From my first introduction to snaps I’ve been excited by their potential to support student thinking and writing. Snaps have become an important part of my teaching and frequently are mentioned in blog posts about other topics from workshop to feedback loops to orientation and community building. I use snaps to support my students’ work on values in our American Creed work and typically begin each unit in my general education classes with one or more snaps. So far my students and I have each built four snaps and used those snaps to inspire our thinking and writing and each other. Actually I have built five and students will work on their fifth this week and I expect us to complete one more snap before we wrap up the semester. In my classes, snaps are simple Google slides featuring words and images or videos focused on one idea or answering one question. Check out the snap I shared with my students at the beginning of the semester to demonstrate my personal values before we explore the ways I use snaps to support thinking, writing, and connection in my classes.
While snaps, especially if aligned with the traditional usage of booksnaps, can be standalone activities I think I have been clear about my feelings about disposable assignments and my strong preference that each activity be at minimum a twofer. I use snaps at the beginning of each unit to start everyone thinking about ideas for the deliverable associated with that unit. My goal is to push my students beyond an initial superficial response to a question or idea. I also use snap to help students organize their thinking in preparation for their writing. That is why so many of my units begin with two different snap exercises over successive weeks – the first to inspire thinking and the second to focus it.
Much like my beloved six word stories, snaps pack a lot of punch into a limited presentation. The actual word count of a snap is low, but like many low-stakes writing challenges the returns are very high. Each section of the snap challenges the creator to do a lot of thinking about the careful crafting of the snap. As a writing teacher I delight in this deliberative creation as I know all that thinking is priming the pump for later writing. You can see how I used snaps last fall with my students to inspire their thinking and their writing.
I enjoy the snaps that my students create in response to my challenge and model, but my favorite part of our work with snaps is what comes next – when we return again and again to the work of our community to find connections and intersections among our snaps. In this work our snaps represent our initial claim or position on the original question, but as we take in more information, engage with more snaps, the entire exercise becomes so much more meaningful. Sometimes the observations of our community inspires us to revisit our own ideas or rethink our position and sometimes our community helps us refine our thinking or discover secrets previously hidden from us.
I love how snaps help our community continue to share ideas and communicate across space and time. While our asynchronous work makes holding traditional conversations almost impossible, snaps have helped us connect and inspire our thinking and writing. As we develop our feedback loops we are also developing as thinkers and writers and I’ll continue to snap with my students as long as we can reap such tremendous rewards from one little snap.