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Tweeting History: A Digital Literacy Lesson

Twitter history digital literacy game
Atomic bomb dropped on
Nagasaki, Japan in 1945.

Charles Levy - Wikimedia Commons


--Creative writing
--U.S. history
--World history
Digital Literacy



Brief Description

Students use history knowledge, critical thinking and digital literacy skills to tweet clues and guess the historical figure, period or event related to those clues.


Students will:

  • Review and gain perspective on key historical events, periods and figures
  • Build digital literacy skills by writing tweets describing historical events, periods and figures
  • Use critical thinking to guess the historical events, periods and figures associated with “clue” tweets


Twitter, history, tweet, digital literacy, critical thinking, creative writing, historical, figures, events, review, game, activity

Materials Needed

  • Teacher/student access to information about historical figures, events and periods
  • Computer or device with Internet access (one for each student; can include BYOD)
  • Class Twitter accounts plus individual Twitter account for each student (alternatives to Twitter also provided)
  • Blackboard, dry-erase board or projection screen for whole-class viewing
  • (Optional) Individual student dry-erase boards, pencils and paper
  • (Optional) Bowl and small slips of paper
  • (Optional) Student prizes

Lesson Plan

This lesson makes a great review activity and can be done in either a single class period or over the course of several weeks (by setting aside a few minutes per class).


First, ensure that all students have created individual Twitter accounts and that each student will have access to an Internet-connected device.

NOTE: For those uncomfortable with using Twitter in the classroom, or for teachers in schools that block access to Twitter, here are some alternatives, all of which are free, and some of which do not require individual accounts: is a quick and easy discussion tool that can be used to set up a chat room in seconds. The room is accessible via a link on the Web. It takes two minutes to set up the room, and it's an easy discussion or brainstorming space for students. is another type of instant chat tool for class discussions. It allows you to create a password-protected virtual chat room. The room is shared with a simple link and can be set up within minutes, even from an iPad. is a very powerful liveblogging tool for classroom discussions that can be logged and stored on your Web site for later viewing. It’s free, and it works on the iPad. Setup for the administrator takes longer because it does require an account, but it gives you the ability to moderate the chat and embed it into a Web site.

Next, decide which historical periods/events/figures will be used. Select ones relevant to what students have been studying in class. In case students guess the answers quickly, have a relatively large number of people and events ready. You may wish to serve as the “quizmaster” who will tweet clues about these people and events. If you decide to add to the challenge by having kids serve as quizmasters, write the people and events on slips of paper and place them in a bowl for random selection by students.

Decide how you’d like students to make their guesses (on paper, on individual dry-erase boards, verbally, etc.) and set rules for participation (raise your hand to share your guess, no shouting out guesses, etc.). Also decide if you will award prizes to winners. (Consider awarding prizes both for correct guesses and for the best or most creative sets of clues, since good clues require deep understanding of history content.)

Then choose one of the following activity options and adapt them to suit the size and climate of your class:

  1. The teacher tweets clues, and the entire class guesses. Add a level of collaboration by having students form teams. First student or team to guess correctly wins.
  2. Students are divided into teams of three or four, and each team gets a chance to tweet clues, based on the historical figure, event or period the team selects from the bowl. (Teams should make sure to show the teacher the correct answer before they begin tweeting clues about it.) During each game, the remaining students (they also can be divided into teams if you like) guess. First student or team to guess correctly wins.

Next, create a hashtag for each game. You may want to use a numbering system to keep track of them. (An example hashtag for guessing game #1 in Mr. Cameron’s class at George Washington High would be #MrCameronGWH1.)

It is important to remember that these hashtags will be public. As such, when students begin using them, their friends will be able to see them. It is unlikely that the hashtags will be trolled, since this activity would be public. You will, however, want to monitor them. Since Twitter can open the door to distractions, you’ll also want to keep an eye on students to ensure that they remain on task during the lesson.

If you are using an alternative to Twitter, simply set up a chat room on your chosen platform and provide the link to students. Within the chat, make it clear where a new game begins by entering GAME 1, GAME 2, etc. into the conversation at appropriate points.


Explain to students that Twitter has changed the way people communicate today. But what if this technology had existed in the past? Imagine Colonial Americans tweeting about their lives, or think about what the Twitter feed of someone like Napoleon might have looked like. How many followers would Socrates have amassed? Let’s use our history knowledge, digital literacy skills and imaginations to explore famous people and events from the past.

Divide students into teams as needed, get everyone logged in and describe how the game will proceed. If applicable, provide the list of hashtags on a dry-erase board or projection screen. Make sure to erase already-used hashtags as the games proceed, so that students can always see the most current one. If you’re using alternatives to Twitter: These platforms will not place a 140-character limit on the length of clues, so remind quizmaster students to keep their clues brief.

Prior to playing, it might be helpful to run through a few examples with students. If students will be providing clues, remind them that their clues should be neither too easy nor too hard, and have them do planning on paper prior to beginning the game. Decide whether you will allow students to use textbooks or other sources in order to plan their clues. Let guessing students know whether they will be allowed to send inquiring tweets (requests for “hints”) to the quizmaster(s) during the game.

Here are a few sample clues and answers:


  • Historical figure: I am a famously conservative politician.
  • Historical figure: I am NOT a fan of labor unions.
  • Historical figure: My strong leadership style earned me a special nickname.
  • Historical figure: My heyday was in the 1980s.
  • Historical figure: I am British.

Answer: The late former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher


  • Historical event: Major aggression in 1945
  • Historical event: Happened after the Potsdam Declaration was ignored
  • Historical event: Viewed as “an awful responsibility which has come to us...We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies.”
  • Historical event: The only use of this type of weapon in war to date
  • Historical event: Made possible by the Manhattan Project

Answer: U.S. dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan at the end of WWII

Once the games are underway, keep track of scores and winners on a blackboard, dry-erase board or projection screen and award prizes accordingly.



This activity offers a fun, informal end-of-class or end-of-unit formative assessment to check for student understanding. You may leave the activity ungraded and use it simply for motivation and engagement, or you may choose to grade students on the creativity and accuracy of their tweets, as well as their success in identifying historical figures, time periods or events based on the clues provided.

Lesson Plan Source


Submitted By

Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor

National Standards

Language Arts
Grades K-12
NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.5 Communication Strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.6 Applying Knowledge


Grades 5-12
NSS-WH.5-12.6 Emergence of the First Global Age
NSS-WH.5-12.7 Age of Revolutions
NSS-WH.5-12.8 Half a Century of Crisis and Achievement

Grades 5-12
NSS-USH.5-12.2 (1585-1763)
NSS-USH.5-12.3 (1754-1820s)
NSS-USH.5-12.4  (1801-1861)
NSS-USH.5-12.5 (1850-1877)
NSS-USH.5-12.6 (1870-1900)
NSS-USH.5-12.7  (1890-1930)

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Updated: 01/20/2015