Facebook Club!

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In May 2014, while volunteering at the TESL Toronto spring conference, I was lucky enough to see a presentation by Chris Harwood and Tracy Manning about their experiences implementing a Facebook-based Book Club in their EAP program.

Inspired by their talk, I decided to try this out with my students. It took some weeks of planning, and some trial and error with different books, but in the end it’s become a successful and popular part of my course!

What is it?

Basically, for each 4-week module, my students must read an assigned book and discuss it in the class Facebook group. At the end of the module, they are given a quiz on the book. Their posts on the Facebook page count for 6% of the final mark, while the quiz is a further 4%.

Why Facebook?

Chris and Tracy mentioned in their presentation that having the assignment based on Facebook (rather than another platform like Moodle) translates into greater participation and enjoyment by the students. I also found this to be true. Compared to my Moodle site, students are much more likely to follow the discussions on Facebook and participate more often.image 1

How does it work?

On the first day of class, students are given the month’s book and are walked through the registration process for the Facebook group. When given the assignment, students are told not to use dictionaries or to worry too much about vocabulary – the point is simply to read the book. I tell them that as long as they understand who the main characters are, and most of what is happening, that’s perfect!

Throughout the month, I post discussion questions on Facebook, which the students then discuss with each other.

At the end of the month, I count up their comments, and students are given 10% for each ‘significant’ comment they make (meaning they can’t just write ‘yes, I agree’, but must write at least 3-4 lines), for a total of 100% for 10 comments.

I tend not to get involved in their discussion in order to allow them to feel more independent.

The quiz at the end of the month consists of 2 or 3 long-answer ‘opinion’ questions, asking for their thoughts and feelings on the assignment and the book, with one or two questions based on the events at the end of the book. So even if students aren’t able to finish the book, they can still answer most of the quiz.

 What are the benefits?

The greatest benefit of this assignment is getting students to read! We read a lot of material in class, but it’s hard to get students in the habit of reading for enjoyment. By giving them interesting and short-ish novels, they get valuable reading experience, as well as the sense of accomplishment from having read a book!

A first for a few students – one student came up to me at the end of the month and told me excitedly:

“Teacher! When I read, I have pictures in my head! This is amazing!”

What books do you use?

After half a year of trial and error, I’ve found a good group of books that are well-liked by the students, and of a good length for them to read in 4 weeks (on top of all the other assignments they have). They are

  • Holes by Louis Sachar,
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry, and
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

The first 2 work well as they are actually written for 13-14 year-olds, so the language and ideas are simple, and the stories are interesting for the students. The Alchemist is probably the most popular book. Although it’s the most difficult vocabulary-wise, the story is quite inspirational for many, and they’re very happy to read it.

What’s next?

I’m always on the lookout for new books and would love to introduce some non-fiction into the mix. I’d love to hear any suggestions!

Hi! I’m Andrew Shedden. Like most people, I fell into ESL by accident. I was preparing to apply for my Master’s in history and decided I wanted to teach in Japan beforehand as a vacation. I got a CELTA degree so I would know what this teaching thing is all about, but one thing led to another and although I never actually made it to Japan as a teacher (or applied for a Master’s program), I’ve been teaching ESL ever since! I've been teaching EAP for over 10 years now... I love the focus on academic writing and English, since I can vicariously go back to university through my students. (I do miss it!) My other professional love is computers. I’ve been obsessed with them since I was 3, and I’m always trying to learn more about how to incorporate IT into my program and classes.


6 thoughts on “Facebook Club!”

  1. Thank you for sharing these ideas, especially the book titles. Right now I don’t teach a group with whom I could pull this off, but I’ll share the idea with my peers who do.

    The part of this post that resonated the most with me was your comment regarding student participation on the LMS. I took Moodle training quite far in the beginning, but abandoned it because I didn’t enjoy any aspect of the platform. I’m sure there are university / college profs and others who think it’s the cat’s meow, especially with the built-in grade book, but I am doing just fine embedding polls, Quizlets, Hot Potatoes, etc. on a free blog. If I taught intermediate or advanced levels with a younger demographic, I would definitely try your Facebook book club idea with them.

    1. I agree! I enjoy playing with Moodle, and I’m convinced it CAN do great things, but you’re right that in most cases there are more accessible options…

      If you don’t mind, I would be interested in seeing your blog!

  2. Hi Andrew,
    I LOVE book clubs! I’m not sure about others, but our city’s public library has sets for book clubs which are great so that students don’t have to try and search for the books on their own.
    One book that I find to be a manageable and interesting read is Still Alice by Lisa Genova. I would definitely use this for students at the post-secondary level who are either in or interested in going into the nursing field. It would also be an interesting discussion on how different cultures perceive Alzheimers.

