Content Area Reading #5 – #Twitter

“Democratic Twittering: Microblogging for a More Participatory Social Studies” Daniel G. Krutka, Social Education 78(2), pp 86-89. Retrieved from National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)

I found this article while searching through the NCSS database. Initially I was looking to find an article on using textbooks in the classroom, but I stumbled upon this article and was intrigued by its focus on Twitter, a social media app that I personally enjoy using.

Krutka outlines the great potential Twitter has for creating engaging lessons and projects that require students to dive deep into content knowledge.  He gives two specific examples of content areas (the Enlightenment and the Cuban Missile Crisis) where teachers used Twitter to encourage students to take on personas of important historical figures and to be able to concisely articulate their opinions, summaries of events, and so on.  Along with using Twitter for class activities, other benefits of Twitter, according to Krutka, include allowing educators to communicate with fellow colleagues and also with students and families and serving as an outlet for educators’ professional development (connecting with other educators and sharing resources).  I agree with Krutka in his claim that social media, including but not limited to Twitter, can be integral to student achievement and engagement: “If everyday citizens can utilize social media to promote change in the face of oppressive regimes then these services can certainly foster more participatory and democratic experiences for students and teachers” (86).  I myself being a “millenial” enjoy using social media for not only personal purposes, but also for educational pursuits.  With today’s modern world that relies so heavily on technology, students should learn from a young age how to use that technology in order to create positive changes within their worlds.


  • 1. Examples of teachers who used Twitter in exploring the topics of the Enlightenment and the Cuban Missile Crisis (having students tweet as if they were Voltaire, Rousseau, JFK, Castro, etc.)
  • 2. Twitter can be used as a quick pre-class or post-class formative assessment to “check in” with students.
  • 3. “A study I completed with my 20 pre-service social studies teachers indicated that the use of social media, and Twitter in particular, in our weekly class enhanced students’ relationships with each other and me, and also helped to blur many of the traditional lines often present in formal learning settings” (87) — TECHNOLOGY CAN BE GOOD!


  • 1. “Twitter can be used with students in a variety of classes and age levels.” I agree with this to an extent.  I don’t think that students under the age of eleven or twelve would necessarily benefit from an activity as described in the article, or even for practicing concise writing or sharing links with parents (87).  I think that students of such a young age can use technology to enhance their learning, but the fundamental skills behind thinking through different perspectives and learning to how concisely write need to be grounded before technology can take them to the next level.
  • 2. Using Twitter as a participation tool – some more “old-school” teachers would disagree in saying that a student tweet counts as participating in class – “All students should have to speak” is what many may think, but I – and Krutka – disagree.  As long as the content in the tweet is high-quality and thoughtful, then I think it definitely counts.  In today’s personalized learning age, some students may be able to more easily and articulately express themselves through such mediums as opposed to traditional instructional patterns.  If student learning is evident through Twitter, then I think it is a valuable tool.


  • 1. When using Twitter, it is easy to be very simplistic as tweets only allow so many characters – students could easily say, “There wasn’t enough room to put more.”  How does a teacher balance that excuse with getting qualitative reflections/insights/responses from students?
Content Area Reading #5 – #Twitter

Day 8 – “He had HOW many wives?!”


In today’s practicum, students completed a journal entry in their composition books about why there were different groups among the early colonists.  Then, they completed a pre-test on Schoology so that my cooperating teacher could gauge where students are at in terms of their knowledge about colonization in North America.  The remainder of class was spent taking notes on their iPads using both the textbook the teacher provided and a small presentation she gave.  This content included conflicts that contributed to migration to the “newly discovered” North America, including Catholic-Protestant conflicts in Europe as well as Spain’s decreased role in western exploration due to the failure of the Spanish Armada.

Today’s big take away related to the use of textbooks.  When my cooperating teacher first told me they were going to work from textbooks today, I was initially surprised because that is not something I would expect her to do to give instruction.  However, the way she used the textbook turned out to make more sense in terms of her teaching style: she had the class read aloud together a section of the textbook that they were to take notes on, and discussed what they read as a class.  She specifically highlighted the information that she wanted them to remember and take notes on.  Most importantly, she supplemented the textbook information with a presentation of her own that she projected on the Smartboard.  This presentation further explained the information in the textbook that was very vague; for example, the textbook only briefly mentioned how King Henry VIII changed England to a Protestant state, and merely stated that Queen Mary had plans to change it back to a Catholic state. My cooperating teacher must have foreseen these gaps, and decided to go into depth how King Henry VIII wanted Protestantism so he could get divorced, and described “Bloody Mary’s” violent attacks on those who were not Catholic. Had the students relied on the textbook alone for this information, they would not have got as much out of the lesson – especially as the parts that were the most interesting to them were in the teacher’s mini lecture.  Textbooks often only “cover” topics and ideas, so they alone are insufficient for delivering content. Textbooks can be a good starting place, however, as long as they are paired with additional instruction to really engage students and give them the full picture.

(This reflection connects well to “Lies My Teacher Told Me”, a book I have done a good deal of content area reading from!)

