Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Texting for Literacy!

Cell phones are a terrific tool to support student engagement and achievement in reading and writing. In fact, “Children who are heavy users of mobile phone text abbreviations... are unlikely to be problem spellers and readers, a new study funded by the British Academy has found. The research*, carried out on a sample of 8-12 year olds over an academic year, revealed that levels of “textism” use could even be used to predict reading ability and phonological awareness in each pupil by the end of the year.” (Plester & Wood, 2009). Also, “…a new study from California State University researchers has found that texting can improve teens’ writing in informal essays and many other writing assignments” (Miners, 2009). In this section we’ll explain how teachers doing just that by using cell phones in the way they are most commonly used among youth -- for texting and group texting.
Our students are reading and writing more than ever. In the 21st century, this reading and writing often takes place through the lightening fast thumbs of teens. Although some parents and teachers complain that text messaging is ruining the language, research is showing that it is, in fact, a benefit to students phonemic awareness, spelling, and use of words (Yarmey, 2011; Plester & Wood, 2008, Malson & Tarica, 2011; Fresco, 2005; Dunnewind, 2003; Miners, 2009; McCarroll, 2005; Elder, 2009). When we rethink and revision what is happening when our teens and tweens text, all sorts of learning possibilities emerge.

Ideas for the Classroom
Texting has become the shorthand of the 21st century. When writing first drafts, allow students to draft on their phone or laptop if they choose and use text abbreviations to get their thoughts down. Encouraging the quick, free flow of ideas in a format they prefer can help young writers capture, compile, and create new ideas. These can be translated as they edit and revise resulting in a final draft that is written in standard language.
Translate difficult passages of poetry, classic literature, or even content heavy textbook passages into textese in order to aid students interactions with the material and understanding. The result is great summaries.
Have students use texting to journal or answer each other’s discussion questions. When the audience changes to others then their peers, have them use standard English, which educates about writing for a particular audience.
Text Talk: Biology
"I never see this with hands," is not an uncommon response when teachers see all the text messages received when asking students to text in answers like meanings of words, phrases, concepts, intent, etc. Texting has increased student's confidence and allowed them to participate without embarrassment.

Group Texting
Through the ease and time saving means of group texting, educators can connect with groups of students for many literacy activities such as vocabulary development, questions about assigned readings, polls, or summaries. Tools like Celly (http://cel.ly) provide a code for students to text in and become part of a group, no personal numbers are shared. All texts sent and received are documented on the website. This adds structure and documentation to communicating with students through the reading and writing of text messages.

Ideas for the Classroom
To encourage homework reading, a teacher sends out a critical thinking question to the students in the evening and reads their responses the next day (phone or computer) and records grades.
Put students in cooperative learning groups and have them interact and discuss questions through an open group chat. The teacher then reads the chats within the Celly site. The teacher gets to be a part of every group and every student has a voice.
Have students set up a Celly for themselves and use the @me feature for easily taking notes, writing questions, or making connections while reading at school or on the go.

Text Talk
Teachers know the benefits of cues and questions to activate prior knowledge, in school, however, class time is short. This can leave little time to cue students, ask questions, or discuss prior knowledge. Unfortunately, there is often little to no wait time. With the introduction of free group texting services, this can change. A teacher can group text for a cue or a question before school to morning classes and at lunch to afternoon classes. This can really help students come to class aware of the lesson content and ready to learn more while making learning time as efficient as possible.


Dunnewind, S. (2003, April 29). Generation text: Teens ‘IM lingo evolving into a hybrid language. Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. Retrieved from http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20030412&slug=immain12

Elder, J. (2009, October 27). Teachers putting texting to use. Charlotte Observer. Retrieved from www.newsobserver.com/2009/10/27/159701/teachers-putting-texting-to-use.html

Fresco, A. (2005, October 31). Texting teenagers are proving “more literate than ever before.” The Times. Retrieved from www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/article584810.ece

Malson, G. & Tarica, E. (2011). Textese gr8 training 4 poets of 2moro. Retrieved from http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/digital-living/5606638/Textese-gr8-training-4-poets-of-2moro

McCarroll, C. (2005, March 11). Teens ready to prove text-messaging skills can score SAT points. Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved from www.csmonitor.com/2005/0311/p01s02-ussc.html

Miners, Z. (2009, October 29). Could texting be good for students? [Web log post] U.S. News. Retrieved from www.usnews.com/blogs/on-education/2009/10/29

Patton, G. (2010). Children 'more likely to own a mobile phone than a book'. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/7763811/Children-more-likely-to-own-a-mobile-phone-than-a-book.html

Plester, B. & Wood, C. (2009). Exploring relationships between traditional and new media literacies: British preteen
texters at school. Retrieved from http://www.britac.ac.uk/news/news.cfm/newsid/14

Yarmey, K. (2011). Student information literacy in the mobile environment. Education Quarterly. Vol 34 No.1. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Quarterly/EDUCAUSEQuarterlyMagazineVolum/StudentInformationLiteracyinth/225860


  1. When the audience changes to others then their peers, have them use standard English, which educates about writing for a particular audience.