Texting in the Classroom??? (yes, it has a place!)

by Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed.

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Cell phones are everywhere…probably 95% of our students carry them (yes, even the little ones), and teachers are struggling to control the use of phones in the short time we have with our students. But instead of spinning our wheels by making the phones taboo, why not give in to them and embrace them as a new way of reaching our students?

IDEA ONE: Spelling List
One way is to use texting with weekly spelling lists. I’ve adapted R. Lynnette’s original idea into a math/spelling combo where the students “spell” the word on a telephone keypad as if they were texting it. Then I have them add up the value of the word. For example, for a spelling word texting, the corresponding keypad value would be 8398464 and the corresponding sum would be 42. My students enjoy this activity and giggle that I can find a way to bring math into any subject! Additionally, the spelling words could easily be adapted to any grade level, and you could use multiplication instead of addition for the math portion. If I were to choose to collect this for a grade, I can quickly see if I’ve got problem spellers or students struggling with the math portion of it. Click here for a printable worksheet version of this activity.

IDEA TWO: Spelling Modification for Struggling and Advanced Students
For struggling students, I might pair them up with a partner or give them a spelling list that’s more appropriate for them. For my challenge students, I usually include several bonus words for the week, and I might pick a ‘target’ number for the week and challenge them to use the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division to get to that target number. For example, let’s say I have a target number of 76. Using the word texting, the value of is 8398464, so you could hit target number this way:  (8 × 3 + 9 – 8) × 4 – (6 × 4). You could vary this by using square roots, any order, only addition/subtraction…whatever makes the most sense for your classroom.  This is a great way to reinforce those basic math facts!

IDEA THREE: PollEverywhere.com

Another texting option would require each student to have a texting cell phone and be able to use it during class (gasp!). Using polleverywhere.com, you can very easily and quickly set up questions for your students, graphs that are updated real-time, and then be able to download the information to presentation or spreadsheet software. The students would simply text their response to a central number (much like American Idol), the data and graphs are updated as soon as the student hits ‘send,’ and you can display the results on a projector for all to see. The best part:  it’s free! Visit polleverywhere.com for more information. (Thank you to Kathy Shields for this great suggestion!)

So instead of bucking the cellphone and texting trend, why don’t we embrace it as yet another way of connecting with our students so that we can more effectively present knowledge to our students? The students will think U R GR8!

Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed., teaches fifth grade at a private school in Atlanta and works at The School Box at Southlake during the summer months.



Filed under Academic Success, Cooperative Learning, Math, technology

7 responses to “Texting in the Classroom??? (yes, it has a place!)

  1. ecossick

    This idea is pure genius. So often as teachers, we try to fight the latest trends or technologies that our students bring into the classroom. But it’s so much wiser to harness our students’ passions and use them as learning opportunities. GREAT ideas, Kristin!!

  2. Rachel

    I love these ideas! I am continually shocked about how many students have cell phones! Polleverywhere.com seems like an awesome website that could be used in many grades and for many reasons! I feel like giving students the chance to use their cell phones in the classroom will help build relationships between generations.
    Technology is becoming more important and more accesible everyday in today’s society. Children are growing up using technology that needs to be integrated into the classroom. I think teacher’s should embrace new technologies and take the time to learn how to use such technologies in their classroom.

  3. Jackie Helm

    Great ideas. And THANK YOU for the printable work sheet! That makes it that much easier.
    Also, thanks for the website. I can use that other places as well.
    My only caveat is I would not “require” students to have a cell phone. There are those students who don’t have one & whose parents don’t want them to have one. If a student doesn’t have a cell … no problem, they can vote using a friend’s phone. (As long as the site allows multiple votes from the same number.)

  4. What a timely article! I’m taking a summer class on how to use the ‘newest’ technology in the classroom. I love idea one: texting the spelling words. I teach 3rd grade and I usually have 4-5 students who bring their cell phones every day. This activity would be a great center idea. I could have students who have cell phones text each other the words. I also have at home old phones…I could bring those in for students who do not have phones. (Recycle!) Students would not be able to actually text, but at least they would have the phone in their hands to use for the keypad values. :) Thanks Kristin for the worksheet.
    Thanks for the link for polleverywhere.com. I’m teaching graphing at the beginning of the year and this site is going to be in my lesson plans.

  5. Jason

    I am always looking for ways to bring technology into the classroom. I think students are more engaged in learning when technology is involved because they are used to interacting with technology in their daily lives. I really appreciate the worksheets and websites that you have given for resources… this will definitely keep me organized! Also, the websites and worksheets are easy to share with my team members and coworkers.
    I think another way to bring technology into the classroom is using chats, wikis, and forums for students to discuss what they are learning and to share what they have learned. Most of my students know more about this than I do!
    Thanks for the great ideas!

  6. Isabel Hernandez

    This was a great read! Thank you so much for writing this article. I am a brand new teacher as of fall 2010 and i’m so excited!

  7. elizabeth

    Thanks, once again, for the great comments and discussion! The comment winner for this post is Jason. (Good luck on your first year, Isabel!)