It’s everywhere you go.
You can try to hide in the teachers’ lounge or even under your desk. You can go to a nearby café and hide behind your sunglasses, trying to go incognito, but it will follow you.
You can run into your house and shut the door behind you. Lock it, even. But still, it’s there.
It’s on your computer. Your smartphone and tablet.
In the morning news.
What are we talking about? Twitter, of course.
Like its sister platforms Facebook and Instagram, Twitter has been around for a decade or so, and doesn’t show signs of going anywhere any time soon. Everyone from world leaders to the quiet student in the back of your classroom uses it, hears about it, knows it.
So instead of trying to run away from it, how about (gasp!) using it in your classroom?
Chirp Your Way to Success Using Teacher Twitter
It turns out there are plenty of creative and interesting ways to use Twitter to bring your content to life for your students. Whether the subject area is language, science, geography or just about anything else, Twitter offers up a host of new opportunities.
Here’s a brief tutorial on Twitter, including an exciting glimpse of the fresh new worlds that it can open up in your classroom.
How to Use Teacher Twitter Effectively
Here are the basics that you need to know to get started with using Twitter to enhance your lessons.
Get to know the hashtags
Did you ever wonder what all the fuss was about with all the hashtag (#) symbols in front of phrases?
This is a handy tool for categorizing topics in Twitter.
Using the hashtag symbol in front of a keyword or a relevant phrase makes it show up in a Twitter search for that word or phrase.
For example, let’s say you’re wondering about some good language videos to show in your classroom. Simply type #languagevideos into the search bar to bring up a collection of helpful suggestions.
Looking for some good hashtags to help you bring Twitter into your teaching curriculum? Check out these popular hashtags:
- #MFLTwitterati: This hashtag has been around for almost as long as Twitter itself. An inspiring camaraderie and frequent chats characterize this collection of tweets inspired by modern foreign languages.
- #LanguageMemes: Sometimes learning languages is frustrating, and it helps to have a good laugh! A constantly fresh supply of funny memes pokes fun at the inconsistencies of language. Of course, don’t forget to check out hashtags that specifically relate to memes in the language being taught as well.
- #WorldNews: This is a great way to keep students connected to current events all over the world. Hashtags can also be used to find news specifically about your target language country (#FrenchNews, #SpanishNews, etc.).
Follow the right people
To make your Twitter feed useful and interesting, you’ll want to find some accounts to follow.
There are a number of excellent teacher twitter accounts out there. If you’re looking for some, check out these Twitter users:
- The ACTFL: Following the Twitter account of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language (ACTFL) can keep you current with the latest trends in language education.
- Lead with Languages: Daily tweets to give new inspiration and meaning to the reasons that language is important in our lives.
- Vicki Davis (CoolCatTeacher): Though not a language teacher, Vicki Davis provides plenty of inspirational ideas around leadership and technology, which is instructive for any discipline.
You might want to even try following some people you know. Do this by typing their names into the search bar. When their profile comes up, simply click the “Follow” button next to their name.
You can also follow an account if one of your contacts shares (or “retweets”) one of their posts. Hover over their names with your mouse and you’ll see their name come up with the “Follow” button.
As you begin to follow accounts, your feed becomes populated with interesting snippets of information (“tweets.”)
Start tweeting and retweeting
A “tweet” is just another name for a post…Twitter style.
And tweeting is so easy! Just type up to 280 characters in the text box and press the “Tweet” button.
You can also include links, photos, videos or GIFs to make your tweet even more engaging.
So how about retweeting?
That’s Twitter-lingo for sharing a tweet on your own feed. If you see a tweet that you would like to “retweet,” simply click the arrow configuration which is second in the row of symbols underneath.
Besides tweeting and retweeting, Twitter has another cool function called a “Twitter chat.” To use it, go to Tweetchat.com and type in the hashtag for the chat you want to join. This connects you immediately with a live forum on the chosen topic. This topic could be anything from a book talk on the latest educational literature to a discussion on how to quit smoking.
Now that you know the basics of Twitter, let’s delve into all the ways you can use it to help your students.
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Using Twitter to Empower Your Students
There are all kinds of ways Twitter can help in the language classroom. Here are just a few.
Creating a culturally immersive environment
Connect students with tweets and trends around the world, so that they can immerse themselves in the target language. You can also locate audio, reading passages and video to give students real-life exposure, as well as target language Twitter chats. And you can even change your language settings within the platform itself. Simply click on the small icon of your profile head in the top right, choose “Profile and settings,” and then select the desired language from the drop-down menu next to “Language.” And voilà! Instant immersion.
Try combining Twitter with FluentU to create a truly immersive learning environment for your students.
Combined with Twitter, FluentU will create a fully-immersive language classroom that allows your students to experience the culture of their target language.
Stay up to date with news and current events
Cultural immersion and current events go hand in hand, and Twitter is perfect for helping you create a learning environment that prioritizes both of these elements. Your Twitter feed can give students instant access to news events all over the world, including events in your target language. Almost every news station has a Twitter account which you can follow for trending news stories.
You can also find accounts that cover music, movies, fashion and sports, to keep student interest in the target culture fresh and sharp.
If you want to try some really over-the-top fun, search up the hashtag for target language memes, and enjoy some learning and hilarity at the same time.
Experiment with creative writing
Believe it or not, that 280-character limit gives you all kinds of possibilities to experiment with writing in the target language. A whole genre of poetry has sprung up around the creation of micropoems: texts created specifically to create powerful imagery within 280 characters. Have students read some and then try creating some of their own.
Or you could all work together to create a story of your own. The 280-character limit allows each student to contribute just enough to make the task challenging, yet satisfying.
Create class blogs or videos
If your students enjoy target language blogging, they can post links to it on a class Twitter page to get feedback from readers all over the world, making the task more relevant and meaningful.
You could also use your class Twitter page to share videos of skits and dialogues and receive meaningful feedback.
But Twitter isn’t just great for your students. It has some wonderful benefits for you as a teacher too.
Twitter for You, the Teacher
Now that we’ve covered how you can teach with Twitter, let’s look at how it can enhance your professional life in other ways.
Share ideas with other language teachers
Following other language teachers and sharing your own ideas with them is a great way to pool ideas and resources. If you’re working at a school or language academy, suggest having every teacher open a professional Twitter account. That way, you can share resources, lesson plans, videos, worksheets and just about anything related to education.
Staying up to date with language and culture
It’s not just your students who need regular exposure to the target language and culture. You need it too! But as a busy educator, it’s just not realistic to make time for frequent visits abroad to keep up with current events in the target language country. But Twitter can make it effortless for you to stay current with trends in news, language and culture.
Establish your credibility as an authority in the field
Chances are, you’ve been creating lesson plans, worksheets and curriculum for years, without anyone noticing except those in your school. Twitter gives you a global stage to share your knowledge and expertise. Why keep all that hard-earned wisdom to yourself? Get your name out there.
Twitter might not be anything new, but how you can utilize it is changing by the day. And in terms of what it can do for your language classroom, the story is just beginning.
So tweet away, and get started enjoying all that Twitter has to offer you and your students.
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