Title; Using Text Messages with ESOL students – Part 1 - Homework Author Chris Speck Institution Hull College Academic year 2009-10 Keywords ESOL, text messages, mobile phones Technologies Janet text messaging service, students own mobile phones Main subject area ESOL Main level Entry 3 – Level 1 Introduction and overview A lot of students have mobile phones and as teachers, we often wrestle with how to get them to turn them off in class (although I’ve stopped bothering now). But what if we could use them as teaching tools to deliver content and get responses from our students?' - I'm tired of reading and writing this kind of thing and was pleased to finally get to using text messages to teach rather than talking about it. Aims To get students to read text messages from their mobile phone and develop their inner voice in English. (!) Addressing the challenge We signed up for an account with www.pageone.co.uk they specialise in all sorts of communications to do with texting and have a great service for education. Once we were set up, the interface was easy to use and also allowed us to schedule text messages we wanted to send. One constraint was that the maximum length for one text message is 107 characters. The most obvious thing is to send students their homework using text messages. You could text them an essay title or a question for them to answer in writing but this could just as easily be done in the classroom. Text messages are much more personal, a phone is something you carry around with you all the time and when someone sends you a message you read it straight away if you can. You might be sitting on a bus or having your lunch or even sitting in class. What I wanted to do with these ‘Think texts’ was get students to have a kind in internal dialogue and get ready to tell themselves and other students about it. I explained to my students that I was going to send them a text and here is the first one I sent on a Sunday evening, as their homework for the next day.
‘Think about the last time you told a lie. Tell yourself the story in English. You'll tell the class about it tomorrow.’ This may seem a bit quirky – asking students to talk to themselves - and it might be worth pointing out that students can do this silently in their heads. This idea of a student developing their inner voice is something discussed and explained by writer and materials developer Brian Tomlinson, among his many books (click here for a list) you can find reference on how to develop this in second language learners. Brian also explains this theory very clearly in the The Journal of Imagination in Language Learning and Teaching which you can read online. Outcomes and reactions Impact on teaching and learning This helps students plan what they are going to say and organise their thoughts, it will certainly help students preparing for their speaking and listening exams and also allow them to get better at planning for or giving presentations. Learners’ reactions Of those who had 'done' their homework, there were mixed responses, students who had thought about the question came up with lucid answers and this generated a good discussion on 'white lies'. Students were clearly motivated by texts and did feel that the opportunity to the 'think' rather than write an answer was useful for their English. Here are some more 'think texts' I sent to students **Think about the best things about your country. Explain them to yourself in English. You'll tell the class about it tomorrow.** **Think about the most important person in your life and why they are/were important. Describe them to yourself in English. You'll tell your partner about it tomorrow.** **Think about your ambitions. Explain what you hope to do in the future to yourself in English. You'll tell the class about them tomorrow.** Teachers’ reactions - It was pretty easy to set up the pageone text service and easy to develop the questions. - What took a bit of time was explaining to students that they had to talk to themselves in their own heads! Lessons learned - Text messages are a good way to contact students and get them to do homework when they otherwise wouldn’t do so. Doing this type of homework doesn’t require students to do anything other than think, and they could do this while driving or on a
bus or even at work. Next steps - More varied text messages - More use of text messages to deliver ideas and homework. Links http://www.moletv.org.uk/watch.aspx?v=Q7TG7 http://chrisspeck.wordpress.com/