Last year I wrote about using Snaps in my classroom to engage students in thinking more deeply about ideas and texts. I continue to be a huge fan of snaps and, in fact, my students created three snaps within the first two weeks of classes. The creation of these snaps were guided by three ideas central to my pedagogy: my love of handcrafted icebreakers, my loathing of disposable assignments or activities, and developing class procedures and protocols that support our writing workshop (such as six word stories, snaps, and hyperdocs). So what do snaps look like in my class this semester?
As I have noted many times before, Community building is important to me so our first class meeting always does more than simply break the ice. As this semester focuses on American Literacy, it made sense to me to focus on our personal creeds and values first so that is what we did during our first class meeting.
I also like to have a more permanent record of our community members’ introductions so we can refer back to it throughout the semester and for that collection we created Community Snaps. Everyone wrote a six-word story that told us about their current state of mind and chose an image to accompany that story, then they wrote a brief background paragraph, explained their six word story, wrote a brief paragraph about their personal creed or belief, and then wrapped up by sharing their personal anthem. I have loved reviewing my students’ community snaps as a way to learn more about each of them – especially the anthems. I’m collecting our personal anthems into a playlist that I might use in class. I gave students a Google slide template (see the image above) to follow so it was fairly low tech and provided my own community snap first as a model. We shared our snaps via Google doc so it will always be available throughout the semester. I love that this work introduced our community, led directly into our work studying America’s values, symbols, and anthems, and provided a foundation for future rhetorical analysis work when we return to this work with symbols and music.
American Values Snaps
The first assignment of our American Literacy work will be to write creeds arguing for the common aspiration that Americans should believe and to provide foundation for that work we explored the values and beliefs that underpin our government and legal system (thanks Dawn Reed for tipping me off to the Interactive Constitution). After this exploration we again built and shared snaps. Just as we did with our community snaps we wrote six word stories although this time their focus was on what does it mean to be an American We also returned to the idea of anthems although this time we used NPR’s American Anthem series to inspire our thinking about alternative American anthems. The final two pieces focused on the purpose of America’s founding documents and the most important right protected by them. Once again I provided a model as well. This work will support writing more nuanced American Creed essays (I hope) and has certainly supported some very interesting classroom conversations. I enjoyed the selection of alternative American anthems my students chose as well which gave us another entry point to discussion and thinking as well as providing fodder for our future rhetorical analysis work.
During our second week of classes we began focusing our thinking about our personal American Creed essays which will be written in the This I Believe format. We spent time in class and out exploring the stories featured in American Creed and selected This I Believe essays then crafted individual snaps focused on our own I Believe statements, personal stories that explain or support that statement, and an image that connected with one or both. Students were also asked to select an essay that inspired their thinking. When we meet again I will call these inspiration essays mentor texts and urge students to use them as models when their own writing bogs down or to support revision. Finally, I asked students to consider a story or anecdote from American Creed that intersected with their personal belief. My hope is that between This I Believe and American Creed my students will encounter voices that push them to think beyond their personal bubbles so their essays will be more nuanced, thoughtful, and thought provoking.
I am pleased with my current Snap strategy. After three snaps in a row students are accustomed to this as a class tool so I can use it again for future units with less support. In the past I have had students write reflective blog posts or journal posts, but I like this format better. Snaps are more visual and make it easy to incorporate images and videos as well as other links, however, I think students are still writing a couple of hundred words for each snap when you total up the chunks. More important, our snaps support student thinking about the ideas that I want them to consider and the snap provides an easy tool to gain insight into their thinking as they prepare their first drafts as well as their contribution to our class community. As I asked in 3 reasons to snap in class, do you agree that snaps are great learning tools with many benefits? How could you use snaps in your classroom?