  3. Multimodalities and Zone of Proximal Development
    No doubt that technology is becoming increasingly important in both our personal and professional lives. Our students are using technology more and more. Unfortunately, many educational programs do not provide any teacher training programs that train teachers the use of information and communication technology. Personally, I consider myself far less skilled and knowledgeable than my own students when it comes to using current technology. Using technology as another mode and tool to represent and communicate information in the classroom, is crucial. In the article “Shrek meets Vygotsky: Rethinking Adolescents Multimodal literacy practices in schools” (2010), emphasizes the important role teachers play in guiding their learners participations in new practices for social, recreational and civic engagement though multimodalities. Therefore, as educators, we need to bridge the gap by gaining new technology tools in the classroom, and to have practical application of technology to teaching language arts.
    The majority of our younger learners are growing up with technology “digital native” and who feels comfortable and confident with it. Moreover, technology becomes natural and integrated part of their lives. For these learners, the use of technology is a way to bring the outer world into the classroom. In particular, the internet presents them with new opportunities for authentic tasks, material, collaboration, and communication between learners who are geography dispersed. Technology is becoming increasingly mobile and it can be used in the classroom, teacher labs, and computers room’s self-access centers. (Dundeney &Hockly, 2007). Therefore, including new literacies by using digital media, helps connecting the learning spaces of home and schools. Simultaneously, the access of this digital device will affect what teachers can do with their classes in term of implementing new literacy through technology. Personally, I found technology in teaching becomes as natural as the use of books pens and papers. Nevertheless, it is important for the teachers to find about their learners’ IT skills and degrees of experience. For example by means of a questionnaire, and then start off by using the simplest technology in the classroom and by also pairing up more technically experienced learners with the absolute novices for any ICT based classroom work so the more experienced users help the less experienced ones. (Dundeney &Hockly, 2007).
    Multimodalities and Inclusive Classroom
    In my colleague class, the students were asked to create hypermedia project that help them to develop a twenty first century literacy, where they can generate and represent information in multimedia form. Hypermedia is a way or approach (genre) of presenting ideas or text to communicate (Bolter 1991). Students including many bearing labels like ADHD, LD, or BD were all engaged. This energy surprised me continually during the cultural journalism classes. One LD labeled student when asked why he was taking care with an earlier design project, had told me “I am making this and other people are going to see it”. Some students added hypermedia and interactive quiz, which they thought it will help consolidate what their readers had learned from the stack, and adding sound effect responses to the quiz. When asked why they had been motivated to do much work, one boy told me “it was about our own questions, so we were really interested, and we want other people to learn about it too”. Students understood the conventions and constructions of such texts. I realized that the use of hypermedia or other based projects, helps students to develop foundational learning competencies.
    Creating hypermedia projects encourages students to develop many important fundamental competencies and procedural understandings. For examples, according to my observations, discussions and my colleague data, artifacts anecdotes collections of his students, he indicated that read, write, learn and represent students’ understanding in new and more competence ways. For example, role construction, ideas development, classifying, linking and organizing, representing, developing and applying critical standards, sense of audience, revision and collaboration. So, if we believe that knowledge must be created in real situations that it should be put to use and that it is integrated, my colleague’s scenario reinforced that. His students got after the problem or the task holistically, bringing language and math and conceptual knowledge to bar whenever they needed. Subsequently, that brings us to the wide spread agreement that integrating content area learning helps students to make connections across knowledge domains. Hence, procedural skill, conceptual understanding, and values effectively developed and enhanced in meaningful integrated contexts. (Perkins 1986).
    In using technology the students were able to provide meanings of words in unique manners such as using images, sounds, and spatial arrangements as an electronic, multimedia text. In other words, students used multiple platforms for communications. I concluded that, the teachers’ guidance and the effective instructions and strategies are the key points for developing and enhancing new literacies such as movies, pictures, images not to mention few. To extend students current practices to a wider range of productive purposes, teachers must do the following:
    – Scaffold multimodal practices that occurs in the zone of proximal development for the students.
    – Extent the multimodal literacies that are valued in the global and social communications of the students.
    – Help students to induct to certain specialist technical proficiencies for multimodal and digital literacy practices.
    – Teach students explicitly many new specialist technical conventions of the digitals (screen, shooting, animation and so forth).
    – Provide students with more instructional time to inducing students to new ways of communicating multimodally.
    – Expand the range of multimodal practices with which students are familiar.
    Bolter, J.D (1991). Writing space. The computer, hypertext, and the history of writing. Hillsdale,
    NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
    Dudeney, G., Hockly, N. (2007). How to teach English with technology. Pearson Educational
    Mills, K. A. (2010). Shrek meets Vygotsky: Rethinking adolescents’ multimodal literacy
    practices in schools. Journal of adolescent and adult literacy 54(1) p. 35-45.
    Perkins, D. N. (1986). Knowledge as Design. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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