Tweeting: fun and a learning tool!

Earlier this month, on August 5 to be exact, the Massachusetts Historical Society celebrated the fourth year anniversary of posting line-a-day diary entries by John Quincy Adams on Twitter, beginning on that day. In his diary JQA described his long trip from the United States to St. Petersburg in 1809 where he served as the American minister to Russia. During his tenure he wrote daily comments on meetings with diplomats and friends, recreational walks, family matters, even the weather.

Although this diary is by a male and outside the time frame of this blog, there is something to be gleaned from the MHS project, especially for teachers. As a lesson in language arts and or history, a teacher could assign a primary source by a woman (from this blog or the book In the Words of Women) to a class and have students come up with a 140-character tweet based on the document. There is more to this task than meets the eye: students must read carefully, understand what is being said, and condense the essence into a short statement. Tweets can be shared and compared to conclude the lesson. Or the lesson could constitute an introduction to a topic suggested by the source. For example, this letter by Abigail Adams to her husband John in Philadelphia is an excellent entry point for a discussion of the activities of women during the Revolution.

[Boston July 31, 1777]You must know that there is a great Scarcity of Sugar & Coffe, articles which the Female part of the State are very loth to give up, especially whilst they consider the Scarcity occasiond by the merchants having Secreted a large Quantity. There had been much rout & Noise in the Town for several weeks. Some Stores had been opend by a Number of people & the Coffe & Sugar carried into the market & dealt out by pounds. … A Number of Females, some say a hundred, some say more, assembled with a cart & trucks, marchd down to the ware House [of merchant Thomas Boylston] & demanded the keys, which he refused to deliver. Upon which one of them Seazd him by his Neck & tossd him into the cart, upon his finding no Quarter, he deliverd the keys, when they tipd up the cart & dischargd him; then opend the warehouse, Hoisted out the Coffe themselves, put it into the trucks & drove off. … A large concourse of Men Stood amazd, Silent Spectators of the whole transaction.

In addition to devising a tweet for this letter, students could be directed to the Massachusetts Historical Society site where the manuscript version of the letter can be found and have a go at reading Abigail’s handwriting. These are wonderful exercises likely to involve students and others by providing not only information but a sense of immediacy surpassed only by time travel.

Dear reader: a challenge! Why not comment with a tweet of your own based on Abigail’s letter.

posted August 30th, 2012 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail, Battles, Boston, Lesson plans, Patriots, Reading old documents


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