Looking Into 7th Grade Social Media


An introductory technology lesson by: Erik Nelson

Content: Recently our school district decided to purchase iPads for all students, from K-12. Students will be using the devices in the classroom, and also taking them home. In the social sciences, internet connected devices can be used to harness the collaborative and exploratory power of social media and internet resources while allowing students to create content in relevant ways. In this lesson students will begin to think about the types of social media used by classmates to gain a baseline of information about their social media experiences. Students will use this information to begin framing the conversation of transparency, digital citizenship, and proper use of social media for the 21st century. This lesson will begin setting the foundation for discussions with students around proper use of technology in the classroom and in their personal lives as the school year progresses.


Part One: Class Technology Survey

  • Step 1: As a group we will discuss and define “social media” and “regular use”. Table groups create combined lists of social media they regularly use.
  • Step 2: Students will create 2 sided labels for every social media app used in class. These labels will be posted on our classroom “window wall” that opens to the hallway.
  • Step 3: Students will take turns marking a dot on the window with dry erase marker next to every app they personally use. At the end, all the classes will contribute information to our “window chart.” (See photo above, you could use the classroom windows for the same purpose)

Part Two: Transparency Discussion

  • Discuss and record answers to:
  • What does our class use social media for?
  • Why did we put the class chart on the glass wall?
  • Why is social media transparent?
  • How is transparency positive and negative?

Part Three: Create a Manifesto

Create personal “social media manifestos” that students can “post” on their sites. (Each student will write a paragraph defining their personal declaration about how they will act using social media in a transparent world. Consider self, family, peers, school, world.)

Product: All the classes will combine to create a visual chart of how many individuals use each social media app. Reflections will be written in class notebooks to questions written after discussion. Written “Social Media Manifestos” can be either collected by teacher (for students who do not use social media but are around it daily) or posted by students with link for teacher to access.

Evaluation: This lesson is intended to be a starting place for all future discussions of social media use in the classroom and in personal life. Students will mark their use of social media on the “window wall,” and the metaphor of “transparency” will be used throughout the school year to reference social media use. Students will write answers to discussion questions in their class journals. Finally, students will create a short written declaration of how they intend to act using social media, hopefully posting it to their social media sites for the world to see their stance of proper use of transparent digital media.

What kind of thinking will the students need to do to participate in the lesson?

This lesson requires students to use lower order thinking to label and list social media they use. Then students will be asked to use higher order thinking to place their use of social media into the larger world.

To what extend to students have options or choices regarding these lesson components?

Much of this lesson is teacher driven, especially at the middle school level. It is imperative that students connect their use of social media to the idea of transparency, and the teacher may need to direct them to that connection. Once transparency and safety have been discussed, students have choice in how they will create their own declaration of social media usage. From the conversation students will have opportunities to take varying degrees of stances towards using social media.

My reflection on this lesson: Creating a lesson for seventh graders about social media use was new to me, as I am used to high school students. I have been struggling with creating lessons that balance structure and direction with organic student engagement. I am indebted to Kristi and Christy for their help in directing me to focus on the end product that students can create. The “social media manifesto” came to life in these discussions, and has the power to be shaped and used in any classroom with a high degree of student choice. It is hard to know the long term impact this lesson may have, but certainly there are opportunities to revisit the transparency metaphor as needed throughout the school year.


Image Credit: Erik Nelson 2014

Analyzing Current Events as an Adversarial Process


Assignment – Every day, the class will examine a current event. Students will sign up for presentation dates upon which they will present their current event articles in a PowerPoint presentation. Every three consecutive presentations will fall under the auspices of the following categories: Civil rights; immigration; government regulation of personal behavior; energy security and climate change; the economy, stupid; electoral races and ballot measures; national security; foreign policy. Additionally, each student will be assigned a presentation for which they will play the devil’s advocate, playing counterpoint to the class discussion following the PowerPoint.

Content – Students will have an opportunity to examine and reconstruct their opinions on American political, economic, social, cultural, industrial, etc. opinions, and configure contemporary world events within their pre-existing schemata. They will also have the opportunity to practice sharing their thoughts on emotionally charged issues in a public forum. To effectively play the devil’s advocate, they will have to objectively examine arguments from multiple angles.

Process – Students will begin by taking a survey, in which they will be asked to “Briefly discuss your positions on the following world issues. Indicate how you arrived at your position on each issue.” They will write short responses on the following:

  • American politics, including issues related to immigration, civil rights, economic policy, national security, gun control, etc.
  • Social issues, including issues related to privacy, human rights and humanitarian issues, climate change, governmental regulation of personal behavior, etc.
  • Foreign policy issues, including foreign aid, energy security, nonproliferation, conflict and stabilization operations, counterterrorism, etc.

Their answers will be used to determine for which topic and for whom they will play the devil’s advocate. Students may have to argue opinions that are contrary to what they actually believe.

Students will also answer: “What do you hope or expect to gain from the current events exercises? Do you think your opinion will change on any of your positions? On what issues do you hope or expect to gain a more-developed understanding?” At the end of the unit, when everyone has presented, they will answer appropriately reflective questions.

During each presentation, students will complete their daily analysis worksheets, upon which they will take notes of the presentation and class discussion.

