Social Media Assignment
Have students recreate the developments in letters by assuming the identity of one of the book’s “characters” on social media. This assignment requires students to understand and communicate the attitudes of historical actors and appreciate how events related to each other. The following instructions could be modified for different platforms and otherwise adjusted depending on class size and available time.
- Have students assume the identity of a person from the book and create a new Twitter account as that person. Depending on the number of students, it might make sense to have more than one student represent Mathilde, Mary, and Fritz. In this scenario, one student might play Mathilde for one year and another for the next, etc., but a team of students might work together of Mathilde throughout the period covered in the book. Other possible “characters” include the five children, Mary’s mother, Mathilde’s mother, and Sherman Booth.
- Allocate one day for each year covered in the book from 1859 to 1865. You might decide to limit the assignment to covering only certain years, or you could run the project over seven days. Since students can tweet (send 280-character Twitter messages) from various locations, the assigned days need not be class days.
- Each student should write twenty tweets in character, narrating personal and political developments from the perspective of their chosen historical actor. The tweets should appear in chronological sequence. We recommend having the students plan their tweets ahead of time. If a student drops the ball on the day, you might want to fill in. To prepare for this contingency, we recommend that students share their account information.
- Remind your students of ethical issues. Caricaturing a historical figure could lead to offensive depictions. Ask students to avoid accents that are not their own and let the evidence lead. They should be careful to first do no harm.
- Remind the students that Twitter uses specific rhetorical conventions such as liberal use of emojis, tagging (connecting to someone with their Twitter handle, e.g. @alison_efford), threaded responses, and inclusion of images.
- Choose a unique hashtag (keyword beginning with the # symbol) to connect the tweets from your class together, e.g. #radicalrelationshipsuwm2021, and require that all students use it in every tweet. You can search for the hashtag in Twitter to locate all of the class tweets.
For more information on Twitter projects, see/follow:
Diana Reese, “Assassination leading to World War I plays out again in tweets #KU_WWI,” Washington Post, June 28, 2014,https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2014/06/28/assassination-leading-to-world-war-i-plays-out-again-in-tweets-ku_wwi/.
Brian A. McKenzie, “Teaching Twitter: Re-enacting the Paris Commune and the Battle of Stalingrad,” The History Teacher 47 (2014): 355–72.
Amanda Seligman, ed., History 450 Milwaukee: A Public-Facing Class on the Growth of Metropolitan Milwaukee, https://history450milwaukee.blogspot.com/, last updated December 11, 2020.
- Does the student accurately narrative events from the book?
- How effectively does the student convey the historical figure’s attitudes to events and relationships to people?
- To what extent does the student show an appreciation of how events related to each other, including chronologically?