Who’s in charge here?

SocialNetworkToday starts Digital Citizenship Week in the middle of Connected Educator Month, and thanks to tech-happy teachers all over the web, I am quite happily connected.  Just a few minutes on the English Companion ning or Google+ or Pinterest or Twitter and I’m sure to find a wealth of ideas quite literally at my fingertips

And with a nod to tradition, I still garner great classroom ideas from hard copy magazines that arrive in my curb-side mailbox.  An article in this month’s issue of Learning & Leading with Technology gave me a great idea for how to address one of the Common Core State Standards.  Thanks to all those great teachers sharing their great strategies!

English class is about stories: the stories we read and the stories we write.  I am confident that the current push for non-fiction will not bump fiction from its rightful place at the center of my curriculum, but I also recognize the value of having students read non-fiction texts in response to themes they encounter in literature.  Long before the CCSS, I gave my students news articles on gang violence when we read The Outsiders and on lottery winners to help them understand The Pearl.  But I like Mark Barnes’ student-centered approach much better.

Rather than choosing articles for my students to read, what if I give them the task of finding articles that relate to laptopsour literature?  They would have to start by identifying topics and issues in the novel that could be found in non-fiction articles.  That step alone is a great way to reinforce the concept of theme.  When we open our laptops and the students work together to find articles, we will need to have conversations about how to search effectively and how to identify a credible source.  When the students share their articles with the class, they will need to explain how their articles connect to the themes in the literature and defend their choices.

My goodness, putting the students in charge means that they will start doing a lot of the work that I have been doing!  And just look at all the 21st century skills they will be practicing instead of just sitting at their desks while I choose and distribute the reading.

Yes, being a connected educator makes a big difference in my classroom, for me and for my students. Thank you, @markbarnes19!