Enhanced English Teacher

A blog about using technology in an English classroom

How to Introduce Nings in the classroom

October 7, 2009 by Tara Seale · 4 Comments · 21st Century Literacy, English Resources, Nings, Romeo and Juliet, To Kill a Mockingbird, Web 2.0

I was recently interviewed by Tim Walker for an article in the NEA Today titled, “Students live in a Digital World.  Are schools ready to join them?”  I have had several requests asking me to share how I introduce Nings in my classroom.

Creating a Romeo and Juliet Ning with Students

Last school year, I used two different nings in my 9th grade English class.  I created the first ning to engage students as they read Romeo and Juliet, and then I created another ning to accompany the novel To Kill a Mockingbird.  Before we began reading Romeo and Juliet, I discussed how a ning has a format similar to Facebook and told students that they would join the ning in character.  I then modeled what I expected by joining the ning in character as The Bard.  I wrote my responses to the profile questions as if I were Shakespeare joining the ning.  I told my students that they would answer the same profile questions but from the perspective of their character (we drew names).  I divided up the characters in Romeo and Juliet and then added a few extra main characters to cover all of the students in my class, so we had a Romeo 1, 2, and 3, for example.  I gave my students a planning sheet to fill out as we began to read the play.  Students connected with their character so much that my plan to listen to the play on CD went astray.  Students wanted to read the parts of their character.  I believe showing the students the ning before we began reading the play and modeling how to create The Bard profile page enticed students and inspired them to create worthy ning profile pages; I know it definitely kindled their interest in reading the play.  Although we were almost finished with the play when we actually created the ning profile pages, we continued to post on the ning as we went back and closely read certain acts, and this greatly added to their overall understanding of the tragedy.

Creating a To Kill a Mockingbird Ning with Students

I decided to introduce the To Kill a Mockingbird Ning before we began reading the novel.  I set up this ning differently by focusing on connecting outside literature, text, and videos to the novel.  I used the event tab to write up assignments and due dates for posting to the ning.  Students’ posts reflected their understanding of the universal themes presented in To Kill a Mockingbird and how those themes were connected to the other media introduced in class.  Although this ning was introduced differently, it also engaged students because the ning guided their reading and provided a way for the students to digitally respond to the novel’s themes and further the discussions started in class.

Creating a ning for the entire 9th grade class

Ambitiously, our high school created an entire 9th grade class ning for this school year.  Our lead 9th grade Keystone teacher, Tim Hall, wanted to add a technology element to Keystone that included all 9th grade students and teachers, so we created a Class of 2013 Ning.  We are using the ning to connect 9th grade students with each other and their teachers as they transition to high school.  This is our first year to use a ning with an entire class, and so far, in addition to using the ning as a communication tool, it is also allowing us to open discussions about posting responsibly on the web, introducing effective online discussions, and creating a positive web presence.

Where to start?

To create a ning, I first watched Steve Hargadon’s recorded webinar on Building a Ning from Scratch.  Follow the link to the Ning in Education webpage and look under Highlighted Resources in the lower left corner.  The Ning in Education is also a great community to join if you are looking for more resources and information about how to use a ning with students.  I also belong to several other educator nings.  If you are an English teacher, I recommend that you check out the English Companion Ning if you want to connect with other English teachers.

Other ning examples in the English Classroom

I would also like to recommend that you check out these nings: James Miscavish’s classroom ning: LHS Freshman English and Candace Follis’s blog page that has links to her classroom nings.

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Tara Benwell

    EnglishClub.com uses a Ning for its social network. It’s growing wildly and is used by English learners and teachers around the world. Check it out for ideas in creating your own Ning.


  • Katrina Albert

    Thanks so much for providing this information on Nings!

    I’m currently an undergrad secondary education major working on my Honors thesis. For my project, I’m hoping to create a virtual community for students from different classrooms to connect discuss literature that they’re reading during “free reading time.” At first I considered using standard blogs or message boards, but after seeing what your students have done with Nings, I’m really intrigued. Because the nature of my project requires discussion of many different books at once, I still believe that a threaded message board would be the best way to organize the information. However, I love how much freedom students can have with the Nings and even other types of blogs and social networking devices to express themselves.

    I am extremely interested to hear how others would go about establishing an online forum for multiple discussions of different topics at once. Any suggestions or comments would be greatly appreciated.


  • Tara Seale

    Check out the English Companion Ning to see their guidelines for book discussions. It would be a great way to set up your ning.

  • Katrina Albert

    Thanks so much!

    I actually just ordered a copy of The Book Whisperer too! Perfect!

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