Day 8 – “He had HOW many wives?!”

Day 7 -“Can I get an extension?”

In today’s practicum, I only saw one class period because of a schedule change.  I saw a group of seventh graders, who I am still getting to know, and they worked on completing their explorer projects.  I also was able to sit in on a team meeting, where students and staff of “Team Blue” met to recognize good deeds done throughout the last week or so.  Teachers and staff members of the team specifically identified students they wanted to acknowledge, and these students received a marble as a reward. The students had a half day, so the rest of their time spent at school was spent in study hall, in which many students worked on finishing their projects.


Today’s big takeaway related to the explorer projects – no matter how clear you think you are being as a teacher, it is never clear enough. My cooperating teacher assigned this project at least one week ago, if not more. She took a significant amount of time out of class to go over the project requirements. She explained that the explorer baseball card and the map of the explorer’s journey were two separate documents that needed to be handed in. She repeatedly made clear that the due date was the end of this week. Despite all of this clarity and transparency, there still were SO many students who were – I apologize for the harshness of this term – clueless. The students didn’t use their ample class time to get the project done, and my cooperating teacher had to repeat herself countless times about the due date and about the content and display of the project.  In such a situation, I can see why it would be so easy for teachers to get so frustrated. It’s hard enough to be patient all the time, but to feel like students aren’t listening to you at all is an entirely different frustration.  Regardless of how emotional you can become in that moment of frustration, teachers have to keep their cool. Even if it seems redundant and overdone, teachers have to be extremely clear in directions and expectations, providing multiple written and verbal instructions.

Day 7 -“Can I get an extension?”

Content Area Reading #4 -Place for Partisanship in the Classroom?

“Should Teachers Help Students Develop Partisan Identities?” by Diane E. Hess and Paula McAvoy. Social Education 78(6), pp. 293-297

I chose to read this article because I wanted to switch up what I was reading. Since I am a member of the National Council for the Social Studies, I decided to peruse the resources available to me. I decided to look at this particular article because my middle schoolers will be looking at the upcoming election, and I think this article could have some great insights to how I can approach teaching this topic.

This article investigates the extent to which (if there should be any at all) teachers should try to shape their students’ political identities and beliefs.  Below are images that encapsulate the content of the article:



3 Things I Learned that I Don’t Want to Forget

  • 1. Two predictors of high engagement of Americans in politics that really matter: “identifying as a ‘strong partisan’ and possessing a ‘strong’ ideological orientation (liberal to conservative)” (p. 294)
  • 2. “Affective” polarization = “the tendency of people who say that they are Republicans or Democrats to view their rivals as irrational or having evil intentions” (p. 294)
  • 3. Example of Adams High – a good way to help students learn about social and economic issues, debate, develop own partisan and ideological identities

2 Controversial Ideas/Disagree With

  • 1. Teachers creating lessons or courses with aim of shaping students’ political views
  • 2. I disagree with the statement that teachers “should not require students to engage in a political protest.” I don’t think that teachers necessarily have to do this, but I don’t see why it is considered inappropriate. There is such a wide range of issues that students have an incredibly wide variety of things to choose from – there must be some sort of issue that students are passionate about and can engage in. Engagement in itself is a somewhat ambigious term anyone – engagment could come in several forms, including actually attending a protest, writing to one’s representative, creating some form of social media related to it, and so on.

1 Question

  • 1. Is there an effective and engaging way to teach both sides of the political spectrum to a group of ethnically, economically, ideologically similar students? (For example, if you were teaching at an all-white, economically advantaged school?)
Content Area Reading #4 -Place for Partisanship in the Classroom?

Day 6 – “These explorers weren’t really good at their jobs, were they?”

Today in class,

The students were asked,

If a source was primary or not.

They also took notes

On explorers that sailed over in boats,

Who were expecting to discover a lot.

I played Flyswatter with a new class,

Who seemed to learn from this vocab task

As I corrected some previous mistakes.

They finished with their explorer cards,

Getting the right format was sometimes hard,

But were on pace to finish by the due date.

Today’s big takeaway: While watching my cooperating teacher lecture the class on some important explorers (while students were taking notes), I felt myself become uneasy because even I didn’t know some of the explorers she was talking about, or about their specific details regarding their voyages and explorations.  This kind of incident makes me nervous about being a teacher – how do I teach if I don’t know everything? I know they say it comes with practice, and that you really don’t have to know everything… but I just wonder how I will be able to confidently stand up in front of a class when I don’t have all the knowledge pertinent to the subject. I want my students to view me as credible. I want them to trust me in my position as a teacher. I know that it is okay to say, “Listen, I don’t know the answer to your question, so let’s look it up” or “I’ll do some research and get back to you next time”, but I just worry about looking foolish for not knowing something that I “should”. A lot of this anxiety stems from my natural desire to be “the best” or “perfect”, which I know isn’t necessarily realistic in the occupation of teaching.  My cooperating teacher showed a lot of poise and confidence while she was lecturing, which I am sure comes with years of experience, as well as her own personal review of the material.  When I become a teacher, and even now in my pre-service, I know that I will need to be confident when it comes to delivering instruction, but I will also have to establish my relationship with my students as one centered on teamwork – instead of me just piling information for them to regurgitate, we work together to answer questions and solve problems.





