Ben Biggins an imaginary twitter friend

Something that started as a quick idea to get out of a sticky planning spot quickly became probably the most engaging thing I’ve set up for the children in my short time in Year 1. Now that might be because I’m not the Year 1 teacher that I want to be yet or it might be because the topic of this post captured the children’s interest. Namely Ben Biggins. An story available on Knowledgebox Online, where a boy with little manners keeps asking for various things to eat and being told by different family members to say please. Whilst there is nothing wrong with the story, it’s not the most inspiring of tales but it fitted with our learning in terms of repetition and focus.

I needed to extend the story for a week or so beyond altering lines, changing types of food, who said what etc so I thought, why not create a Twitter Ben Biggins account and set up some tweets for the children to respond to, developing their understanding of E-Safety, social skills and writing. Over the course of a week I used http://futuretweets.com to set up some automatic tweets from Ben Biggins demanding he be fed with tasty morsels. The class through shared writing and then independently wrote Twitter replies on strips of paper to Ben. We discussed how we should reply and gave a framework for our responses. The children seemed captivated by the fact that at the start of the lesson Ben would tweet, we would tweet our reply (overseen by me) and by the end of the lesson or later that day, he would reply. Unsurprisingly, Ben mellowed towards the end of the week as some of our writing added in adjectives and the children loved that at the end of the week we had convinced him to eat his peas and carrots and improve his manners. Several children were asking if they could reply to Ben during their playtime, always a good measure of how engaged and excited they are in their learning.

I even had a parent who was given the impression by their child that there was a new child in our class with very bad manners! A quick word with the parent and when I got home the same day I saw that they had actually started following Ben Biggins on twitter, continuing the myth and getting excited with their child.

In reflection, the writing the children produced was of a high standard, they had a purpose to their writing and I actually think twitter or no twitter, it is the purpose and audience that was key in their enthusiasm… using twitter to create an imaginary friend just heightened this to a mild fervour and made finding a purpose and audience easier!

(I have since deactivated the Ben Biggins account as it has fulfilled its purpose).


Originally published at primarypete.net on October 17, 2010.