I’ve used Twitter in many classes for extending/creating a conversation about a text in online classes or to encourage English Ed or graduate students to develop a professional network. The following is probably one of the most fun ways to use Twitter in the classroom. It gets to the core of what longterm Twitter use can do for your use of language. Out of necessity, it tightens it up, a common goal for creative writing where words are to be used, not wasted. Here is what my Fiction II students will be doing over the weekend. This was first developed as a poetry exercise that centered on images and concrete language.
Send a tweet an hour for a twenty-four hour period. Your tweet needs to be focused on the moment and be rooted in the senses–no abstract ruminating here. Tweet what you see, hear, smell, taste, or feel (skin, not emotion). An example would be a snatch of an overheard conversation while walking. These can be golden. Another would be close detail for what you see. Yet another could be that Twitter cliche of “what you are doing right now.” In real life, people don’t tweet their day like this very often, but as a creative writer, you need to be intensely aware of your self and your surroundings. This is a very good way to do just that. I know everyone has to sleep sometime, but you should have no problem fitting in thirteen tweets.
That is the assignment. Here is the hidden effect: by using Twitter rather than a notebook, they will be forced to keep their language sleek and precise. 140 characters is not much for a poet and even less of a space for fiction writers used to sprawling pages. If they take to this social media genre and Tweet regularly, over time, their ability to “tighten up” language will increase exponentially. Even if they despise tweeting and stop immediately, the exercise will show them some new ways to tighten up their prose.