Whether you love text messaging or hate it, text messaging is an authentic and common mode of communication. Text messaging is a perfect example of using an authentic activity to teach reading and writing skills; it gets students using their second language for specific communicative functions based on real world needs. Here is a look at how texting can be used in the ESL classroom:
Role-Play Texting – ESL Activity
You need to set up a simple situation, which would be relevant to the whole class, describe roles and initiate a text messaging communication to which students must respond. Use the board, a projector or computers, and have students respond to a prompt as if it were in real time. Students could work in pairs first and/or compare their responses to the class prompt to complete a conversation.
For Fluency or Accuracy Work – ESL Activity
This type of task could be used to focus on either accuracy or fluency. For accuracy work, you could work on numerous functions and forms they need to fulfil the functions such as: asking wh or yes/no questions and responses, arranging a meeting, inviting, accepting, declining, agreeing, etc. As a specific example, you could work on prepositions of time and place. Two friends must try to arrange a meeting place in a large shopping mall. They need to use the right prepositions to set up an exact time and location.
You can also do this solely for fluency practice. What is important here is that they are communicating; they are reading, writing and decoding meaning to fulfil communicative functions. As a wrap-up, and to integrate speaking skills, you might have students share their two-way communication for the audience to decide if their exchanges were successful texting sessions or not – and why.
Use of Abbreviations? – ESL Activity
Current research shows that the use of social media is improving reading and writing skills. Research also shows that the use of abbreviations is a type of code and the people who use abbreviations are aware that this code is specific to texting, not a code they would likely use on for example exams. You can choose not to allow students to use abbreviations, or embrace the use – as a specific code. Find out what abbreviations they know and teach each other common abbreviations. What is important here is that they are communicating; they are reading, writing and decoding meaning to communicate.