RSS in Education

Before this assignment, Really Simple Syndication (RSS), a real-time updated and simplified way to access certain web feeds was a completely unbeknownst concept to me. This is a tool I would not have stumbled across in any of my professional development training through my school district, but one I believe will be extremely beneficial in the upcoming year.

With my new-found understanding of RSS  and how it can enrich a classroom I plan on using this technology to harness a student choice driven, independent reading opportunity.  

“Quite Time” is an idea my colleagues and I came across in researching innovative schools across the country. This time, allotted at the beginning and end of each school day, was the subject of an article featuring a high poverty and high crime school district located in California.  According to the article this down time has helped student’s behavior and focus,  giving them an allotted time each day to decompress from whatever stresses they may currently be facing inside or outside of school.  With the decision to adopt this theory into our school day as an ELA team, we defaulted to silent reading time as our “quiet time”activity.  However, every time I’ve offered this type of opportunity with books as our sole souce of reading material I find myself battling at least half of my students who proclaim readily and consistently that they hate reading.

Due to this assignment,  I was able to come up with the following plan for incorporating RSS feeds into my classroom’s daily routine.  The first ten minutes of my 90 minute ELA block will be spent reading RSS feeds Monday through Thursday of a full week using my classroom set of iPads.  On Friday the students will work in groups to showcase their notes from the feeds they read throughout the week.  Allowing the students some choice in what they read during this independent reading time coupled with the novelty of doing so using technology will help student engagement and hopefully encourage those who steadfastly declare they hate reading to see that it can be as dynamic of an experience as they want it to be and above all, enjoyable.

Below I’ve outlined three ways that I could incorporate RSS feeds into this plan of “quiet time”.

RSS Integration #1 – Connecting Students to the Outside World

For as connected as my students may be to each other and pop culture through social media, they are seemingly clueless to what is actually going on in their world.  Current events that do not involve their favorite celebrity are not of any importance to them.  Often times because of this disconnectedness they struggle to make connections to our texts on anything deeper than a superficial level.  To combat this and help create opportunity for to text to text, text to self and text to world connections that we make when reading our novels I would introduce them to RSS news feeds as described in the following example.

Example Activity: Current Event Connection

On “Current Event Connection” days the RSS feeds my students will have as options include those such as CNN student news, National Geographic News, or Time.  For quiet time, as outlined above, they will be free to access the day’s content for these webpages.  They can browse all offered feeds until they find an article or video of current event news that interests them.  After reading their article they will reflect upon their reading/viewing and record text to text, text to self, or text to world connections in their notes or graphic organizer. These connections could then be discussed in a partner, group, or whole class setting as transition from quiet time into the day’s activities or at the culmination of the week for a formative assessment of student progress regarding this skill.   This will support non fiction reading standards as well as speaking/listening standards.

RSS Integration #2 – Support of the Arts and Social Sciences

Writing and math are constant areas of professional development within my building.  We are a low-income district and these two content areas are those that our students struggle with the most.  Many of our students lose out on the chance to take arts based or social sciences because of additional academic support classes that fill up their schedule.   Also, because of our focus on catching students up in writing and math we do not get a chance to address ways that we could extend or connect our ELA classroom activities to the arts or social sciences.  With this activity students would be introduced to photographs, history, and distant locations with the task of making claims backed with evidence from their daily RSS reading.  This activity not only helps to build background for the other content areas mentioned but it also gives those students who do not get a chance to be in such classes a little bit of exposure to such subject matters.  In addition to broadening the students horizons in the arts, this activity does so while allowing opportunity for students to strengthen their argument writing.

Example Activity: Exploration

Days themed as “exploration” days for quiet time will feature RSS options such as National Geographic Picture of the Day, On Today in History, or CNN travel.  Students will browse through these feeds looking for an image, historical fact, or destination to analyze.  The students will make claims about a photo or travel destination and support their claims with facts from the photo or article. If they elect to read about the day’s event in history they will analyze the connection between a historical event to one in our current time period, again making and supporting a claim using details from their exploration.  This will again support non fiction reading standards in addition to writing standards.  

RSS Integration #3 – Sparking Student Interest – Non Fiction Personal Narratives and Human Interest Stories

Narrative writing has taken a back seat with our current push for students to be able to produce quality informational and argumentative writing.  However, narratives still hold great value for our students.  They present information to the students in an accessible and often entertaining way.  When we can find ways to merge the content of information or argument writing into a narrative form we can create an even more powerful communication vehicle for our students to demonstrate their mastery of a concept while strengthening their writing skills.  We can not ask students to make this transfer if they do not understand the simple elements of a narrative piece of writing.  The following two RSS feeds are great for telling a story that will engage students.   

Example Activity: What’s the Story?

“What’s the Story?” days will support our year-long learning theme that everyone has a story, which we explore through our fiction novels.  On this day students will have the options of visiting The Humans of New York RSS feed or Ripley’s Believe It or Not feed. They will read through a featured story of choice and record the who, what, when, why, where, and how of a piece. Depending on the length of story featured a plot diagram could be an incorporated task here as well as identification of author’s purpose or author’s bias.  Though the stories presented in Ripley’s do not always follow narrative form and tend to lend themselves more to informational writing, they still feature facts about someone that sets that person apart from others. It would be natural extension opportunity for students to identify the: who, what, when, why, where, and how of a Ripley’s story then transfer it into a narrative from that person’s perspective. Synthesizing informative writing into a narrative vehicle showcasing their understanding of the key details of an article.   This day’s tasks will support reading non fiction standards and again writing standards.

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