Will Twitter hinder literacy or help it blossom? It depends on who you ask. But more and more educators--many of them former skeptics--are now touting the use of Twitter as a writing tool. The micro-blogging platform is proving useful for all kinds of inventive exercises to hone writing skills, in and out of the classroom.
Less is More
"I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead."
The character constraint (each "tweet" can only be 140 characters max) demands both discipline and creative problem-solving. Pitfalls such as wordiness and passive voice are quickly solved when counting letters.
Students learn to proactively edit their work on the fly. "On a daily basis" becomes "daily" before reaching the teacher's red pen. Twitter forces kids to think about grammar and style in ways that are practical, not just theoretical: Is that adjective really necessary? What's more concise: passive voice or active?
Do you Twaiku?
Haiku tweets have hit near-cult status in certain circles. Although traditional Japanese haikus center on themes about nature, twaikus cover anything and everything. They're mainly about word play and having fun with the medium.
A haiku is a non-rhyming, 17-syllable poem written in 3 lines. There are 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 in the third. Try it in your classroom; you might be surprised by who gets hooked!
Remember telling campfire stories as a kid? One person starts spinning a yarn with a sentence or two, the next person adds a sentence, and so on around the circle? Twitter adds a whole new dimension to this game, getting even the most reticent writers engaged in an exercise that speaks their language.
"Twittories," or Twitter stories, are taking off in classrooms across the country. "Many Voices" (see Links at end), one such project, was compiled by 140 middle school students from around the world, 140 characters at a time. Try a version in your own classroom and see where it takes you.
Twitter can be useful for story starters, interactive dialogue, and all kinds of writing exercises. For instance, students could get inside the mind of a character in a story they're reading or writing, and then tweet in that voice. A similar exercise could be done with setting, using all five senses to describe different places in the story.
What's the scoop?
Digital devices now replace the reporter's notebook on most modern beats. Have your students play news reporter and tweet their notes and observations. Or have them write book, film or music reviews. The possibilities are endless.
In the end, these exercises may not produce great literature. But they teach valuable writing skills and get kids jazzed about writing. Which everyone agrees is a good thing.
"Many Voices" Twittory
How to start a Twitter novel
Six word memoirs
Write4net - Publish stories online with your Twitter account
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