently do things. These are just a few things you could discuss during this portion of your presentation.)

D. BE PREPARED for QUESTIONS from Mrs. M. and your peers. Feel free to ask your peers and Mrs. Morgenson their opinions as well, to encourage discussion.

When you are an audience member, please think of questions to ask the presenter.  Everyone should participate in this.  Some article shares may even result in a roundtable-style discussion. Prepare to respond in writing to each person’s article as well either via Twitter or email.