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Instructional Strategies and Lessons for Instagram and Snapchat in the Classroom for 2019 and 2020

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JIGSAW, ROLE-PLAYING, and GEOCACHE…OH MY! Using Instagram to Boost your Mediocre Lessons!

Okay let’s face it. You have either been teaching the same lesson for years to the point that you know it inside and out and it’s now just dry and boring. Or, perhaps, you are brand-new teacher looking to WOW the kids.

Here’s a tip. Take one of your old lessons you have been using, and try adding some social media fun to it! You say, wait a minute. Hold on. You mean trying a new lesson outside of the instructional technology given to us by our school? My answer is yes.

We are always encouraging kids to think outside of the box, then why aren’t we? Make learning come alive!

What Are the Top Three Social Media Sites Used by Kids?

Granted your school policy, parent consent, and administration allows, why not use a platform that kids spend hours a day on? Pew Research Center (Anderson & Jiang, 2018) found that the top three most popular social media platforms for teenagers in the age group 13 – 17 years were as follows: YouTube (85%), Instagram (72%), and Snapchat (69%). To my surprise, Facebook only came it at 59% and Twitter at 32%.

As a matter of fact, most kids these days are addicted to the internet or social media apps such as Instagram and Snapchat. Simsek, et. al. (2019) found that both high school and university students are moderately addicted to social media spending on average two hours per day. In many are oblivious to the dangers that can await them on the Internet or the apps.

A site that compiles social media data from multiple sources is GuardChild (2019), and according to many of the statistics they share, kids have been a victim to predators, bullying, or are not aware of the dangers of Internet in social apps. Many kids don’t even know how to appropriately use these apps to create a positive digital reputation.

So you’re thinking, wait a minute, hold on here. Are you suggesting that we use social media, such as Instagram, in our classroom lessons? The same apps these kids may be addicted to? No way! Why encourage these kids to use an app I can hardly get them away from and focus on learning?

One Point to You!

Okay, yes, you are correct. Give yourself a point. One major point. However, consider this. Within your lesson, within your classroom you have the ability to teach them appropriate use, conversations, and safety…all while keeping them engaged! You can talk to them within your lesson about the difference between reality and addiction to the “likes”. Or the difference between authentic internet sites that give real data, and fake information. They’re in a controlled environment in your classroom where you have an opportunity to teach them about Internet and app safety and make a difference!

As a matter of fact it’s a prime interdisciplinary lesson to take content and integrate digital citizenship and safety. When you combine those two with a social media app and the Internet you have the ability to provide a safe, engaging, and effective lesson. Most social media apps have a minimum age limit of 13 years old. Why not teach them as early as we possibly can?

Where do I start? What is the interdisciplinary lesson to integrate social media and content?

Let’s take US history as an example (you can use this with any other country’s history). More specifically, we will set the stage by drilling down to a specific era, such as the Revolutionary war. Keep in mind, we want to keep the fundamental parts of our lesson such as objectives and outcomes, essential questions, materials, lesson strategies, directions, and demonstration of learning.

We also want to make sure we have the content piece, the social media piece, and the pedagogy piece so that students are engaged in deeper learning.

The content piece is where we are going to adhere to our state standards or national standards and pick historical facts. The engaging and independent learning part of this is the jigsaw. The interdisciplinary part of the content piece is the ability to teach students about authentic historical sites that will give real historical information. Here is where we can steer them away from incorrect information or rumors.

The role-playing piece is about teaching internet and Instagram “safety” and appropriate use.

The pedagogy part ties the content and role-playing together in a game of geocaching.

Remember, the goal is to teach the kids how to obtain content and share it in a safe and appropriate manner. This activity released the learning to the students and moves you away from the ‘sage on the stage’ making the learning more student independent and engaging.


Title: Instagram (or Snapchat) Revolutionary War Village

Objective: To create a comprehensive, finished timeline of critical events leading up to the Revolutionary War.

Suggested Essential Questions:

  • How did the roles of historical figures lead up to and impact the outcome of the Revolutionary war? (Content in standards)
  • How are we able to use technology safely, appropriately, and effectively to ensure a positive digital reputation and social presence? (digital citizenship)

Materials: laptop, access to Internet, smart phones, organized folder with a list of Instagram accounts and names from the classroom, graphic organizers, email account (to use for Instagram)

Lesson Strategies:

  • Jigsaw Strategy (Purpose: to obtain historical content facts aligned to your state or country standards)
  • Virtual Geocaching (Purpose: to hunt for clues and facts on Instagram about other historical figures and their roles and impacts)
  • Role-playing (Purpose: to “become” that historical figure using facts and social media)


Instructional Directions and Setup:

  • Give the students the objective and essential questions!
  • Establish the setting: Ask students…if you lived between 1770 and 1776 in what is now the US, what significant events occurred in your home town that led up to the Revolutionary war? What did it look like, smell like, sound like? (follow your state or country standards here).
    • Have students imagine themselves as a character living back during that era and all happened to meet in the same village (this sets up the virtual role-playing on Instagram). Their job is to research what role their historical figure contributed to events leading up to the Revolutionary War.
  • Have student work in small groups (2-4 students depending on class size) to think about questions they want to ask other historical figures so they can collect information and clues to put the final timeline together of the event and get to the objective and essential questions.
  • Have students share one or two questions they came up with to the class to get everyone rolling.

