There has been a bit of an epidemic of sorts going around at my middle school. We recently had the OEPA team to visit, and one of the team members had a terrible cough that he had caught from his own students. Wednesday was calm…but Thursday found the school with 10 teachers/staff out sick. Yesterday was even worse, with 17 staff out total. We had all kinds of issues getting coverage from classes. The superintendent got involved, and had HR pull me from my TIS job to act as a sub that day. It was the English classes that needed a lot of coverage, so I picked a fellow colleague that I often collaborate with. I would cover the second half of her first block, all of 2nd block, and both ½ block afternoon classes. Her plans were very simple to follow. Since I had often worked with this teacher’s classes, I decided to try something new with technology that I had been wanting to test out. Cue my resource for this post: todaysmeet.com
This website acts as a chatroom. It’s great for back channel discussion, or hosting discussions in the classroom when the teacher wants to try something different. It is meant for educators, but anyone can use it. An account is free, and necessary so that the teacher can delete comments that do not contribute to the conversation, grab a transcript of the chat, and keep the chatroom open for up to one year. The teacher can also password protect the room, or require that anyone joining the room also has an account.
This website can be used when the teacher wants to mix up discussions, or get everyone involved and engaged at one time. It will cut down on one person always speaking out when questions are asked, and give more students a voice. It can be added to any lesson plan. I wouldn’t recommend it all of the time, as oral discussions are important in a classroom, but when students need something a little bit different, this works perfectly.
1 laptop or tablet for every group (no more than 5 to a group)
1 piece of literature (preferably readable in the span of 20 minutes)
1 set of discussion questions for the literature
1 laptop or tablet for the teacher
1 teacher account on todaysmeet.com
When it comes to materials, laptops are preferable for students, as they may not be proficient at typing with fingers on a tablet screen keyboard. A laptop would also be preferable for a teacher if they have this same issue.
Teacher should have logged into todaysmeet.com prior to class and created a room for the class. For example, I created one called ELA45. Then just input the web address with the name of the room onto each computer. Groups will need a nickname or name for the chat. It only accepts names without any spaces. I used Group1, Group2, etc. to get around this.
Next, students should read the text that is going to be used for the classroom discussion. Teacher may also have had the students read the text prior to class. Teacher should have the list of discussion questions ready to input in the computer when the activity is ready to begin
Divide students into groups. No more than 5 to a group, as more than that would most likely find students not as engaged. Groups should be spread out in the classroom, and each group receives a laptop. Make sure all groups are aware of each group’s nickname for the room. That way, during the chat they’ll know who they are responding to for the questions.
Now, you are ready to begin. First things first- the first item the teacher should post in the room is for all groups to list the members of each group. This makes it easier to read the transcript later on so that the teacher can identify participants.
Once all group member names are shared, then the teacher types in the first question, and groups watch the screen. They read the question and then respond. If they don’t provide evidence, teacher can post in the room asking for evidence. I would often ask why in response to student answers. As groups were participating in the room, this left me free to listen and watch their conversations. I noticed all group members participating, and chatting back and forth. They would even go and review the text, and show members what they meant. It was nice to observe.
Once it seemed like the students had discussed a question thoroughly, I would move on and post the next question. I would also make sure to announce it to the room, so that they were aware and looked at the screen. They would refocus and then move on to that one.
Here are some examples from the transcript for 4th and 5th period. The class read “Stolen Day” by Sherwood Anderson. It came from one of the textbooks, and for this chat, I used the analysis questions that the teacher wanted, as well as asked a few questions based on the students’ responses.
This particular class finished discussing this story, and then had to read “A Day’s Wait” by Ernest Hemingway. The goal was to compare and contrast the two texts, which they did.
The class period flew by. At the very end of the chat in both classes that I did this activity, I asked students what they thought of it. Here are the responses from both groups:
Overall, it was very successful. As I mentioned in the beginning, it’s not an activity to do with every literature discussion. However, it’s a great way to shake things up a little bit, and get every student engaged in the discussion. If you have a 1:1 classroom, it would work nicely individually, but do keep in mind that with many students replying at once, the chat will move very quickly, and it may be hard for some students to keep up.
I emailed the teacher about all of the activities, and how they had gone, along with the transcripts. She now wants to try the activity again in a couple of weeks so that she can see it in action and see how the students respond and work together. I can’t wait!