#SocialMedia: Positive or Pesky?

What is the first thing that you do in the morning? Do you jump up out of bed and go for a jog? (If so, I am proud of you. Teach me your ways.) Or do you grab your current book and read a few pages? I can’t speak for everyone of course, but I don’t normally do either of these things. My morning routine consists of hitting the snooze button once (or three times) and, when I am finally prepared to face the day, I roll over and grab my iPhone off of my nightstand. I’m sure that you all know what happens next; I immediately get on to my social networking sites and catch up on what I have been missing out on. I check my Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram piously every single morning, but what is the draw of this?

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(Photo: pixabay.com)

Social media has grown tremendously over the past few years and it will only get bigger. In fact, I don’t foresee a time when social media will slow down at all. According to Pew Internet Project’s research, 90% of people ages 18-29 used social media in 2013. This number grew from only 9% in February of ’05. People of all ages are joining the online community for numerous reasons, so why can’t we use it to form and join book communities?

This week, I did some research about teens, literacy, and social media. It’s interesting to see what sites people are using to create that community on. From Twitter to Pinterest, the online book conversation is growing. I loved being able to go through new sites and learn. It’s crazy to see the platforms that people are using to get the word out about new and interesting books.

Twitter: Before this class, I hadn’t ever really thought about using Twitter to find new books or create a literary community. When we first started this semester, I was pretty timid to Tweet out to classmates and create bonds. However, I now can see that Twitter is an incredibly tool. How awesome is it to have the authors of your favorite books right at the tip of your fingers? That’s one of my favorite parts about Twitter. If an author answers back to a Tweet of mine or favorites it, I might be guilty of fangirling a bit (or a lot). According to The Statistics Portal, there were 305 million active Twitter users at the end of 2015. Think of all of the people that you can connect with. My TBR list has absolutely exploded since I started this class purely because my classmates and other people that I follow on Twitter are fantastic.

Instagram: This is one social media app that I hadn’t considered using for a literary community up until this week. However, as I started to explore more, I was amazed. There are SO many different people sending out pictures of books and quotes of books that I sat looking over them for over 30 minutes. How awesome is that? I loved seeing pictures of old books that I loved growing up, such as Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult, and I loved seeing some sweet Harry Potter pictures. From #currentlyreading to #bookstagram, there is a hashtag for every reader.

Pinterest: I’ve had a Pinterest for years, but hadn’t ever looked for books while on it. As I explored, I found some great boards with books for every type of reader. From “The Ultimate Guide to Dystopian Teen Novels” to “If you don’t know what to read right now…,”I found some awesome boards. I can see myself in my future classroom using this resource to help the reluctant reader find the perfect book for them. I even had to create a new board, Book Binging, on my own account so that I could save all of the awesome pins that I found. How handy is it that you find some great books on the same site that you can use to plan your (possible) future wedding? 😉

Goodreads: Goodreads is, of course, fantastic. I have loved using this site throughout the semester. It’s great to be able to look up a book and have numerous (and by this I mean thousands) of reviews at my fingertips. I love being able to categorize my books and keep track of everything I have read. It’s also a wonderful tool to get more book suggestions. I see what some of my classmates are reading on my homepage and, if the books looks interesting, I’ll go read the brief synopsis that is given and check out the reviews and ratings it has received. It is a great site to use when you need to manage your TBR list as well as the books that you have read. You can have numerous bookshelves that separate books out into categories to make your reading easier to keep track of. This simplicity is something that I always look for in a social media site.

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(Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)

If there is something that truly connects nearly everyone around us, it is social media. Everywhere I turn, someone is on their phone tweeting or instagraming a picture from their weekend. I truly believe that social media can have a positive impact on literacy and our classrooms. Think about all of the book sharing and awesome things that we have been able to do online this semester. I know that a lot of the books on my TBR list would not be there if I hadn’t been on Twitter or exploring Goodreads. If used correctly, I believe that social media is an incredible tool to use in our classrooms.

