The strategies teach concise writing and are based on Twitter. However, the ideas can easily be adapted for other platforms including Facebook status updates or text messages.
1) Personal Writing: Students write a series of Twitter-esque personal “essays” (140 characters maximum, including spaces and punctuation). Topic ideas include the school year, life lessons, relationships and personal goals. Each one can be stand-alone, or each post can be part of a series. They might do this, for example, for personal writing or in the context of developing college essay ideas. They then develop one or more selected posts into a longer piece. Afterward, debrief: How did starting off by writing brief expressions of their ideas contribute to their writing process?
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2) Authentic Writing: Taking a page from Andy Selsberg, students find ways to contribute meaningfully and authentically to the world of the Web. Ideas include, as Mr. Selsberg suggests, writing descriptions to “sell” an item of used clothing on eBay, commenting on a YouTube video or contributing a product review on a site like Amazon, as well as participating in our daily Student Opinion discussions. Establish guidelines for good Web citizenship. Have students read each other’s posts and provide helpful feedback. How was this activity different from writing academic essays that only the teacher reads?
3) Poetry: Students read the Twitter poems by Billy Collins, Claudia Rankine, Elizabeth Alexander and Robert Pinsky. They then write their own original “Twitter poems” or rewrite a classic poem or one of their own poems in 140 characters or fewer. They can also look further into the history and impact of brief poems, like Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” and William Carlos Williams’s “So Much Depends.”
4) Creative Writing: Students write pieces inspired by so-called Twitter novels and cellphone novels, either by writing the equivalent of an original story or novella 140 characters at a time, or by “crowd-sourcing” the work, by having each student contribute a line, in turn, to a class novel.
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