Monday, June 18, 2012

Collaborating in the AP English Literature classroom

I've always had a dream of connecting my English classrooms with other classrooms around the country or world. When I began teaching in 2002, the thought of pen pals on the other side of the world was always on my mind, but I never had the time to pursue this project.

Now, 10 years later, I am in the classroom again teaching AP English Literature. My dream of connecting and collaborating with another similarly leveled class somewhere outside Philadelphia remains. With the internet, skype, twitter, facebook, etc., I imagine the resources are plentiful to make this dream a reality.

Despite knowing that the dream is within reach, I return to square one for some reflective grounding.

1. Why would I consider doing this project?
               I firmly believe our students are "connecting" more with others via social media. Our world is not nearly as small as it was when I was in high school in 1997. However, are our students able to effectively present an opinion or depth of thought while connecting and collaborating? So often, our superficial communication contains messaging lingo and abbreviations that do not prove that we are intelligent human beings in the least.

2. What would I desire to connect/collaborate about?
               One element I find lacking in the AP English Literature students is their depth of reading. Sometimes they only read what is required in their school classes. If they read for fun, they read YA (not that there is anything wrong with that!) I would love to have a virtual bookshelf where my students (7 are scheduled for my class this coming year) could post intelligently about a book they read - perhaps examining theme or a symbol specifically.  They could then recommend (or not) the book to other AP English students. I would love my students to be able to access other recommendations from students from other schools around the country and globe. Realizing that we are all enjoying literature and are able to examine it in depth is important to spur them on towards more learning and reading.

3. How would I do it?
              This is the element I still need to figure out. I know exists and is a wonderful place to keep your own reading lists and review a book once you have completed it. I will have to further examine if this would be a good resource or if there is something better out there.

BUT I NEED YOUR HELP!!! If you have taught at the upper high school honors/AP track level, would you see benefits in a program like this? Do you know of a resource  that could assist me in making my dream a reality? Would you like to join me? Feel free to e-mail me ( with any suggestions or questions.

Happy reading - and collaborating!!!


  1. Great thoughts and questions, Monica. I would love to hear more about students collaborating around the world. I'll talk to my cousin in England to see if she has any ideas.

  2. Make sure you post on the English Companion Ning in the AP Lit group - I'm sure there's another teacher out there who would love to connect with you. Have you looked at Shelfari?

  3. Thank you Hannah. Shelfari looks like a viable option!!!

  4. Cool idea. I think and have seen that students can communicate more effectively via writing. There are two sides to it, but even if you look at the basic idea of online "support groups" you can see that people reach out there for connection-- the how's and why's are always up for debate. I think a huge key factor is anonymity this is CRUCIAL especially for an age bracket such as your group of kids.
    Being able to connect more globally is a beautiful idea, although I wonder if the true magic lies closer for young students and the global would be out of reach.
    All teachers must (in part) play to their students strengths (to spark interest) and also be aware of their struggles. Is it a challenge to engage face to face? Are they concerned about judgement or having the wrong answer? Could they work collaboratively? i.e. a student interprets and other students respond via blog posts or what not.
    Interesting directions.