Language Arts educators to present at national convention
District Language Arts educators to present at national convention
Posted on 10/27/2015
This is the image for the news article titled District Language Arts educators to present at national convention

WEST HAVEN, Oct. 26, 2015 — The latest photos on Instagram, favorite tweets on Twitter, news of who “unfriended” someone on Facebook—social media-centered conversations on all this and more aren’t taboo topics during English lessons at Bailey Middle School.

Well, as long as those Facebook profiles belong to the likes of Harriet Tubman or George Washington, and as long as the tweets and Instagram pictures are chronicling events from books like “The Giver.” 

Bailey teachers are now using social media as a way to help students further explore books they’re reading in class. Students use paper templates of blank Facebook profiles, Instagram posts, Twitter updates, Pinterest boards or other social media platforms they’re already familiar with to make connections between the literary works and their own lives, imagine new story plots for characters, summarize a story’s main events, or simply examine a piece from a new perspective.

Bailey teacher Caitlin Pinto and district English Language Arts Coordinator Colette Bennett will be giving a presentation at the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention in November in Minnesota on the classroom strategy. 

“One day a student might be responsible for creating a Facebook page as if they are the character, or illustrating a main event from the story for an Instagram page. Doing so will not only help students explore their reading, but it will also bring in real-world connections. Without even realizing it, students are summarizing and applying their reading. Students will use these social media platforms to analyze, discuss, and dive into the literature we are reading in class,” Pinto said.

Students complete these tasks as members of literature circles, which are small book discussion groups that give members specific roles, such as summarizer and researcher. In the updated version of literature circles being used in Bailey classrooms, students take on roles of "Facebook Friend," "Timeless Tweeter” or "Instagram Illustrator,” among others.

Bennett proposed this literature circle variation to Bailey English teachers last year, and administrators were so impressed while observing Pinto’s use of the teaching method that they submitted the lesson to the national convention.

“Students using social media platforms in literature circles will strengthen many of the skills they will need for their academic careers and beyond: analyzing, summarizing, researching and making connections between different literary works. Students are also seeing that their teacher values the way they communicate,” said Bennett, who is a past presenter at the NCTE convention.

Pinto said she will be expanding her use of this type of literature circle in class and is pleased to be able to teach Bailey students about benefits of traditional circles, as well as ones that add a new element to the discussion.

“It is so important for students to have fun while exploring literature. With this particular idea, students can use their prior knowledge of social media platforms to work with literature in a modern way,” she added. “Students are making connections and working with their literature in ways they may not have been exposed to before.”