Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ten Ways to Use Instagram to Engage Students

1.  Writing Prompts:

You can find some great writing prompts on the internet.  I keep them all in a pin board on Pinterest, so they are easy to find.  I have the students use the SWBST (Somebody Wanted But So Then) acronym to summarize the plot.  Instagram isn't really the place for elaborate writing, but you could use some of the better responses as prompts for more elaborated writing projects in class.  Another way to use picture prompts would be to start the story and have each student that comments build on what the previous person had written.

2.  Use Instagram to Inspire and Motivate:

3. Post Pictures of Notes From Class:

This might be something that helps them with a homework assignment, finish incomplete work, study for a test, or see what they missed while absent.  This could also be used as a reminder of reading or writing strategies that you want them to use.  Those helpful anchor charts that you have on the wall in your classroom aren't so helpful when a student is working on a reading or writing assignment at home.  Take a picture of it, post it on Instagram, make it portable!

4.  Celebrate Learning:

This one needs no explanation.  Show students that you value their work by posting it on Instagram.

5.  Preview a Lesson:  Hook, Frontload, Preview

Using the right picture with the right description can work as frontloading information you will be teaching, get students excited about what is coming next, or give them time to think about a topic.  When students have time to think about a topic, you will get better responses than if you ask them to give you something on the spot.  In this example, we were going to be reading a short story from Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure's of Sherlock Holmes".  

6.  Informal Assessment:

In this example I am checking for understanding about idioms.  In number three, "Notes from class", I asked a question about the conflict in a story we had just read.  Most of the ideas on my top ten list are forms of informal assessment, with the exception of "Inspire and Motivate" and "Celebrate Student Learning".

7.  Mystery Pictures:

I have taught my class how to use close reading strategies when looking at an image.  After all, "A picture is worth a thousand words" so why not close read pictures too.  On Monday we do Mystery Pictures, and I am posting the picture on the weekend.  This gives the students more time to mull it over and see what observations other people have made about the picture before asking them to infer and draw conclusions in class.  I have created a mini-unit for this and it is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

8.  Vocabulary: Preview, Practice, Review

There are many ways you could use Instagram to engage students in vocabulary building exercises.  #Vocab is one of my favorites.  Again, this is something we do in class, so they do know how to respond and what #vocab is.  In this example I made a picture collage showing a screen shot of the word definition from, a picture of the anchor chart from class, and a meme for the final # which was something new, but I thought it would be appropriate to add a new "techie" type of element since I was posting online.  At some point in time I will get around to doing a post on #vocab because I just love it, but today it's Instagram.
   In this example we are doing the word reason.  We are in the midst of a mystery unit, getting ready to read Sherlock Holmes and have just spent a week learning about inductive and deductive reasoning.  So, reason is not an unfamiliar word to them.
   I started them off with an example of my own #s:
#Sherlock'sMindPalace (apply it to a place or activity)
#TheDogAteMyHomework (use it in a phrase-ok, so I didn't actually use the word, but I did use a cliche, and figurative language gets you bonus points!)
#WordWink (my connection to the word or what it reminds me of)
#TakingOneForTheTeam (The Katniss "I Volunteer" meme)

9. Memes:

I love memes.  This year I revamped my old first day of school behavior/expectations lecture and turned it into a humorous and memorable presentation using memes.  The students in my class still bring up the memes as reminders when someone is forgetting the rules.  The students are interested in me personally, so when my own kids take my Ipad and take a bunch of weird selfies for me to find, I turn them into memes too.  Here is a great blog post on "Five Ways to use Memes to Connect with Students" You can also post a meme photo on Instagram and ask students to comment with a caption.

10. Six Word Memoirs & Exit Tickets: A Record of Reflection

Six Word Memoirs is great way to have students reflect on their learning and experiences.  I also use this in class as a way to get them to summarize big ideas.  I put up a chart and give them a topic like 6 words on a character/theme from a book, or six words on an issue that we were debating. By posting it on Instagram instead, there is a record of it that they can go back and look at again.  I don't have the wall space to have all of the posters up so this serves as a digital portfolio of their reflections.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on using Instagram for the classroom.

Updated July 2015: 

This top ten list is focused on the teacher's posts. I would like to get the students using Instagram posting content for the class as well. So far I have come up with this: 

  1. posting real life applications of Math/Science lessons
  2. photos that capture random acts of kindness as they happen
  3. photos that show the effects of environmental issues
  4. photos that capture a student's interpretation of a song or poem
  5. photos of sketchnotes
When I get ten ideas, I will make a new top ten list on this topic. I am also looking forward to using Storify as a way to include parents that aren't following social media this year. More on that once I have more to share.

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