The Crucible 2009 and 2010
The idea behind using Twitter in the classroom was to help to increase student engagement when using traditional texts. The idea was that with increased engagement, these text and the content standards being tested would provide a greater opportunity for learning for more students.
One of the first challenges that I faced when starting this project was getting Twitter through our school’s Internet filter. I had to write a proposal to the administration stating the purpose of the project and how long the project would last. I did not have a lot of trouble with this issue, but I know some teachers have had a lot of difficulty.
The second challenge that I faced was that many students had little experience with Twitter. I had to introduce them to the social media sight and teach many new concepts (hashtags, retweets, and using @ before another users name to tag them). These concepts were important because we used these items to help follow our class and to keep our Twitter feed updated at all times.
When we first attempted this project, setting up Twitter names was a lot easier than it is now. There weren’t restrictions on how many usernames I could create in a day and no flags that stopped me from continuing. I allowed students to choose their character, and then we practiced a few generic tweets in character. I had the students simply pretend they were in character a week before the play starts. Once that task was accomplished, we started reading the play. Typically we spent about 5 days per act reading and interacting in character.
The next challenge that we faced was teaching students to multi-task. Trying to read in character and then Tweet in character was difficult for some students. I started out by reading just a few exchanges of dialogue and then stopping and encouraging each student to Tweet. This was a great opportunity to model good Tweeting and to emphasize that we were not Tweeting what had just happened, but what the individuals were thinking as the events occurred.
At the end of the second day of reading and Tweeting, the class discussed whether they wanted me to continue to stop them to Tweet or allow them to Tweet as they felt the need. The majority felt that stopping to allow them to Tweet was interfering with the flow of the play, so they wanted to Tweet as they kept reading. This worked for most classes, but for the classes with struggling readers there seemed to still be some disconnect. In order to help these students, I used the audio version of the text. Students were still assigned an individual character to Tweet as, but this took away the disconnect for students who struggled to keep up with the reading.
The second year that we ‘Tweeted’ in character, I added an extra character. It had bothered me throughout the first use of Twitter that I had not been able to incorporate the author’s purpose as much as I could. It occurred to me to create a Twitter account for Arthur Miller and have a student ‘Tweet’ as the author. This helped to incorporate those standards and allowed me to more easily reinforce the themes from that perspective.
I really like this activity. I know that my students were more engaged with the text and they seemed to have been able to transfer the concepts to other tasks. I have moved The Crucible to the second semester this year. In the past I have always read it during the Puritan period of American literature because that is where it is in the textbook. However, I like the idea of reading the play at the same time as the American History classes are learning about McCarthyism and the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities. It just seems to fit better…and can also act as a refresher on Puritan Period.