How to Use Twitter to Test Critical Thinking

Just mention critical thinking in an English class and you'll get an audible groan from your students. Really, try it out. It's discouraging when you know students are bored of your lessons. But I've found the solution that has seriously changed my entire teaching strategy. While planning for English classes, I realized I can translate my Twitter strategy from this post to my English lessons. Here's how I'm going to test the critical thinking skills of my students with Twitter. 

Discussing Subtext

Whether you've taught English for 20 years or simply love literature, you know so much of great writing comes from the subtext. It's in this gray area that we can't really put our finger on the beauty of writing, but we know it when we see it. Because this is such an abstract concept to some English students, I decided Twitter would be a good vehicle to help them understand the value of subtext study. 

I really love to use this when I teach Shakespeare. The discussion of teaching the Bard's work to students could go on for ages, but a fun way to let kids decipher his work is through Twitter. The worksheet we've created for you requires some effort on your end. You'll need to choose a few excerpts or quotes from literature and show them to the class. We usually just create a simple PowerPoint presentation and use the class projector so everyone can see it. No reason to waste paper on it! 

Here's how to present this assignment:

  1. Put together a few quotes from whatever literary piece your class is studying at the time and project the first to the class. 
  2. Tell them to summarize the subtext of this excerpt in one tweet. This will test their creativity and critical thinking skills. You'll see on the worksheet that we've provided 10 spaces for 10 different excerpts. You can edit this down to whatever size assignment is appropriate for your class. 
  3. After each, let a few students read their tweet aloud and discuss what they found. 
  4. Here's a little hint: Write tweets along with your students! It will help you understand what they're going through to complete the assignment and allow you to better speak on the validity of the activity. 

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