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Sunday, September 18, 2011

"Facebook Updates" Facilitate Active Listening During Story Time

The following lesson was inspired by ideas found here: Five Ways to Bring High-Tech Ideas to Low-Tech Classrooms.

"What's your status?"
That's been the refrain emanating from my classroom throughout the past two weeks. Prior to reading aloud Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story to my students, I instruct my classes to listen for details that would be appropriate status updates on a Facebook page. Taking the Facebook motif a step farther, a six-foot sheet of red butcher paper is stapled to the western wall of my classroom. Across the top of the page is written "Facebook". Below the title and centered are the words, "What's your status?" To the left of the status is a picture of a young Ben Carson (circa high-school aged). When students hear an appropriate status update, they grab a writing accoutrement and a note card. Then, they pen a complete sentence highlighting Carson's status in the biography. After a student updates Carson's status, I stop reading and we, as a class, discuss the significance of the post.
My students and I have really enjoyed updating Carson's "Facebook" status. I delight in learning what my kids view as a significant post. Students enjoy directing the course of the conversation, along with posting comical updates. For example, Carson's mother encourages the young Ben and his brother to improve in school. To facilitate improvement, she informs her boys that they can watch no more than three television programs per week. To replace the TV, books are to be read. Ben and his brother, Curtis, must read two books a week and submit reports to their mother. Upon learning that fact, one of my learners pretended to be Carson and posted, "Dang, my mom's trippin'. She says I have to read two books a week and give her reports. Only three TV shows a week - she's trippin' hard."
In addition, I've tied Facebook status updates to the concept of "sequencing". I've demonstrated to my seventh graders that Facebook updates status in a descending vertical line. Going back to the Carson "Facebook" page on my western wall, visual learners can see the sequence of Carson's story represented in that descending vertical line of note cards. At a basic level, the Facebook page on my classroom wall is a tool that transforms the abstract concept "sequence" to a visual and kinesthetic object - an object to which my seventh graders can relate.
A thought just occurred to me as I was typing this blog:
My-Big-Campus users can crank the "Facebook" theme up a notch. Forward-thinking teachers can create a "Ben Carson" group on MBC. Discussion boards can then be used to mimic the "status update" experience. As significant events are covered in a story, students can post "status updates" for main and supporting characters. Other students can post questions to those characters using the comment button. Authors of original posts can then answer questions from the character's point of view.
You have to love the versatility modern technology brings to the classroom.

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