Chatting Our Way into Deeper Waters

Yesterday, my students and I waded into the ocean of online chatting.  We started slow, rolling up our pant legs and dipping our toes in with Neil Gaiman’s short story “Don’t Ask Jack.” As we listened to the story which I had recorded ahead of time, students jotted down three things: what they noticed, what they thought was interesting, and what they thought was important.  Then we listened to the story a second time, and they waded in to their ankles, chatting what they observed in an online discussion on schoology.

Some classes got so excited about chatting that they instantly started texting in their comments, hardly waiting till the audio caught up with what they were chatting about.  Others were confused. They barely made any connections to the text, except to note one after the other that “the jack in the box was scary.” I can only hope that as we work on this skill, they will start to clue in on what is important in a text.

Today, we actually started our novel, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. I have been teasing them all week with book trailers from the author. This time, we tried chatting while listening to the story only once. Some students did an amazing job. I saw textual connections to The Host, comments about the symbolism of owls, all kinds of comments. Afterwards I asked, “What frustrated you? What can we do to make this better?” The main complaint–that we only read the prologue today and that refreshing the chat in schoology was annoying.

Admittedly, one class struggled with the fact that I had moved their seats, took extremely long to login to schoology, and basically dragged their feet. Other students elected to write their observations on paper, so they missed what the other students had to say about the text. In my last class, I even had to remove a student who would not stop complaining at the top of his lungs about how unfair I was in chaging the seating chart, moving his seat to different places in the room, and disrupting the rest of us.

And where did this awesome method of reading a book come from? From my PLN on twitter, of course. Much thanks to Cheryl Morris and Andrew Thomasson for the original concept. If you’re interested in flipping your classroom, you should follow them on twitter @guster4lovers and @thomasson_engl.

Next week, hopefully we won’t all be carried away by riptides as we dive into the book.

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