It’s time for some TweetUps!

In education it’s easy to get bogged down and let frustrations get the best of you. To counter that I’m constantly trying to find ways to build my students up. I tell my students why they’re awesome and try to encourage them anyway I can. Sometimes that isn’t enough. Sometimes my words don’t hold the same weight as their peers.
That is what spawned the idea of TweetUps. TweetUps are little slips of blue paper meant to look like a Tweet that students use to write positive messages to each other. They are a chance for students to put some positivity in the world, tell their classmates why they rock, and tell them they aren’t going unnoticed.
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Here’s how it works:
There is a box on one of my shelves for students to put completed TweetUps in. Once a week I pull all of the TweetUps and read them in a special edition of my daily announcement videos. The students love hearing Tweetups about them, about their classmates and also sneaking in some inside jokes.
Here is my latest TweetUps video. A student created the theme song, and another student is currently working on a logo:
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1wGdA7XZxw]
It helps create a great classroom culture of building others up. Students can take credit for writing a Tweet or they can keep it anonymous. The nice thing about anonymous tweets is I can share some TweetUps about great things kids are doing, and they don’t know it’s from me. Sometimes it’s better that it sounds like it came from one of their peers.
Usually part way through the year I ask if anyone would like a list of students who haven’t received a TweetUp yet. There are always a handful of students who take the challenge and make sure that every student in class gets recognized. I’m always cognizant of the need for tact on this. I don’t want students to feel embarrassed about not receiving a TweetUp yet and I also don’t want them to feel like their TweetUp is insignificant. So far everything has worked out perfectly.
Once the TweetUps have been read on video they are hung up on a bulletin board. When the bulletin board is full or there is a good transition time (during Winter Break for example) I take all of the TweetUps down and hand them out. It amazes me how many students keep the TweetUps in their binder for the rest of the year.
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I can’t take full credit for TweetUps. Below is the PDF of the TweetUp form that I use. My wife designed it for her 5th grade classroom.
tweet ups
TweetUps are a quick way to make a positive change in the classroom.

My response to #gratitudesnaps

We’ve all had those days. You spilled your coffee on the way to school. The printer jammed so you don’t have the copies you need for your first hour class. Little Jimmy decided a fork and an outlet would make a great combination. Maybe your lesson wasn’t as elaborate as you wanted it to be. Maybe the students gave you blank stares when you tried to explain a new concept. Everything in your day just bombed. You start to spin into that negative space where everything seems like it is failing miserably.
I promise there is an upside in this post.
A few weeks ago I read a great idea in a blog post on Twitter, #gratitudesnaps. The hashtag was created by the queen of #booksnaps, @TaraMartinEDU and the culinary, gamified guru, @tishrich. The goal was simple, get out of that funk. There are amazing things happening all around us and sometimes we need to be reminded to look for those positives in our lives. Each day participants posted a picture of something they are grateful for with the hashtag #gratitudesnaps. It’s a great way to reflect on the good things in life when it seems like things are too negative.
You can read the origin story here: http://www.tarammartin.com/gratitudesnaps/
As soon as I heard about it I was hooked. I spent the day looking for things to snap, found one, and posted it to twitter. The next day the same thing happened, I found things I was grateful for and chose one to post a picture of. I was so excited to share what I was grateful for.
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And then I missed a day.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t grateful, I just got caught up in life and missed it. I promised myself I’d do better the next day and I did. I posted a couple more snaps the following days including extra snaps to make up for the one I missed.
And then I missed another day.
I was failing at this assignment that nobody required me to do, and I was beating myself up over it. I felt like I was doing #gratitudesnaps wrong and people would notice. They would go on my timeline and realize that my dates didn’t line up and I didn’t post a picture each day and they would judge me and the world would end. At least that’s what I told myself.
Later that week I was in the car stressing about what pictures I could take to catch up, and I realized something. I missed the whole point of the activity. The activity was meant to reflect on the good things in life. Instead of focusing on the positive, I was focusing on the pictures and how everyone would like them. I was focusing on how they would make everyone else feel instead of focusing on the way they would make ME feel.
It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of life and miss the bigger picture. It’s easy to take something fun like this and turn it into a chore. It’s easy to think that there is just one way to do something.
I’m happily days behind on my #gratitudesnaps. I had several days where I posted multiple pictures and days where I snapped a picture and kept it for myself. And days where I chose to enjoy the moment instead of taking a picture. I’m loving the activity. It’s reminding me what my priorities are.
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I saw Tara the other day at a Dave Burgess presentation and she mentioned that she created a padlet with all of her snaps and quickly saw some trends in what she values. That’s what I plan on doing too. I love this reminder of the joys in my life.
Sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to walk our own paths.
Today my #gratitudesnaps is to Tara and Tisha for encouraging people to put a little more positivity into the digital world.
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What can Twitter do for you?

Last week I had a conversation with teachers from across the country. There were Social Studies teachers and Language Arts teachers, middle school teachers and high school teachers, plus Laurie Halse Anderson (author of one of my favorite books, Speak). This conversation wasn’t in person or over the phone. It took place on Twitter.
 
Twitter is quickly becoming one of the best places for professional development and collaboration with colleagues from around the world. I’m constantly running across great blog posts, articles, interesting commentary, etc. all in bite-size chunks which I can digest quickly in my hectic schedule.
 
If you aren’t on Twitter you are missing out.
 
Here are some of the ways I use Twitter…
 

  1. I use it to post links to my blog (http://stocksawesomeblog.wordpress.com)
  2. I use it to read the latest articles from some of my favorite speakers/teachers from across the country
  3. I use it for inspiration (a lot of my ideas come from Twitter)
  4. I use it to get the latest news (most news organizations post tweets as soon as news breaks)
  5. I also use it for the chats

 
Last week I participated in my first Twitter chat. If you’ve never participated in one of these it is different then anything else I’ve done. Twitter chats take place at a scheduled time/day over a wide range of topics.
The way the chat works is usually a facilitator will throw out some questions and people post responses based on that question. To follow the chat all you have to do is search for the chat hash tag. A hash tag is the # followed by some sort of phrase. For example I was participating in the #engsschat. It was a collaboration of English/Social Studies teachers. You can participate in the chat or just observe and glean some great ideas.
The best way to get the time and dates of these chats is to follow as many educators as possible. A lot of the chats occur on a specific time/day every week.
The chat last week gave me the opportunity to “talk” to Laurie Halse Anderson. She was asking teachers questions and responding. It was great to be a part of a discussion like this. The highlight was when she “favorited” one of my tweets. It’s such a little action, but it was huge for me. It was like I was getting approval from someone I admire and respect. It was a great experience.
If you would like suggestions for people to follow on Twitter, start by following me @teachlikeaninja. Then look at the people I follow, the people they follow, etc.
Twitter can be one of the greatest educational tools if you know where to look.