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

By Guest Author | May 23rd, 2013 | No Comments

This is a guest post from Katharine Hale, 5th grade teacher at Abingdon Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia.

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!

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