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Using Twitter to Enhance Understanding of Children’s Literature

Twitter iPhone appStudent teachers need to be skilled in not only starting the reading process with the children they teach but also keeping them reading by encouraging a love and appreciation of books.  In order to be effective promoters of reading, teachers need an internal library of varied texts that they can introduce their children to, according to interests, ability and preferences.  Developing this internal library can be a challenge when new teachers tend to rely solely on their own favourite texts from childhood.
Within the three year UG Primary Education route, we devote the first semester of the English module to children’s literature and use session time to introduce new texts, authors and explore how they could be used within school.  These experiences always ignite the student’s interest but maintaining this enthusiasm can be problematic when modules inevitably need to move onto other areas of the curriculum.
Twitter was used for the first time this year to build upon these early module experiences.  Its use was modelled and scaffolded within sessions initially to encourage participation and an understanding of its potential.  Starter tasks were set by the module tutor, for example, tweet a book recommendation to the group, tweet a question about a text you would like to use on placement etc. Using the module code as a hashtag enabled the teaching group to access a range of tweets and also respond to them.  To encourage this dialogue, further tasks were often set, e.g. favourite two tweets from the group, answer one of the questions posted.  Other activities included a twitter book group activity when all the students were given copies of the same picture book and asked to comment, question and respond.  These tasks developed the students’ awareness of twitter as not only a communication tool, but also an online advice resource.   Key to this was the occasion when two online book stores started following the group and began offering pertinent advice about suitable texts in answer to individual queries.  This was furthered when a well know author responded to a comment; the student teachers were particularly delighted with this.
Now that its use has been embedded through the activities in sessions, the students are being encouraged to take increased ownership of the space by using it independently; they are certainly now convinced of its value and seem determined to make use of it.  They will be taking part in their first block school experience after Easter; the activities used in sessions have meant that they are now aware that twitter can be used to support their reading provision during this time away from University.
You can view an archive of the students discussions (by hashtag) at:
Guest post by Caroline Elbra-Ramsey, Head of Programme for BA/BSc Primary (UG) 5-11.

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