This is my first year teaching English, and I have found that one really difficult skill to teach is summarizing. My students nod and say that they understand, but when it comes down to it, they struggle (and come up with some crazy ideas, way out of left field!).
Well, Facebook recently implemented hashtags into its format (oh man, that is going to date this post for all eternity, isn’t it?). I’m not much of a “hashtagger” myself, but one day I was trying to think of hashtags to tack on to a status update, and it was really hard! As I came up with a few really lame words and phrases, however, I had an epiphany: I was really just identifying key words and summarizing my post. I thought, I’ll bet my students do this on Twitter and Facebook all the time. They’re probably way better at it than I am!
So I decided to design a lesson where they could use their hashtagging skills to identify key words and themes in literature. Since I’m sure not all of my students are Twitter fiends, I began the lesson with this very informative video about hashtags by Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake:
(Don’t worry, I ended the video right before Questlove walks in).
According to my pacing guide, we were supposed to read a story from our literature book called “Everybody is Different, but the Same Too.” I created a worksheet to go with the story that incorporated hashtags (instead of writing down key words or phrases) to summarize each paragraph.
#summarize click here for pdf file
My English students really like to read out loud, so a different student read each paragraph, and we added hashtags after each one. I modeled the first one, and the students caught on pretty quickly. Their hashtags were much closer to actual summaries than other assignments had been where I just asked them to summarize. We then connected their summaries to the overall theme of the story, and I’ll share that activity in a separate post.
Warning: I did kind of create a monster with the whole hashtag thing, and for the next few days, they added the word “hastag” to everything.
“Hashtag-hi Mrs. Forbes!”
“Hashtag-can I please go to the bathroom?”
“Hashtag-what is the homework?”
“Hashtag-have a good weekend!”
As annoying as you might think hashtags are in Twitter-form, they’re much worse in spoken word! But this ended up being a really fun way to break down a story, and the kids keep asking to do it again. Using hashtags taps into their background knowledge and allows them to apply elements of their outside lives to school. Plus, they gave me much more accurate summaries of the story than I had ever gotten before. #winwin