If that’s true, then we must create space for nonfiction independent reading. In the same way that students must choose their own novels if they’re going to care about fiction, they must select their own articles if they’re going to care about nonfiction.
English teachers, don’t fret: I don’t expect you to add on nonfiction independent reading to your docket. Get ready, social studies teachers: This one is for you.
I propose that a significant part of every social studies class is an emphasis on current events. But instead of the traditional means of accomplishing this outcome — having students clip newspaper articles once a week, willy-nilly, and then share them — using technology might be a better way to go.
Here’s how it would work:
1. At the beginning of the year, you set up collections based on your curriculum or your categories of interest. This makes it easy to prevent students from clipping articles that are random or not based on your units of study.
2. You then set up a class account at Snip.it and teach students how to use it, including how to install the Google Chrome extension. Yes, you could also have students create their own accounts (and their own collections), but I’d recommend that only if you have a 1:1 environment or teach a current events or global contemporary issues class.
3. Students then clip articles and have a conversation. What’s neat about Snip.it is that it forces the user to write comments to share their viewpoints about the content they clip. That means that you can have your students write a summary and a reaction to the article. Even better, the service encourages other people to comment, too, so you can have students reply to their peers’ articles, too.
The clean design (which some people say is a more serious version of Pinterest), I think, is attractive to teenagers. Take a look. Here’s part of a screenshot of Iserotope Extras.
It’s crucial that social studies teachers involve their students in more reading. As Kelly Gallagher argues, we need to help young people to build background knowledge about their world. There are many ways to do this — including having newspapers and magazines in the classroom, right next to novels — and Snip.it is a great way to keep everything organized and looking tidy. Let me know what you think!
Update: Snip.it cares about fiction, too! I just received an email from Snip.it — they’re donating a Kindle to the Kindle Classroom Project! Very cool.