Step 1: Jigsaw Strategy: Research Historical Figures during the Revolutionary War using Authentic Sites

  • Create small groups of 2-4 students; each group gets a historical figure to research
  • Either assign or let them research historical figures pertinent to the events of War such as Abigail Adams, Crispus Attucks, Thomas Jefferson, Paul Revere, Betsy Ross, etc. (you may want to approve them before they proceed)
  • Content Connection: Research facts, events, roles related to learning standards
  • Internet Connection: Distinguish between authentic, fact-based sites vs rumors or fake information

Step 2: Role-Playing: Students create an Instagram account of a historical person that they will use to “follow” other historical people in a village (their classmates) and ask them questions to seek answers

  • Set up an Instagram Account. Students will need to use an email to get an account
  • Create a profile picture of what the historical figure may have looked like (careful of copyright laws), or draw a picture
  • Content Connection: Add historical facts, pictures, and information to profile, posts, etc. that meet the standards from Step 1
  • Social Media Safety Connection:
    • Be careful of Plagiarism and Copyright laws! What a great way to talk about not copying information directly without quoting and posting a reference; rewording what they post from content they read; not infringe on Copyright laws associated with content or pictures/photos!
    • Go over the components of setting up an Instagram account. Discuss what information is appropriate and safe to add to profile and posts using their historical figure as an example (great opportunity to have conversations about what information is private, what is ok to leave blank, what not to post, etc.).
    • Ask: What would they NOT want to have posted about them?
    • Students can use this Instagram account to continue to add clues and facts about historical events this figure was a part of during the events that led up to Revolutionary War on their Instagram page that other villagers can see.

Step 3: Now the fun begins! Virtual Geocaching

  • Have students start “following” their classmates’ historical figures to combine the jigsaw and role-playing. You will need the list of all students’ historical figures to give to the class.
  • Students have already learned about appropriate internet use and safety. Check!
  • Content Connection: After students “follow” each other, have them ask questions over Instagram to gather information from other historical characters so that they can add that to their timeline or graphic organizer
  • Social Media Connection: Let students do what they do on Instagram! They will be taking a virtual field trip around the historical village to collect information from the different people that live in the village during that era. Make sure they are writing down information and collecting it using some type of graphic organizer

Step 4: Circle the Wagons!

  • Once you’ve allowed enough time for the students to collect information from each other’s Instagram posts, bring them back together as a whole class and discuss the information they received.
  • Content Connection: Have the “Abigail Adams” jigsaw experts come to the front of the room and present some general facts to the rest of the class. Maybe students didn’t ask about information they should have asked. Then let students in the class ask questions of them to clarify information they received or fill in gaps.
    • Students should be checking their facts and starting to pull together a timeline (you may need to assist with this). Once the Abigail Adams experts are done, move on to the next historical figure.
  • Social Media Connection: Ask the students how easy or challenging it was to get facts and post them correctly. What challenges did they have in creating a profile or posting to social media for everybody to see? Was information lost in the communication? This is an area of recap for learning about appropriate Internet use and safety.


Step 5: Demonstration of Learning…Assessing What They Know

  • After everyone collects facts, have them check over their graphic organizer to pull together a timeline of events and figures they collected from Instagram and from the jigsaw asked experts
  • If you are looking for a writing assignment, have students write a page or two on each historical figure and how they fit in to the Revolutionary war. Each of these figures could become a chapter of a book with the final chapter being the culmination of the Revolutionary War. Be sure to tie the culminating activity to your essential question and objective. Did you cover all the standards that you needed to so that kids can apply content they learned?
  • For the Internet safety and appropriate use portion, they can either write an essay on what they learned or create a quiz or assessment for them as a culminating assessment

Not only do we need to help students make smart choices, but we need to do it in a manner where they are in control of the information they obtain. This lesson combines content, pedagogy and social media as an interdisciplinary activity.

You can use this lesson setup for other content such as ecosystems scavenger hunts in science, working with students from other international countries to understand diversity and culture, or other subjects that require use of facts!

Let us know how your lesson went! We would like to hear from you! Don’t forget to share this lesson on Facebook or Pinterest with your ideas as well!



Anderson, M. & Jiang, J. (2018). “Teens, Social Media & Technology”. https://www.pewinternet.org/2018/05/31/teens-social-media-technology-2018/

Simsek, A , Elciyar, K , Kizilhan, T . (2019). A Comparative Study on Social Media Addiction of High School and University Students. Contemporary Educational Technology, 10 (2), 106-119. DOI: 10.30935/cet.554452


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