Writing

Not Your Grandma’s Social Media

Here’s the truth: If Romeo had Snapchat, that entire mess might’ve been avoided. Even a simple status update on Facebook would have alerted his posse that tragedy was imminent.

Luckily, when it comes to sharing information, our students are no longer limited to messages passed along by Friar John. Instead, kids today exchange ideas almost instantaneously through texts, Snapchat, and Instagram.  Meet your students where they are by encouraging them to share ideas, reflect on their learning, and recreate classic moments in literature and history by reproducing the social media experiences they have outside the classroom using:

FakeBook Recreate classic moments in literature or history by creating a FakeBook account and plotting the development of characters through status updates and images. For a “real” social media experience add other characters to the friends’ list, offer “likes” to status updates, and post comments to images. 

Instagram Encourage your students to tell a character’s story through images and status updates using Instagram or this Instagram template (Thanks, Cynthia Nixon!) . For added authenticity, have them use #hashtags to capture big ideas and theme topics.

Texting Use this Google Drawing iPhone template from Darren Maltais to get students to write from a character’s perspective and speculate how a secondary character might react to the text. Plus, because the template is available in Google Drive, multiple students can add their own ideas to the template, really mimicking the group texting experience. 

Whisper Whisper is a social media app that allows users to share secrets anonymously. Recreate the Whisper experience in the classroom by sharing the secret confessions and inner thoughts of characters and historical figures. Use this template to share a character’s confession by uploading an image and editing the text box. Then, add an element of collaboration by having other students speculate as to which character is making the confession. 

Twitter Chats Have students use this Ryan O’Donnell’s Twitter Template to bring classic literature into the modern day world. Students can use this fictional Twitter chat template to develop profiles for characters and create posts and updates to capture the big plot moves and conflicts from the text.

Book Snaps . Have students try #Booksnaps to annotate and share reflections of any excerpt of a book or text using SnapChat. Not comfortable with SnapChat? Try using Google Slides made to look like the social media platform! Need a quick tutorial to get started?  Try this one from the girls at Not Your Grandma’s English Class.

Reading, Strategies, Writing

Why We 😍 Emojis in the English Classroom

Emojis are the modern day hieroglyphics.  In fact, our students are sharing complete thoughts–and complete stories– in get this, PICTURES.  It’s true! Take a peek at the phone of any tween or teen. They’ve traded words for icons. Something’s drop-to-the-floor funny?  😂 will do. Their parents are looking over their shoulders? Insert 👫 .

That’s why we were so excited about a tweet shared by Steve Wick a few months back.  And while his post focused on how we can use emojis as a way of organizing our Google Drive 😲 , his tweet introduced us to a new Chrome extension that we didn’t know we needed in our lives, upping the fun factor in the English classroom and transforming the language used in Language Arts! Here are some of our favorite emoji activities:

Visual Summaries. Challenge your students to use emojis to summarize key ideas from a text.  Take a look at this example from the prologue of Romeo and Juliet.  Are you teaching a non-fiction unit? Call for students to summarize important historical events or moments of discovery using emojis.

Feedback Fun.  The comment feature of Google Docs is a great way to provide meaningful feedback to students in real time.  Why not up your feedback game with emojis to share your thoughts and reflections on students’ writing?  

Smiley Strategies in Writing.  In our English classrooms, we encourage students to use figurative language, challenging vocabulary words, and specific strategies for adding voice to their writing — and we call these risks “Smiley Strategies”.  Now let’s throw this back a few years to our paper and pencil classrooms. As students would write their drafts they were encouraged to add smiley faces in the margins of their work to indicate that they took a risk with a new strategy. Not only did it make us aware of these compositional risks, but it helped the students identify the strategies in their own writing.  In today’s digital classroom we take the same idea, have students highlight their writing risks, and use emojis in the comment feature to indicate their use of these “Smiley Strategies.”

Google Classroom Questions. Post an open-ended question in Google Classroom and have students respond using emojis.  Whether you are asking them to reflect on their learning or to use the icons to show agreement or disagreement as part of a class poll, emojis are a great way to get students to process their thinking and share in a new and innovative way.

Emoji Retellings Have students ONLY use emojis to retell important parts of a text.  (Tech Tip: Try Emoji-Translate to help your students get started.) An even crazier idea? See if your students can summarize the entire plot of a story using nothing but emojis. Impossible, you say?  Try to figure out which YA novel is represented by this string of emojis:

🙍🏻‍♂️👋🙋🏼‍♀️ ✈️  🇨🇦👨🏼‍💼👨🏻‍✈️💔 🛩 💦 👨🏻‍✈️ ☠️🙍🏻‍♂️ 🇨🇦🌲🌳

🦔 ⛏🔥 🙅🏻‍♂️ 🐝 🎣🔥 🐟 📻 ➡️ 🛩 👋

Digital Exit Tickets.  Have students use the emojis to gauge their understanding of a new topic. They can add the emoji as a comment to a shared Doc, on a note in Google Keep, or even as a comment of a post in the Google Classroom Stream.  

Emojis Beyond English.  During a recent coaching visit, a math teacher introduced Jen to the idea of emoji algebra.  Basically, the teacher shares a math problem that incorporates emojis to symbolize numbers and variables, and students have to use inductive reasoning and creative problem-solving skills to arrive at a solution. Just Google “emoji math”, and you will be shocked by the amount of emoji-based math problems that have been posted to sites like Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers. Why not create your own puzzles and problem-based prompts using emojis? Or, better yet, have students create their own problems to share with their peers.

Do yourself a favor- add Emoji for Google Chrome to your browser. Not only will you have access to all of the same icons and pictures that are built into our smartphones, you will open up a whole new way of using Emojis in the classroom!