Have they got the point?

How do you know that your students have understood the main message of what you’re aiming to teach them? There are many short activities that teachers employ at the ends of their lessons to check whether the key information or point has really been understood and taken on board by their students.

Here’s a new one I have been trying out recently – with success!

Text messages. SMS. Whatever you want to call them … they are an excellent tool that can be employed quickly and effortlessly at the end of your lessons. Most students these days have a mobile phone, and probably spend a lot of their free time using it. So why not allow them to use it at the end of your class, and actually make them use it in a way that is meaningful for their learning.

Try it: At the end of your lesson, where you have taught some new information, ask your students to send you one SMS text message with their summary of the lesson’s main point. Although many may be using internet-based services which allow them to send longer messages (often for free), limit the message to a standard text message (about 180 characters) to ensure they express themselves concisely.

You can then either read out a couple of the best, or respond individually (probably best if you use a free service for this!) to give feedback. Reading the short messages will give you a good indication of whether your learners have got the point you were trying to teach, and whether you need to re-cap anything in the next lesson.

As a variation, you could pose a quiz-style question which re-caps your lesson’s content and get them to answer it by text message. This is especially helpful for EFL classes – you can pose a question that requires them to use the target language structures in their answer, and then check whether they’re able to use the new language accurately.

And the usefulness of text messages continues… if you are asking your students to write an essay or prepare a presentation and you want to check that they are on the right track, as them to text you the thesis statement or overarching message of their work. This enables you to give feedback where necessary, and also ensures that the learners actually have an overarching thesis for their work!

Nowadays, texting is so quick, easy, and cheap (if not free) – so why not embrace it to enrich your teaching?

Note: You may want to buy a pre-paid SIM card so that you don’t need to give your learners your private phone number. šŸ™‚

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2 thoughts on “Have they got the point?

  1. Fascinating. // I’m thinking about the implications. Why wouldn’t you want to use Twitter? Or a piece of paper? Or an on-line feedback form? And then, there is no signal for O2 customers in the lecture theatre. // But the mobile text approach has benefits: It’s available to everyone (no, there is not one single student w/o a mobile phone). In contrast to Twitter or various on-line services, no registration(s) necessary (except for your 2nd SIM). Half-anonymous posts. // …

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    1. Yes, other methods would probably work well, too, if everyone was signed up. I’ve also used a Facebook group especially set up for the class, but (surprisingly!) not everyone had an FB account, and they weren’t all online often enough to join in discussions effectively. Also, for checking whether they’d got the point it didn’t work as well, because once one person has “said it”, the others just liked the comment/post, so I couldn’t see whether they had all understood independently… Pen & paper also works… but is somehow not as exciting for students as being able to use their mobiles in class!! šŸ™‚

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