Product – Students will create PowerPoint presentations to summarize their current event, providing background information and their analyses of the topics. At the conclusion of the presentations, students will provide three questions to guide a classroom discussion following their explanation and background of the topics.  The questions should be open-ended and should ask for students to provide thoughtful responses related directly to the current event.


Grading Components

Intro sheet:                                                    10 pts

Current event presentation:                          30 pts

Devil’s advocate performance:                    12 pts

Current event analyses:                               48 pts

Current Events:

Daily Analysis

Take notes as the presenter presents his/her article. Then participate in the discussion using your notes to guide you, and reflect on the class discussion.

  1. How would you classify this article? Political Economic Social Cultural Combination _____________/_____________ Other __________________
  1. Write a list of things that you learned from this presentation.
  2. Write down a list of things that you are confused about or questions you have?
  3. In the best words you can possibly choose, what is the article’s point? What is the article about?
  4. Provide a summary of the class discussion. What points did you find the most thought-provoking? Did your opinion or position change as a result of the discussion?

Devil’s Advocate Self-Reflection

  1. Which arguments or points you made were the most effective at eliciting responses from the class?
  2. Did any of the arguments or points you made raise awareness of your classmates?
  3. Did your opinion or position on the subject at issue in the article change? What new things did you learn in researching the devil’s advocate position?

PowerPoint Grading Rubric

Summary of article is written in the student’s words, and is not simply copy and pasted from the article.             1   2   3   4   5

At least one other source of information was used to further explicate the article’s topic, with appropriate APA citations.           1   2   3   4   5

Background provided is accurate and thorough   1   2   3   4   5

Student actively and confidently leads discussion, asks follow up questions if necessary to individual students, and included as many students as possible in the discussion.    1   2   3   4   5

The three questions were open ended and led to a good discussion about the topic.             1   2   3   4   5

The PowerPoint presentation slides used an appropriate amount of text, were easy to read, and well designed.              1   2   3   4   5

[image credit]

“The People happen to love me.”

The Life of Benjamin Franklin

Image from Page 6 of The Life of Benjamin Franklin

Lesson Study: First Draft

Content: Students will be given a quote by a famous historical figure, or a quote about an important moment in history. Preferably, these quotes would be ones that are not typically associated with the speaker or moment, so that students will have to think harder about the context the quote could have been given in. For example:

“The People happen to love me. Perhaps that’s my fault.” -Benjamin Franklin

Process: The quote (with speaker and the approximate date when it was said or written) would be put up on the projector for the class to read. Each student will then be given a few minutes to think about and write down ideas about what they think the context of the quote is and who the speaker is. This could be long bullet points or a short paragraph, whatever form they decide their work should take. What was the speaker really trying to say? What does it say about the time it was said during? If they know who the speaker was, they can write down what background knowledge they possess about this person. If they do not, they can speculate who they think the speaker was. Students will then share their ideas in pairs or small groups and will come up with a consensus for their group, which will be written down and given to me. I will then read out these ideas, conduct a short discussion, and then give a lecture on what the quote was really about.

Product: This is a lesson to be repeated, and by the end of the mini-unit, the students should each have a collection of reflections written down that they would be able to turn in.

Evaluation: With these reflections, I would like to stress to the students that there are no wrong answers. It does not matter if they were completely wrong about their theory, as long as they are able to clearly explain why they thought the way that they did. They should also be able to reflect on how their thinking changed after they learned about the true context of the quote. Ultimately, the mini-unit would be ended by having each students find a quote of their own, and to repeat the exercise. Another possible final assessment option would be to have each student make up a quote that a historical figure might have said, or about an event. They would then exchange quotes with another student, and would essentially teach a mini-lesson to their classmate.

What kinds of thinking will students need to do to participate in the lesson? Ideally, over the course of the mini-unit, students will have to employ every level of thinking according to Bloom. First, they must remember and understand the history behind each quote to some degree. They will then take what background knowledge they have, and apply that to their understanding of the quote, which they will then analyze and evaluate what the true meaning of it is. With their final assessment, they will have to apply everything they have learned from the previous lessons in order to create a product of their own for a fellow student to evaluate.

To what extent do students have options or choices regarding these lesson components? Students can express their individuality through their own interpretations. Each lesson will start with them being given the chance to think whatever they wish, without any prompting from me. They will also be given choices when the time comes for them to create their own mini-lesson.


I went about designing my lesson study by starting with the Benjamin Franklin quote above. I came across it in a reading for a history class, and decided that I needed to come up with a way to implement it into my future teaching. That got me thinking about other historical quotes that I enjoy for their wildness. I decided to structure my lesson study around this idea, and decided to focus it upon context and perspective.

Accomplishing the peer reviews was easy. The hardest part for me was not knowing how much feedback I was supposed to contribute. As a college student, and a soon-to-be teacher, I’d like to think that I am good at taking and giving constructive criticism. Going into the peer review sessions, we knew that we were supposed to be helping each other, and that it was nothing personal. A big part of teaching is being able to realize that what you’re doing isn’t working, and being able to set aside your pride and admit that you need to make changes. Accordingly, a class of future teachers should have no problem with constructive criticism. This is not going to be something I’ll have the chance to teach in this student teaching placement, but I hope I will be able to implement it in my advanced placement.