Thursday, August 25, 2011

Grammar in ConTEXT: Text Messaging to Teach Mechanics

Like many other schools in many other places, our students tend to struggle with mechanics.  And we, as teachers, struggle with how to make that learning relevant and useful for them.  Well, now that our personal device policy has changed, maybe we could try teaching some mechanics using text messaging.

If you haven't seen wiffiti, it's a free online "screen" that you can create for posting text messages. I've experimented with it, and I think it's got some potential, especially for grabbing some kids that might be a bit harder to reach. Thoughts I had . . .
  • What if, for homework, we had kids text a sentence to a wiffiti screen using something we talked about in class?

  • What if, on the next day of class, we could project the wiffiti screen onto a whiteboard and take a look at the sentences everyone sent?

  • What if we could have kids "re-text" sentences if they needed to fix something? Or suggest a fix for someone else's sentence?

  • What if we could actually teach kids to differentiate their own texting language based on audience or purpose?


One thing that people mention when talking about projecting texted info. is the potential for someone to post something inappropriate. While Wiffiti doesn't have much for the classroom teacher for this, another option will be PollEverywhere.com, which also allows kids to use cellphones as a clicker. We are in the process of getting our SHHS account built, and that will give us some moderation and/or management control.

I hear a lot of teachers talking about how kids will use "textspeak" for academic assignments. Bad pun alert: let's put the text into context. If we could use a piece of technology in which they are heavily invested, I think we will see them engage with writing in a totally different way. Putting grammar instruction into the context of texting may yield some interesting results.

One more bonus: kids might actually find out where punctuation symbols are on their phones. Wouldn't it be something if they could learn how to use them?