One way to engage student readers is to find ways to connect with them. Social media is big in their lives, so using sites like Facebook.com and Twitter.com help bridge that understanding between the content they are reading and applying it to their own lives.
Last January I wrote how creating a Facebook profile and status updates was effective with my students (post found here). Another way to help them make a connection (or at least give them an opportunity to be creative and have a little fun while learning) is by using Twitter. More and more young people are using the site (perhaps Justin Beiber's presence on Twitter has helped that). When I first started doing this Twitter activity, none of my students were on Twitter. Now, it seems at least a few are and most understand the concept.
After reading a chapter in a novel, I tell them to pretend they are one of the characters from that chapter. Then I tell them to pretend that character has internet access (it's kind of funny to imagine someone like Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird's 1930's setting to have internet). Then, pretend that character has an Android or iPhone (or another smart phone) and is about ready to post a new Tweet on Twitter. What would they write?
This assignment allows the student to think about the most important events in a chapter, analyze the events and the character's actions, then summarize it (in a concise manner). It also requires them to use precise words and try to engage their audience.
SPOILER ALERT! - Avoid reading if you haven't read through chapter 11 in The Hunger Games
Here's a sample I made after reading chapter 11 in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I took on Katniss's persona:
And here are some sample tweets my students came up with after reading chapter 11 (I chose this chapter because it's the first day in the arena:
Katniss: @KatnissEverdeen I NEED WATER!!! #Dying
District 2 Girl (they don't know her name...yet): @KnivesRMyThing Stabbed a boy in back...freakin' D12 girl got away, though.
Thresh: @11 Survived first day. What up?! #BigAndSilent
District 9 Boy: @ImGonnaWin Got this great backpack, just need this girl to let– #DEAD
Katniss: @TooHot4U First day over. Not dead yet.
Katniss: @BowHunter_12 In a tree, near an idiot, and thirsty. #thissux
Rue: @LikeABird11 I'm hiding in a tree tonight. Grabbed some berries and got a knife. #Survivor
Peeta: @YeastieBoyYO! Caught her lighting a fire at dawn. #AreYouNew?
Girl Tribute Who Lit the Fire: @SmokeSignalsRUs I'm so cold. A little fire won't hurt anything, right!? #DarwinAwardWinner
You can download the FREE printable activity--which includes teacher instructions and alignment with the Common Core Standards--in my teacherspayteachers.com store: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Twitter-Tweet-Story-or-Chapter-Summary