If you are like me, you are constantly battling your students to get information out of them in terms of sharing their thoughts and ideas. However, if you checked their cell phones or their Facebook accounts, you would probably find out they have lots of thoughts and are not as "shy" as they appear in class discussions. Rather than spying into your student's inner thoughts, there is a neat tool that can help open that door up a bit. If you go to http://www.todaysmeet.com/ you can create a chat room on the fly. When you go to the site you will be prompted to create a name for your room as well as a time duration. You will then get a url right when you create the room that you can post on your website or physically give to your students. It is nice also, to put a limit on the chat room so that it will close when you are done using it for class.
Now that you have created this quick chat room you can use it in your classroom. For example, when students are watching those amazing History Channel clips, you can have them post thoughts and chat about what they are watching. This is better than them sitting trying to stay awake, and more stimulating that writing on a photocopied worksheet. Another idea could be to have students chatting while reading a novel or set up a collaborative project chatting about a topic with students in another school, state, or country! Bottom line it is a simple and easy way to have students share their thoughts in an environment that they are increasingly more comfortable with.