As I’ve mentioned before (see here and here), I’ve been using Remind — a free tool that allows teachers to push out notifications to parents and students via text, email or app — to send out a daily current event connected to science and technology to the kids in my class.
My goal is to hook students on nonfiction — and my guess is that hooking kids on nonfiction starts when every student is exposed to really cool content. For most students, “reading nonfiction” elicits groans because it is synonymous with “reading the textbook.” Changing that perception matters if we hope to have a scientifically literate population. Our kids need to learn to love nonfiction — not to begrudge it.
Anecdotally, my plan seems to be working: Darn near every day, I have students come up to me to talk about the current event that I send out. Better yet, they are talking to one another about the current event, too. And as soon as kids hear me talking about the event with one of their peers, they pull out their devices to check their texts, emails or notifications so that they can join the conversation, too. Each current event becomes an impromptu social event — bringing people together around a shared topic they wouldn’t have otherwise had. That’s been fun.
Statistically, my plan also seems to be working. I currently have 84 people signed up to receive my daily messages. Just over half of those subscribers are my students. Most of the rest are moms and dads — which creates neat opportunities for conversations about science at home. Given that I only have 88 students on my learning team this year, those numbers are fantastic.
Here are two other interesting numbers — pulled from a recent survey of people receiving my current events — worth considering:
- 76 percent of respondents report “really enjoying” receiving daily current events on science content.
- 67 percent of respondents report “almost always” reading the current events sent out each day.
And here are a few comments shared by parents and students who are receiving my daily current events:
- Parent: “It give me a chance to have a conversation with my son…every day!….since he likes it too.”
- Parent: “My son and I went outside early this morning to look for Venus in the sky. Thanks for that moment.”
- Parent: “A huge thank you for doing this, the info is awesome and not only provides “theater” at the dinner table, but I often use these quirky and cool facts in my work life – they get people’s attention, break the ice and create common ground quickly.”
- Student: “It’s really fun reading the current events and I think it’s worth the little time it takes. I also like discussing it with my friends and family and it also gets them interested in it.”
- Student: “I think it would be great if you have 2 posts a day instead of 1 so we can read a new post when we get home.”
My favorite comment, though, addressed a concern that one of my boys had about our upcoming three-week vacation — which we call “tracking out.” He wrote:
” I love how you take the time to send out something everyday. Will you be sending some over track out?”
How awesome is that? When eleven-year old boys are worried about whether or not they are going to have interesting nonfiction to read over their three-week vacations, that’s GOT to be considered an instructional win, doesn’t it?
When I started this project, I really didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t sure whether anyone would sign up to receive my current events. More importantly, I wasn’t sure that anyone would actually READ the events that I was sending out. I knew that the project wouldn’t take much of my time — I’m already reading interesting science every day anyway and Remind makes scheduling and sending notifications a breeze. But an easy project that has no impact is STILL a waste of time.
Now, I’m pretty sure that sending out daily current events will always be a part of my teaching practice.
Seeing my students excited about the science that surrounds them, listening to them talk — to me and to one another — about the content that I am sharing, and hearing from parents that my efforts are creating new opportunities for interesting conversations at home has been the highlight of my first quarter.
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