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Lesson Plan

Using Microblogging and Social Networking to Explore Characterization and Style

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Using Microblogging and Social Networking to Explore Characterization and Style

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 50-minute sessions, plus time for interacting on the online social networks
Lesson Author

Suzanne Linder

Suzanne Linder

Champaign, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



Students use microblogging and social networking sites to trace the development of characters and examine writing style while reading a novel of manners such as Jane Austen's Emma.  By assuming the persona of a literary character on the class Ning and sending a set number of tweets (or status updates), students explore changes undertaken by dynamic characters, the effect of plot developments on individual characters, and the nuanced social interactions among characters in Emma.  They also discover elements of authorial writing style through imitation and transposition.  This lesson can be scaled from an individual class session (microblogging only) to an ongoing companion to a novel.  Though this lesson references Emma, the learning activities could be easily adapted to work with any novel of manners.

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Historical Tweets PowerPoint Presentation: This brief PowerPoint presentation shares historical tweets from a variety of historic figures.

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In the "Learning with Technology" section of English Journal (May 2003), Greg Weiler suggests that "[i]n some cases technology itself [such as blogs, wikis, and social networking tools] can be a motivating factor, allowing students to experience writing in a way that may be different from how they view traditional writing in school" (74). He goes on to note that "[m]any students are familiar with technologies such as Internet chat, e-mail, and bulletin boards. To these students, blogs [and other digital publishing technologies] present an entirely familiar interface, so that the technology becomes "'transparent' and writing is the focus; and new discussions can easily branch out from established topics" (74).

This lesson capitalizes on students' familiarity with social networking software in order to explore character development and experiment with writing style.  Additionally, the networked nature of the software allows students to easily publish their writing to be read by and quickly responded to by other students and extends the possibility for interaction beyond the classroom.

Further Reading

Owen, Trevor, ed. "Learning with Technology." English Journal 92.5 (2003): 73-75.

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