Utilising Twitter with students, for lesson planning and for PD, Part 2
The previous post, Tweet This, demonstrated three classroom activities (of many from the workshop) that bring Twitter into student interaction, but also facilitate the workload and expedite student response. This time, I’d like to give a few suggestions for how you can utilise some of its features for lesson development. Once again, you need familiarise yourself with the basic Twitter functions (ie. hashtags, followers, etc), but also functional areas (ie. Trending Topics, Search and Who to Follow). These ideas are just beginnings and will work to varying degrees of success depending on how much time you invest in lesson planning, level of students and available technology students have access to in the classroom.
Trends, as a springboard for discussion or lesson topics
On everyone’s HOME page can be seen the column Trends. This local trends can be set to either “countries” or “cities”. Once chosen, use what is trending on the day of your class as a platform for discussion. I personally like to use “Toronto” as it’s my home city and the one in which my students reside, so it gives the topics that meaningful context. Put the trending items into a Wordle or on the board and ask students what they are and why they are trending locally. Use them to introduce related vocabulary or expressions. Click on them to see what people are tweeting about it and the language that is being used to describe this topic. Have students “write tweets” about it using this vocabulary or other target language.
Search, as a tool for current language usage
Have you ever wanted a quick corpus of language usage at your fingertips? When you search for a word or phrase in the search box, it brings up a chronologically organised list of recent global tweets that all use that language. Use it to find examples of a grammar point (eg. gerunds / progressives = “watching”) or a phrasal verb (eg. “move around”) or any other language you want. The results you get can vary in terms of accuracy and appropriacy, but there’s enough there to work with to draw some example sentences from.
Hyperlinks, as practice or supplemental activities
If you find a website with a great activity, article or multimedia and you’d like students to use it at some point in the lesson, shorten the url with a site like Bit.Ly and tweet it to your students at the appropriate time during the lesson. This way, students can easily open the website at precisely the time in the lesson you want them to instead of having them check it out too early. Additionally, gone will be the days you need to write a lengthy URL on the board and hope students transpose it correctly in their notes before going to the computer lab.
Who To Follow, as a content generator for evaluating language usage
When you click on Who To Follow, three submenus become available: View Suggestions, Browse Interests, and Find Friends. The second is particularly rich with categorised twitter accounts on common themes, like business, arts, fashion, health, music and even Twitter itself. When you go through any of these categories, you can find an organised list of accounts that are full of language used by people identified in that genre. Use it to grab content that helps demonstrate or evaluate target language you want in your lesson. As an example, if you click on Deals & Discounts, you’ll find literally hundreds of store accounts. Their tweets vary from very conversational to professionally distant. This can be used as a guided discovery task for differentiating the two tones. Class discussion could arise around why certain stores choose a more conversational tone than others, for example.