Social Media of the Past: Tweeting History

Looking for a way to engage your social media savvy students and broaden their understanding of history? Need a fresh way to discover historical content? Are your students having trouble summarizing their ideas? Use aspects of social media to combine media literacy and disciplinary thinking with the Tweeting History lesson from the Wisconsin Historical Society. Suitable for any grade level 4-12, tweets can be presented in-class, on actual media sites, or internally through services such as Edmodo.

Grade Level
Appropriate for grades 4-12 with teacher modifications.

One class period
Background Knowledge
A “tweet” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a post made on the Twitter online message service.” Tweets are limited to 140 characters (including spaces). Tweets can be words, phrases, pictures, website links, or combinations.

A “hashtag” is defined by Google as “a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.” Hashtags are searchable terms used on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to track conversations, replies, responses, and engagement with fellow users.

Enduring Understanding:
Critical examination of historic visual media combined with modern social media interpretation leads to a greater understanding of the disciplinary literacy methods involved in studying history and the importance of summarization of key ideas.

Essential Questions:
1.      How does evidence support conclusions students draw about the image?
2.      How are relevant statements generated about the past?
3.      What perspective(s) can be illuminated by the study of historic imagery?
4.      How does modern language interpretation lead to greater appreciation of past events?

Performance Task:
Students will find what matters about a historic image and why it matters and relate that understanding in 140 characters or less. The student will create one or more “tweets” that sums up a historical image. Each “tweet” can be up to 140 characters long and should include one or more “hashtags.”

1.      Tweets should include perspective, appearance, historical knowledge, and accuracy.  
2.      Tweeters should be encouraged to use metaphor, simile, sarcasm, irony, humor, and other literary conventions as age-appropriate to fit the genre of social media engagement.
3.      Use of age-appropriate modern slang should be encouraged.
4.      Tweets should be encouraged to follow standard form (illustrated below)
5.      Students will assess each other’s interpretation of the image based on historic accuracy, genre appropriateness, and succinctness.

Resource Materials
Wisconsin Historical Society Images:
Library of Congress:                   
National Archives:                      
Wikimedia Commons:                

Extension for Advanced Readers
Research and develop tweets for historic documents such as the first Wisconsin Constitution, speeches by famous figures, diary entries, journals, newspaper articles, and more.

Additional Resources for Extension
Wisconsin Historical Society Databases and Collections: 


   Lumberjack Joe
            Top 40 Camp Songs: We be jamming, we be jammin’!  Breaking up is hard to do! #can’tfindthekeylog #tweetinghistory

Jean Nicolet
            Meeting the neighbors today! Breaking out the silks and side-arms! #explorersrule #tweetinghistory


Common Core Standards for Writing Grades K-12
Text Types and Purposes*
1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
Production and distribution of Writing
4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
Research to Build and Present Knowledge
7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Range of Writing
10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Wisconsin Model Academic Standards in Social Studies
4th grade
B.4.1 Identify and examine various sources of information that are used for constructing an understanding of the past, such as artifacts, documents, letters, diaries, maps, textbooks, photos, paintings, architecture, oral presentations, graphs, and charts
B.4.4 Compare and contrast changes in contemporary life with life in the past by looking at social, economic, political, and cultural roles played by individuals and groups
8th grade
B.8.1 Interpret the past using a variety of sources, such as biographies, diaries, journals, artifacts, eyewitness interviews, and other primary source materials, and evaluate the credibility of sources used
B.8.4 Explain how and why events may be interpreted differently depending upon the perspectives of participants, witnesses, reporters, and historians
12th grade
B.12.2 Analyze primary and secondary sources related to a historical question to evaluate their relevance, make comparisons, integrate new information with prior knowledge, and come to a reasoned conclusion
B.12.4 Assess the validity of different interpretations of significant historical events

Common Core Standards for Literacy in All Subjects

Key Ideas and Details
1.      Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
2.      Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
3.      Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Craft and Structure
4.      Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
5.      Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
6.      Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
7.      Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.*
8.      Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
9.      Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity
       Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.