Enhanced English Teacher

A blog about using technology in an English classroom

Entries Tagged as 'Nings'

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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Posting to the web with students

August 10, 2009 by Tara Seale · 3 Comments · 21st Century Literacy, English Resources, Google, Nings, Web 2.0

With so many choices, I had to decide what web 2.0 tool I want to use in my class this year.  I contemplated pbworks (which I love for its simplicity), Nings (which the students love for its facebook feel), Edmodo for its organizational features, and the winner is:


Each student will have his or her own Edublog, which will give the student a broader audience and more ownership of his or her work because the blog will be less controlled by me, the teacher, than one of the other web tools.  The students will link to the main class blog in the Blogroll for easy access.  See the main class blog below:

Mrs. Seale’s 9th Grade English Class Edublog

For organizational purposes, I have linked a Google Site and Calendar to the Edublog, so I can easily post handouts and assignment instructions.  Students also have easy access to Google Sites because our district is using Google Apps this year.

Mrs. Seale’s 9th Grade English Class Google Site

Because students enjoy contributing and creating profiles using a Ning, we will use a Ning (our own social network) for a special project in which we communicate as if we are characters from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  Implementing this Ning project worked last year, so I plan to use it again to engage students while we experience and discuss Shakespeare.

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Why Won’t You Read?

April 13, 2009 by Tara Seale · 13 Comments · class assignments, English Resources, Nings, To Kill a Mockingbird, Web 2.0

I teach two regular 9th grade English classes.  I have some smart students who could be in Pre-AP classes if they pushed themselves, but that is the problem, lack of motivation.
We recently had a three day weekend for Easter.  I assigned two chapters in To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM) over the long weekend.  My students know that I like to begin class with a short pop quiz just to make sure they read, but most of the class decided not to read anyway.
Unfortunately, I pulled a back muscle over the weekend, so I was not at school.  Instead I was lounging in bed, taking Doans, and using a heating pad.  The quiz went on as planned because I had already created the quiz in Google Forms and e-mailed it to my 2nd and 3rd block students.  I decided to check and see how the students did on the quiz from home.  Considering I was in pain and not exactly myself, this was probably not a good idea.

The quiz was one simple question about Chapter 10, the second of the two chapters my students were suppose to read.  See a screenshot of the quiz below.

If you have not read TKAM, Atticus shoots a rabid dog in this chapter, and his children find out that his nickname is One-shot Finch.  Not bad for a feeble old man.

Some of the answers I received:

Atticus does something that Scout didn’t think he could do.

Scout thought that Atticus was old and old people are always tired, but Atticus proved to them that he was never too tired to play a little game of keep away with them.

Scout thought her dad was a very old and boring person.  He did not do anything fun.  He just read and stayed at home, but he was a very good player at checkers.

I was not happy that it appeared a majority of my students did not complete the reading assignment.  I immediately shot off an e-mail to my students, and I believe I strained my back a little more as I beat on the keys.

I am so frustrated with you guys.
I can tell that the majority of you did not read the assigned reading.  Maybe I should make this quiz worth 100 points.  Would you read then?
Mrs. Seale

Some of the responses to my e-mail.

If you make it worth 100 points, I will start reading.

Mrs. Seale… I’m very sorry for frustrating you.  I’m not having a very good day either, and I promise I’ll read the rest of the book.

My favorite came from a student who is not passing my class anyway.

Yes, I would.

Do I really need to make pop quizzes worth 100 points to get my students to read?
I decided to e-mail 3rd block as well.  I explained what happened to my 2nd block students.  After several 3rd block students admitted to not completing the reading, I further expressed my frustrations in another e-mail.

Why not read it because it is an American classic?  Do you really want to grow up and NOT be considered well-read?  Do you really want to be left out of intellectual conversations because you have not developed a reading habit that engages and expands your mind?  Is it really that inconvenient to read a chapter or two each night?

And still, their main concern was whether I planned to count the quiz for 100 points or 10 points.

So, my question is this…. is it that important that my students read every chapter of TKAM by the assigned day?

I think it is.  Even if the student is not a born lover of books, a student still has a responsibility to come to class prepared.  Although I do use many Web 2.0 tools to spice up our lessons, we are currently contributing our thoughts about TKAM on a class Ning, the Ning is just a tool.  The real learning occurs when the student picks through the passages and studies the arrangement of each word that Harper Lee uses to effectively communicate.  Without learning how to read closely, my students will not understand how to use words to write persuasively or informatively or even understand when someone is using words to persuade or manipulate them.   It is imperative that my students study the art of writing through reading great writers.

That is the real power that I want to give them, and it starts with To Kill a Mockingbird.

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Nings Again

March 31, 2009 by Tara Seale · 3 Comments · 21st Century Literacy, English Resources, Nings, Romeo and Juliet, Web 2.0

My students just finished their last posts to our Romeo and Juliet Ning.  They enjoyed role playing as they posted in character.  Now we are going to use a Ning to post reponses to To Kill a Mockingbird at To Kill a Mockingbird Response Ning. I am trying to discover the best way to incorporate Nings into the classroom.  I am using edublogs with my Read the Net students, and while it gives my students more freedom, I also think that my students may benefit more from the Ning format.  I am hypothesizing that students will be more apt to converse and leave meaningful comments for other students in a Ning environment than in a blogging environment.  Blogs are only connected by the blog roll and an aggregator, such as, Google Reader, so students may feel a disconnect that a Ning may provide.  I am only theorizing this is the case, and hopefully I will be able to discover which Web 2.0 tool works best in the classroom as I try out the TKAM Ning with my 9th grade English students and Edublogs with my Read the Net students.

I have also added a widget badge for the class TKAM Ning in the right side bar of this blog which provides a link to the Ning.

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Nings and Google Docs

March 2, 2009 by Tara Seale · No Comments · Google, Nings, Technology Resources, Web 2.0

Another teacher e-mailed me after my Literacy and the Web workshop to let me know that her grown daughter is currently using Nings and Google Docs at work.  I have promoted web 2.0 tools as valid tools that are used in the “real world,” so I appreciate that she shared this information with me.

If you are interested in using Google Docs in the classroom, I really like this Google Doc revision lesson.

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