-RG

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A Classroom Community

I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we never forget our first community that we came from. Honestly, I look back on my time in little ol’ Curtis, Nebraska with fondness. I proudly tell people where I came from, and I have a smile on my face when I say it. I draw from experiences and memories even today as I write; this is because I came from a community that I loved and felt truly a part of.

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(Image: Flickr.com)

Communities can have a positive impact on young people. Communities can give kids positive memories and, frankly, shape them for their future. This week, I read a couple of chapters out of Penny Kittle’s Book Love that impacted me, but one in particular really hit home and made me think. Chapter five discusses how the classroom can be seen as a community of learners that are meant to feed off of and learn from each other. By creating a community, we are able to get a more rich discussion and learn from other student’s point of view. Students can really get the feel of belonging to something. This can be incredibly helpful for many students. Read alouds (which are awesome) and writing exercises are just a couple of examples on how communities can enrich the classroom. Students can have peers review their writing and discuss novels.

 

The moments that bing our students, one to another, are the very moments when we need to be most thankful. These are the moments that keep kids connected to school. Building classroom community is dropout-prevention work

 

So, how do we create this community within our classroom? It’s inevitable that many of our students will come from different backgrounds and spend time with different people. They won’t all be best friends and won’t all have the same opinions. How do we create an environment that will benefit everyone? Penny Kittle had some interesting ideas about this. Kittle outlined 3 key points to building a community (74):

  1. Assign seats.
  • Some of you are probably already turning away at this. I know, I know. I was a kid that HATED assigned seating in high school! I wanted to sit by my friends. However, I now understand why this isn’t always the most effective. Not only is there often too much talking (definitely guilty of this.. Sorry past teachers!), but there is also at least one student who is left behind. Instead, mix it up. Put different people together and see what happens; you might get some great discussions on books happening!
  1. Change seating assignments every month.
  • This is also important. Classes must continue to be mixed up in order to get to know everyone. We can learn new things from every single person; my book interests are different from those around me, but that has never stopped me from reading something that a friend has suggested!
  1. Build talk into everything that happens in the classroom.
  • This was interesting to me. Allowing the students to have time to really share their ideas with each other is so important. They can discuss writing amongst themselves, or even write as a group. They can have table discussions that can serve as a book club of sorts. Students can take advantage of their peers to receive help on writing assignments.

 

I’ve always said the books do the work to capture readers. And equal to that, the community of readers and writers carries the energy in the room. Over there on the sidelines, cheering them on? That’s you and me.

 

It’s important that we as teachers realize how big of an impact the students can have on each other. Growing up, this was something that I never quite understood. However, looking back, I can see that some of my best learning was done during classroom discussions rather than lectures. I learn more when I am able to voice my opinion and hear thoughts from my other classmates. This is why book club has been such a fantastic activity to participate in this semester. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting together with 10-15 people to discuss literature. Sometimes, we all loved the book; other times, the majority of the group absolutely hated the book (still upset about this guys), but no matter what, we were able to discuss it and dig deeper into the book. Students need this. They need to feel as though they are a part of a group and community. As Kittle said, these “communities are essential because students care about what other students think” (75, Book Love). They want to bounce ideas back and forth and truly listen to each other.

 

What are all of your thoughts on creating a community classroom? Is it useful? How will you attempt to do so in your future classroom?

 

-RG

Diversity Through My Eyes

Last week, I posted a blog about why diversity is so important and why we need more of it. This week, I have been asked to post about my reading life and what exactly diverse reading means to me. To me, reading diversely is getting out of ourselves and experiencing the world from someone else’s point of view. A diverse read is one that will take its reader away from the life that they know and set them squarely in a life that is filled with unknowns. Sometimes the characters are of a different race; other times, the topics are what I see as diverse. When reading diversely, I often find that I don’t quite relate to the full struggle that the main character(s) are going through; however, I find that I can relate to the emotions that are exuded by them during their struggle. I feel heartbreak. I can sense their confusion or, sometimes, their anger. These novels and the stories that they contain open my eyes to a completely new world. As a future educator, this is crucial for me.

