In today’s world, tweens and teens are reading and writing more than ever - just not in a traditional sense. They type with their thumbs, scan instead of read, and often think in terms of 280 characters. But we can work with that! Instead of looking at social media and texting as a hindrance, what if we saw it as an opportunity?
Administrators and teachers alike can harness the creativity it takes to continue the intense net of communication that our tweens and teens experience daily. In a world where “viral” can mean worldwide saturation, either socially or medically, let’s harness the potential for new writing styles to serve young people.
Before kids take to TikTok or other social media, they often script something in their notes so that they don’t flub it - this is the modern speech and debate. Vlogs and skits are representations of the literary elements of life - modern real-world drama. Twitter streams are often chunks of thoughts centered around a topic or asserting a stance - 21st-century editorials.
Let’s flip these old-school assignments on their heads and ask kids to start by brainstorming how they would post on a social media platform. This pre-thinking activity will get their minds flowing with ideas and a structure that could be used to craft a more standard writing format.
Or really go a step further and let the social media posting be the assignment, paying attention to spelling, grammar, and presentation, calling attention to their presentation and how this supports or deters from their message.
Notetaking is a difficult skill to teach, but today’s electronic dissemination of information makes it easier for students to see and understand the structure. Textbooks are still in our classrooms, but so are digital research, articles, and videos, including TEDEd talks and digital research. The way our students experience writing most often is a far cry from the standard textbook structure. And let’s be honest - we aren’t reading textbooks to do our jobs in the real world.
What if we taught notetaking in terms of blog writing or listicles or vlogs, writing that they recognize? We need to see that they’re taking notes in a new way, patterning their interests based on the H2 and H3 headings found in blogs. Let’s jump on that opportunity and teach them the structure, coding, and HTML underneath the key clicks.
Editorials and 1-inch columns no longer leave inky blots on your fingertips, but you have to clean those smudges off your phone glass or tablet now and then. Use what they know, and students will respect the effort and the modern approach to writing.