Day 6 – “These explorers weren’t really good at their jobs, were they?”

Content Area Reading #3 -Why Study History?

Social Studies for Secondary Schools: Teaching to Learn, Learning to Teach. Alan J. Singer, 4th edition, 2015.

I read chapters 1 and 2 of Singer’s “Social Studies for Secondary Schools”. I decided to read these chapters for the required content area reading because although I have been enjoying “Lies My Teacher Told Me”, I thought it would be refreshing to switch things up a bit.

The first chapter, entitled “Who Am I?” summarizes Singer’s background and journey to becoming involved in education.  There were many important events throughout his life that shaped his worldview and his educational philosophy, including his unsatisfactory educational experiences, his student teaching, his early teacher years, and everything in between.

“Why Study History?” the second chapter, Singer explains the importance of studying this subject.  Singer claims that history and social sciences include not only “information about the past and present – that part is laid out effectively in textbooks – but also ideas about how practitioners of these disciplines work, insights into the motivation of people and societies, opinions about the way the world operates and changes, and theories about the connections among past, present, and future” (p. 16).  Essentially, Singer distinguishes history from social studies, defines historical facts and theories, discusses how to teach controversial topics, and more.

Three Things I Learned I Don’t Want to Forget:

  • 1. I liked Singer’s definition of history: “(1) events from the past – ‘facts,’ (2) the process of gathering and organizing information from the past – historical research, (3) explanations about the relationships between specific historical events, and (4) broader explanations of ‘theories’ about how and why change takes place.” (p.18)
  • 2. Social Studies approach to history: alternative to chronology – curriculum is based on broad social studies concepts and themes. Student generated questions are important, as well as the incorporation of contemporary issues.
  • 3. Great quote by Singer – “If we are to be currriculum creators rather than just currculum consumers, social studies teachers must be lifetime students.  We also must become historians and social scientists ourselves. Rather than seeing this as a chore, I think it is part of the great fun of our profession.” (p.27)

Two Controversial Ideas/Things I Disagree With

  • 1. Making moral and political judgments about the past using information and explanations from studying history – do historians have that special privilege?
  • 2. Singer references Mill 1963, in describing 18th/19th century British philosophers who “argued that decision [of political and economic judgments] should be evaluated based on whether they provided the greatest good for the greatest number.” I wonder – what groups fall under that “greater number”? Can you justify the “greater good” when it oppresses people? Kills people?  When Hitler said it would be for the “greater good” of Germany to exterminate the Jews, were his actions justified?

1 Question

  • 1. When looking at the causes of a historical event, how do you determine the value of these causes (which is the most significant cause of the American Civil War, for example)?
Content Area Reading #3 -Why Study History?

Day 5 – Flyswatter

Today I taught my first lesson plan.  I was given some vocabulary words related to the unit of exploration, and decided to play a fun game I had played in my high school Spanish class: Flyswatter.  To began, I formatively assessed students by creating a Quizlet wordset in which students completed a “matching terms” test.  I did this so that students familiarized (or in some cases, introduced) themselves with the vocabulary that would be included in the game.  After students completed this, we discussed as a class which terms were familiar and which were unknown.  After explaining the rules of Flyswatter, I split the class into two teams and we played. Following the game was a discussion about the relevance of the vocabulary terms – why did I select those terms? How were they related to one another?

I taught this lesson three times, twice to two seventh grade groups that I had not been with before and once with an eighth grade class that I see every visit.  Each time I did the lesson I changed it slightly – mostly, I changed how I managed the students. There were some unanticipated obstacles that came up, such the Quizlet test taking much longer than I anticipated, Quizlet temporarily freezing up, and so on. In these situations, I just had to go with the flow, and do what I could with what I had.

Today’s biggest takeaway was the need to implement effective classroom management strategies.  Especially with the seventh graders, I needed to be more assertive in managing their behavior in order for the lesson to have its intended effect.  The second seventh-grade group was especially chatty.  There were some students that would not sit down when I asked them, and they continued to talk amongst themselves even though the rules dictated silence.  Ultimately, I had to end the game short because of the lack of focus and amount of goofing off.  To have prevented this, I needed to implement a stronger classroom management system; I should have reiterated my cooperating teacher’s classroom rules and I should have from the start been very clear about what behaviors I expected.  An interesting thing I experienced is that classroom management strategies can be changed from class to class – the eighth grade group that followed this second seventh-grade group behaved much better for me, so I did not have to repeat the rules as often as I did with the younger students.  There were many factors in play that may have affected this, including the eighth graders’ familiarity with me, the age difference, and the smaller number of students in the eighth grade class. Either way, I learned that even if I don’t have to be super strict with students, I need to have a classroom management plan in place in cases where it’s necessary.

Day 5 – Flyswatter