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Challenges

That being said, I have a lot of work to do. A lot. Prior to this course, I hadn’t ever really considered what I read. I never actively searched for diverse books. Honestly, sometimes they just fell into my lap through recommendations or library searches. Now, though, I am becoming more exposed to diverse books through the help of book club (go Avengers!) and other classmates. I think that it is sometimes a challenge to read diversely because we are afraid of what we may find. Some topics are graphic to read about and aren’t always appealing to readers. Other times, people find it easier to just stick with what they know. These people will read books by the same authors over and over again or will stick with the same genre. I will admit that I am completely guilty of this; once I find something that I like, I tend to stick with it. But, after these past couple weeks, I realize that I need to branch out. I must read through a window that will give me a glimpse of someone else’s life. This will make me feel more in tune with those around me; after all, we don’t all fight the same battles, and we certainly don’t walk the same path. Reading through someone else’s eyes makes me more empathetic and, quite frankly, knowledgeable. I’m not saying that this is always easy- in fact, I’ve read some diverse books that have broke my heart. But, I do know that it’s worth it. I’ve learned a lot from these books, and I feel that other people can learn from them too. That doesn’t mean that you can’t re-read some of your favorites from time to time. I still pick up Twilight when I’m working in the library at school and get bored (I can still find my favorite pages right away, too). However, it’s important to broaden your horizons as well.

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I think that it is incredibly important for our students to have a diverse reading life. When I was younger, I read as both a mirror and a window. I loved meeting characters that reminded me of the people that I surrounded myself with, but I also loved entering into new and exciting worlds that I could never physically go to. Now, as a future educator, I see the importance of reading as a window into not only mystical worlds, but also as a window into another person’s reality. Sometimes, we just don’t know what people are going through, and that’s a tough pill to swallow. I’ve always been the type of person that wants to make everyone smile and feel better when they aren’t happy, but it’s obvious that that is not always an option. We just can’t always know all of the circumstances that those around us are in. Reading, though, can open doors into the minds of other people that have been locked shut. Sometimes, we can see issues come to light when we read. It’s important to be empathetic and understanding of others, and I want my future students to really see the world around them.

In order to help with this, I plan on having my classroom library be fully stocked with books. I plan on having my all-time favorite books in it of course (I am a shameless book pusher), but I will also place books in it that will open kids’ eyes to the world around them. Books that show them not only mystical lands, but also big cities in the United States where bad things happen to people everyday. Books that will place them directly into another person’s shoes to see how they live. These are the books that really teach us lessons. For example, I read Little Peach by Peggy Kern this past week for book club. If you haven’t read it yet, I would strongly recommend it. However, I’m not afraid to admit that I would never have picked up this book on my own. Never. I am so fortunate that my book club decided to read it, because I have learned numerous lessons from it. Talking about this book brought up so many issues and great discussions; it was my favorite book club meeting of the year so far! I want my students to not shy away from books that are different, because if I had done that, I never would have read such an impactful, eye-opening novel. I will have diverse novels available for them to read; I can only hope that they will be impacted as much as I have been.

 

So, I’m going to challenge myself to read more diversely. This semester, I’ve found that some of my favorite books are the ones that I wouldn’t normally pull off of the shelf myself; whether it’s a story about two young women with special needs who have always been told that they aren’t good enough (Also a great book. Check it out.) or a story about a young girl who trusts the wrong person and gets caught unknowingly in a sex trafficking ring, I learn and grow through these books. I know that I can’t diversify my reading on my own though, so I am always open to suggestions. 🙂 Diverse reading is something that I want to fully make a habit of doing; I know that it won’t always be easy, but I believe that it is essential for both my students and myself.

 

-RG