My eighth graders and I started Avi’s Nothing But the Truth today.

(Aside: I’m really going to be getting into this for a while, so you might as well go read the book, if you haven’t already. It’ll only take you an hour or two.)

And this morning, I thought of a last minute mutation for my “Facebooking” it real time experiment. The notebooks were going to be awkward for sharing, which is sort of the whole idea, so I was trying to think of  an alternative that didn’t involve our IST department. Then I thought of  an old web article I read about teaching kids about webpages and hypertext without using a computer. It involved putting an essay on the bulletin board (written rather larger than life), and then underlining the words that would be “links” and then running a string or whatever from each of those underlined words to another short piece of writing that explicated/expanded on the link word. And then those could be connected (literally) to other such pieces of writing or pictures or other materials.  It was a very groovy way to illustrate the power of hypertext. (That’s what the ht in http stands for.)

Since my bulletin boards are still empty (I don’t really do posters with slogans about perseverance or lists of writing traits or “Good job!” type things; my bulletin boards are saved for end of novel projects, and my walls are all about me), I cleared a footpath to a big section, and set the stapler nearby.

Today, at the end of the period, after we had started the novel, and gotten only to Miss Narwin’s first letter to her sister, I handed out 5×7 index cards, and told one side of the room to write a “Facebook post” about Phillip, based on the few documents we had read so far, and told the other side to post about Miss Narwin, with both sides pretending they were in Miss Narwin’s class with Phillip.

On the bulletin board I stapled two signs; “Phillip” and “Miss Narwin.” I figure I will  add characters as we go along.

“How many of you  (sigh) Facebook? (Too many hands went up, but I guess that’s what I expected.) Well that’s our Facebook wall, old school stylie. Those notecards will be your posts. Always put a subject line, a date, and your name at the top of the ‘post.’ At first I will be the one stapling them to the board in some sort of order, with posts containing similar ideas grouped together. Then we will progress to you guys reading the posts, reading the documents in the book and posting further in the appropriate categories/areas. Eventually, I will ask you to ‘formalize’ some of your ideas into a longer format (blog post?). Sometimes I will give you something specific to respond to in your posts.”

I was literally thinking out loud at this point, but I think I might be on to something. The first round of cards/posts were very illuminating. Some are already leery of Phillip, some actually think he might be cool and funny. Some are sympathetic to, or even already like, Miss Narwin, some already think she should retire. And we’re not even past page 10.

OMG. I couldn’t have asked for a better set up. I can’t wait to start talking about this tomorrow.