Plans and Ideas: Twitter

One of my favorite professional Twitter memories came after I published a simple column on the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. It detailed my admiration for their student athletes, especially after hearing some of the recent troubles that were accompanying higher-level college players at the time.

Basketball_courtWithin 24 hours of posting my first tweet on the piece, I began receiving compliments from all over the country. California, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado. The tweets, retweets and replies just poured in and before I knew it, my column was being picked up by other publications. In a small way, something I wrote went viral and it felt amazing.

The sharing capabilities of Twitter are ideal for reporters in this digital era writes Klein (2013). High school students likely recognize that potential, but can they command it?

Below you will find assignment suggestions along with four lesson plans, all geared towards helping you teach your student reporters how to wield the power of Twitter.

Assignment Suggestions

Due to the brevity of a high school semester, a social media unit most likely needs to be concise. Therefore, it’s my recommendation to spend three to five days on the unit, with Twitter receiving a day of recognition.

I would also advocate introducing this unit within the first month of a course, and thereafter strive to integrate its teachings throughout the rest of the semester. For Twitter, that could be as simple as requiring a suggested tweet for each story or photo assignment.

Lesson Plan Ideas

1) Introduction Video: “The Illustrated Story of Twitter”

Purpose: The purpose of this lesson is to provide a concise, informative and entertaining introduction into Twitter.

Target Audience: High school and secondary journalism courses.

Time: The video lasts two minutes and 34 seconds.

Objective: The objective of this lesson is to educate students on the history and relatively current state of the application.

Materials: The YouTube clip can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzRkszaGBbY.

Organization:

  • Use a projector to show your students the video. If your classroom lacks a projector or is an online course, you can share the video link virtually with the class.
  • Utilize the short flick as either a lead-in lesson or towards the beginning of the unit.
  • If you wish to have your students answer questions during the presentation, three inquiries could be: 1) Who created the idea of Twitter? 2) What date was the first tweet published? 3) When the company went public, how much was it valued at?

 2) Posting Practice

Purpose: The purpose of this lesson is to teach students how to create a journalistic post on a Twitter account.

Target Audience: High school and secondary journalism courses.

Time: The lesson can last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.

Objective: The objective of this lesson is to educate students on the appropriate way to create a journalistic post on Twitter. Besides showcasing various types of tweets, the lesson will also touch on the type of voice needed, suggested posting times as well as guidelines to adhere to.

Materials: Pen and paper or a Microsoft Word document.

Organization:

  • Provide the students with examples of quality journalistic Twitter messages — if you don’t know how to create a tweet, visit Twitter’s “Getting started with Twitter.” Athas and Gorman give a wide assortment of local stories that drive user engagement, such as curiosity stimulators, major breaking news and crowd pleasers (2012). Mallary Tenore also lays out a detailed road map for journalists with Twitter reporting techniques and tips (2011).
  • Next, display the recommended times and lengths to schedule Facebook posts advocated by Cooper (2013).
  • Lastly, introduce the social media guidelines that you have selected for your courses and/or publications as Tompkins advises (2014).
  • After presenting this information, have the students write practice tweets about three or four of their more recent story or photo submissions. Remember, the messages have to be under 140 characters long and should have a hashtag or two as Hische described (2010).
  • Continue this practice of requiring social media posts on content submissions throughout the semester. By doing this, students will develop a “social media” habit while providing constant content to post.

3) Live-tweet with hashtags

Purpose: The purpose of this lesson is to give students the experience of live-tweeting an event while using the application’s hashtag feature.

Target Audience: High school and secondary journalism courses.twitter-hashtag

Time: Lesson can last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.

Objective: The objective of this lesson is to provide students with an authentic journalistic experience through Twitter. Besides learning what it takes to report on a live event via the platform, students will also be able to realize the importance of utilizing hashtags.

Materials: A personal Twitter account. If a student lacks one, they can create one or partner up with someone who already possess one.

Organization:

  • Provide the students with examples of quality journalistic Twitter messages — if you don’t how to create a tweet, visit Twitter’s “Getting started with Twitter.” Athas and Gorman give a wide assortment of local stories that drive user engagement, such as curiosity stimulators, major breaking news and crowd pleasers (2012). Mallary Tenore also lays out a detailed road map for journalists with Twitter reporting techniques and tips (2011).
  • Next, display the recommended times and lengths to schedule Facebook posts advocated by Cooper (2013).
  • Lastly, introduce the social media guidelines that you have selected for your courses and/or publications as Tompkins advises (2014).
  • Following this information, have the students select an event to cover. They can either cover a school function in person, such as a sporting event, assembly, etc.; or cover a national event on television like the State of the Union or Superbowl.
  • Then, while at the event, they will need to live-tweet its happenings. Require a minimum of eight tweets, but no more than 15, and inform the students to have an introduction tweet as well as a closing message. In between they should describe the action, setting and pass along whatever else they deem newsworthy.
  • Also at the end of every tweet, have them add a hashtag, explained by Hische (2010). The hashtag can be something created by them for that particular event or one you assign beforehand.
  • The day after, review the students’ tweets by searching for the hashtag they used in the application’s search bar. All of the tweets that included the appropriate hashtag will appear. Be mindful of the fact that if students fail to include the correct hashtag, the tweet won’t show up on the search.

 4) Research through Twitter

Purpose: The purpose of this lesson is to show students how to utilize Twitter as a reporter’s research tool.

Target Audience: High school and secondary journalism courses.

Time: Lesson can last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.

Objective: The objective of this lesson is to showcase the researching capabilities of the platform to students. With this skill, the aspiring journalists will be able to expand their digital reporting proficiency.

Materials: A personal Twitter account. If a student lacks one, they can create one or partner up with someone who already possess one. Pen and paper or Microsoft Word document.

Organization:

  • Utilize Amy-Mae Elliott’s slideshow to showcase the capabilities of a Twitter search (2012), followed by acquainting the students with the outlet’s media-specific page (Twitter, 2014).
  • Next, broach the topic of verifying information on the Internet with the help of Jennifer Dorrah’s guidelines (2011).
  • Once that’s established, break the class up into groups of three or four people and assign each group a news topic. They will then need to research this topic through Twitter, which could be current events, breaking news stories, ongoing political issues and other such topics.
  • Encourage the students to locate possible story sources, background information links, public opinion on the topic and whatever else they deem newsworthy. They should then list what they found on a Word document along with a short description of how it could help the reporting process. Each selection needs to include a hyperlink to the respective tweet.
  • Request anywhere between 7-12 notations, submitted in a bullet or number listing. You can then review the notes and links individually with the group or as a class.
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