Teacher Katharine Hale Shares How She Uses Role Playing To Engage Students

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May 23rd, 2013

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This is a guest post from Katharine Hale, 5th grade teacher at Abingdon Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia.  If you are interested in contributing to the Edmodo Blog, please complete this form.

Introduce yourself to Katharine or follow her on Twitter at @mshale5thgrade

My fifth graders have been studying historical fiction in reading workshop and I decided I wanted them to dive deeper into the genre with some kind of authentic writing experience.  I created a writing unit that challenged students to apply historical fiction and nonfiction reading strategies through social networking. My students used Edmodo for historical fiction and I incorporated some nonfiction and character standards for review purposes. It became a huge success and I am eager to hear how you might use this in your classroom!

Role-Play Preparation

My students used Edmodo to role-play historical fiction characters from the Great Depression time period. The goal was to create a social networking world that would resemble Facebook in the 1930s. I grouped the students into 3 families and as a team, they developed their characters by collecting information from their nonfiction texts and historical fiction books. They had to consider character traits, character relationships, and historical relevance. For my highest reading group, I came up with a story of how their family was related to the other families, so that they had to think about character relationships beyond the family.

Edmodo Set Up

Each student created an Edmodo profile using only their 1930s character name. I made 3 families (i.e. Edmodo Groups) and the students joined all three by entering in the 6-digit code. Edmodo doesn’t allow students to send messages to each other, but by grouping them into families, it made student-to-student communication possible and easy to manage. When students wrote a post, they would select the family they were writing to. To reply to a post, the students would simply read through their own family’s feed for posts related to them.

Instruction and Assessment

This writing unit was designed for multiple purposes, so I put together a rubric that would address all the literacy and technology standards I wanted to assess. Additionally, the rubric reflected many of the mini lessons taught during the unit. My favorite part about Edmodo was the badges I was able to design. Each of the badges for this unit either correlated with an area being assessed or a work ethic skill. My fifth graders obsessed over these badges! The badges motivated them and ensured me that they were accomplishing the expectations from the rubric.

Improving Student Engagement and Learning

I encourage you to use Edmodo in this way with your students. Previously, when I taught how readers use historically specific vocabulary and events to talk about characters, my second language students had a hard time mastering these skills. On Edmodo, students were eager to use these skills in order to sound authentic. It got to a point where their posts gave me chills because it so closely resembled what Facebook members would talk about in the 1930s. Some students even developed fake newsletters, scrapbooks, or videos and would link them to their posts on Edmodo. How cool is that?!

I imagine that role-playing on Edmodo can be used in many subject areas. When you do try it out, please share your successes with me. I would love to know how else students can learn through role-playing on Edmodo!

Here are some images from the project. Click any photo to enlarge.

7 responses to “Teacher Katharine Hale Shares How She Uses Role Playing To Engage Students”

  1. Lynn Woods says:

    This is a great lesson idea and even better with Edmodo. I am already dreaming up ways to use it with The Outsiders and other novels we use. Thanks for sharing.

  2. tom says:

    A very interesting account, Katharine, and a wonderful use of a wonderful tool.

    Can I ask why you went for separate groups, and not a single group, with a “small group” for each “family”?

    Also, a small doubt about the badges: is it possible to be “kinder than necessary” 😉 ?!

    • Katharine Hale says:


      Good point about the small groups! I actually considered both and decided to go with separate groups simply because it was faster to get all my students set up. Rather than having to manually drag every students to 3 small groups, I just gave them 3 codes. But you are right, small groups would work just the same and it would keep the group more organized!

      “Kinder than Necessary” is from one of my 5th graders’ favorite books, Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. My students fell in love with the concept so I added it as a badge to encourage collaboration.

      Katharine 🙂

  3. Liz says:

    This is such a great idea! I am hoping to begin using Edmodo in September. I teach ancient civilizations, so the application there would be really exciting to see!

    Thanks for sharing this idea, Katherine!

  4. Nikki Valentine says:

    Hi Katharine,
    Super ideas to engage students! What nonfiction and historical fiction texts did you use?
    Thanks for the inspiration and feedback!

  5. Rani says:

    Thanks for sharing this idea. In grade 5 and 6 we will be looking at discovery of Gold in Australia in the 1850s so it will be interesting to see how it goes.

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