Texting Culture in Middle School

Hyler & Hicks cover

Less then a year ago my co-author Troy Hicks and I released our second book From Texting to Teaching: Grammar Instruction in a Digital Age. Since that time, I have been continuing to engage my students in new ways to think about grammar in the spaces where they write. This year has been very eye-opening to me and my students are showing me that their writing worlds are evolving every day.

As we were discussing adverbs two weeks ago, my students were completing lessons on Grammarflip while preparing to complete their grammar templates with their groups. During the discussion, we started talking about texting and I mentioned how last year’s students would get frustrated when they would text their peers and be frustrated when the letter “k” was sent back representing the work “okay”. That opened the floodgates for our conversation. As their teacher, I not only learned from my students, they allowed me into their world where they communicate regularly.

One of the most interesting things that my students brought to my attention was how texting was done more through the Snapchat app then just simply texting someone using the texting feature on their phone. When I asked why they did this, the replies suggested they enjoyed using pictures and the emoji features that Snapchat allowed. It didn’t mean they didn’t use the standard texting on their phone, but it did mean that it is used less than when I have talked to previous year’s students.

More surprising to me was most of my students know proper grammar. Yes, you read that right. Most of my students do know proper grammar! My students proceeded to tell me that they use proper grammar in their text messaging when they need to use it. Okay, so when is that? Proper grammar is used by my students it seems when they are either upset with the person they are texting or they are trying to make a point. Using proper grammar lets the other person know they are serious and they are not pleased. I sat there for a minute trying to wrap my head around this concept  my students were instituting in their daily communication to their peers.

As I thought more about this, it still goes back to this idea of formal -vs- informal writing. It is evident to me that my students are using informal writing when communicating with their peers. However, when it is time to take things seriously and the conversation becomes more important, they formal guidelines are kicking in for my students. They are continuing to learn and evolve the skills they need to help them in their writing spaces.


So Much to do, so Little Time

The first week of school is over and it has gone by extremely fast.  Friday was nothing but a blur.  I am very grateful we decided to change our homebase from 40 minutes each day to 18 minutes every other day.  This has allowed us to add approximately 3-4 minutes to our core classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  With three sections of 7th and 8th grade I still feel, however, I need more time in each of my hours.  I now have about 53 minutes for each class.

After our evacuation drill and pictures causing my 3rd hour 7th grade class to get behind and the unscheduled shutdown of the Schoology website causing my 5th hour 8th grade class to fall behind, Friday was a bit of a catch up day. To be honest, it allowed me to catch my breath.  Remember, as wonderful as it is to integrate mobile devices and digital tools into your classroom, it is important to stand back and observe what is happening with your students, good or bad, and to make sure the digital tool you are using is enhancing your lesson, unit, or classroom the way you want it.  Trying to do too much will not only overwhelm students, but it will overwhelm you. As of Friday, the only major set-back I dealt with were the 7th and 8th graders who could not log-in to a laptop because the server or the computer was not accepting their username and password.  The problem should be resolved next week.

On Friday, students finished up 6 word memoirs for both 7th and 8th grade. 8th graders moved forward and we had very good discussions about “The Osage Orange Tree” by William Stafford. The students were assigned to read the short story for homework and in addition, they were asked to do some very minor research about what an Osage Orange is and if the orange itself or the tree has any valuable use. Prior to the students leaving class Thursday with their homework we discussed the different ways they could quickly access the answers to my questions.  Besides accessing the internet, the students said they could find information from:

  • Ask teacher (besides me), parent, relative, etc.
  • Ask a neighbor
  • Go to the school library or local library really quick
  • Look in a school science book

Needless to say I was impressed with their responses and I was even more impressed with their answers when they came back on Friday.  They even taught me a few things that I didn’t know. Yes, my students did some research during a narrative unit.  When my 8th graders started class on Friday I wanted to do a quick check on whether they did their reading.  So, I had the students post 3 questions on Celly.  Students who did not have a cell phone wrote in their journals or could post to Schoology.  With the students having plenty of choices on how to complete the task, they went to work.  After they were finished composing their questions I asked them to try to respond to two of their classmates.  In some groups they had to respond to three students.  The students did an excellent job of responding to each other and we had a very vibrant discussion at the conclusion of class.  Students were then assigned vocabulary homework and I demonstrated to them the use of dictionary.com and showed them the app you can download on an Ipad or smart phone.  Overall, it was a very productive day.

I left my 7th and 8th grade with a few nuggets of information before each of them left for their next class.  I told them we would be going at a very quick pace.  However, I was not going to neglect the fact they needed to know the curriculum presented and taught to them.  I asked them to come and talk to me if at anytime they felt they were drowning and couldn’t tread water anymore.  I think I may see a few students stopping in after school.

Next week we look grammar, This I believe essays, and twitter memoirs.

Below are the CCSS I used on Friday.  Mostly with my 8th graders.

  1. RL.8.2 –  Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.
  2. RL.8.4 – Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
  3. W.8.8 – Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation (partially).

 

Cheers!