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Snapshot 2: Microblogging reflections on a novel

This snapshot describes how a teacher used microblogging to support her students to reflect in greater depth on their reading of fiction.


Three of the students in my class were Koreans for whom English was a second language; one student was a recent immigrant from the UK; two students were recent immigrants from South Africa; one student was Māori; the other students were New Zealand European. Collectively, they ranged over levels 5–7 of the curriculum.

Some students had considerable ground to make up in terms of their writing and listening skills. It was clear from a survey that I had carried out at the beginning of the year that they were not in the habit of reflecting on their predictions or their reading. Particularly with the novels they read in class, they would hurry to finish without pausing to consider narrative perspective and plot structure and the effect these had on the reader.

I wanted to find a way of helping them develop the skills described in the achievement objective: “Integrate sources of information, processes, and strategies purposefully and confidently to identify, form, and express increasingly sophisticated ideas.” As a means to this end, I decided to get them to journal their reflections as they read Suzanne Collins’ popular novel, The Hunger Games.

Curriculum focus

Levels 5–7

  • Making and creating meaning through writing.

Teacher action

The students had chosen the “dystopian themes” option line for their English study, and about a third of the class had a strong interest in science fiction, post-apocalyptic, and dystopian texts.

As they read the set novel, the students were required to complete specified microblog activities. They could access the microblogs via computer or a simple alternative such as Twitter’s sms system (important for those without convenient computer access).

Each week I set questions and sentence starters to prompt the students’ reflections. For example, “By the end of chapter 3, Katniss is ...”, “good plot lines reveal things by ...”, or “Peeta's actions in this chapter were … because ...”

As the questions and prompts were linked to the unfolding structure of the novel, the students needed to keep up with their reading so that they could answer or respond to them.

The students were also required to follow the blogs of at least two other students in the class and leave at least one comment per week on someone else’s blog.

At the same time I would make my own reflections on the novel and encourage the students to agree or disagree with my readings, giving reasons.

What happened?

A number of students became highly engaged in debating different readings of the text. Others were more into their own reflections and did not always seek feedback from their peers. At first I found this frustrating, but concluded that what mattered most was the impact of the reflecting on the students, especially those who had not previously been interested in personal reading.

Some students did not have regular access to computers. A small group never really focused on the blogging and used their access to school computers to play games both during and out of class time. This latter group recorded written reflections infrequently or not at all. When asked why, they all said that they had thought about the questions and prompts but just hadn’t got around to writing anything down.

In future, I may try audio diaries with these students.

Last updated July 18, 2012