Literacy ShopTalk

"Prepare self-directed learners to think critically about the messages received and created by media.”

“Tweeting” Literacy

Written By: Paula Neidlinger

“Caution- Students Tweeting”


As society and technology change, so does literacy.  Can social media positively impact 21st century literacy-learning?

Twenty-first century students need to be able to:

*  Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
*  Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
*  Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
*  Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
*  Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
*  Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

Twitter is a social networking tool, which I have utilized extensively in both my 7th & 8th grade classrooms, as a literacy-learning opportunity.   Listed below are several tried and exploratory ideas and lessons, which positively impacts 21st century literacy-learning in the classroom.  This is a limited list, as there are hundreds of ideas for utilizing Twitter in the classroom.

1.   Student or Class Hosted Twitter Chats– Students or collaborative groups choose 3-5 questions, which will be the topic of the chat.  The questions should be based on a current theme or issue of literary study.  Students will be the facilitators throughout the event.

2.  Family Twitter Chat Night– As an extension of the classroom Tweet-up, a topic is sent home in advance with a set time for the chat.  Families are encouraged to chat as a family unit.  A follow-up chat is held the next day in class, as a written reflection of the event.

3.  Fictional Twitter Characters– Students create fictional twitter accounts of literary characters or historical figures as they work through a current problem or issue.  This is a great activity when teaching characterization, as the characters must react to current events based on their character traits in the story, novel, or historical event.

4.  Fictional Twitter Character Debate– Students produce a Tweet dialogue between two opposing characters about a key issue in the story, current event, or future event.

5.  Tweet-story– Begin by tweeting out a story starter.  Students continue the story in sequence through tweets.  This activity can be constructed as a group or an individual activity.

6.  Twitter Version of ‘Pass It On’– Individual students or groups  are each assigned one element of the plot sequence.  They are allowed only the 140 characters to write their character description, setting, climax, etc.  Students will tweet out their descriptions in order based on the plot diagram.

7.  Create a Poll–  Students will create their own poll to gauge opinion or gather information on current issues related to the theme or issue in a story or article.

8.  Curating Presentations–  Students participate in and curate conversations through tweets during a presentation by other students or a guest speaker.  Students are prompted in advance as to key points based on the issue.

9.  Global Tweeting– Test your genius!  In an effort to build students’ curiosity, ask students to tweet their “big thinking” questions -… what if… how might…. I wonder……  For example:  What if there was 14 months in a year?  This activity will also help students begin to build their own PLN.

10.  Twitter Community Connection– Establish a partnership with local government or a charitable organization in your community.  Use Twitter to reach a broader audience, as students discuss the latest cultural or educational event in the area.

11.  Debating Social Issues– Poll the class as to what current issue they would like to follow; this could also be based on the theme or conflict in a story.  Students subscribe to relevant hash tags and accounts from both perspectives of an issue.  Students engage in debate by supporting their arguments with evidence.

12.  Writing Book Reviews– Twitter provides a great format for students when writing micro-reviews of books, poems, or current articles.

13.  Engage in Word Games– There are numerous activities in which to engage students in vocabulary through Twitter.  A simple ‘Do Now’ activity is to post a daily or weekly challenge asking students to unscramble anagrams, contribute synonyms or antonyms, or design and upload a word cloud, which examines multi-aspects of a word.

14.  Summarizing and Writing Concisely– After assigning a current article, ask students to summarize the article within the 140 character limit.  This writing event teaches summarizing and writing concisely.

15.  Twitter as an Exit Slip– At the conclusion of class, ask students to write a 140-character summary of their understanding of the day’s objective or pose any questions to be considered in the next class.

Yes, Twitter positively impacts 21st century literacy-learning as a technology tool, which builds global relationships collaboratively through sharing, creating, and synthesizing multiple streams of information, while adhering to ethical and moral on-line responsibilities.

How have you utilized Twitter as a 21st century literacy-learning tool in your classroom?  Share your stories and ideas.


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