Twitter in ELT: Teaching ideas for using Twitter

20-May-2013

Using Twitter in an ELT classroom strikes me as being a particularly interesting concept. While the idea of condensing messages into 140 character bursts may seem at odds with supporting linguistic development, viewed another way, Twitter can be a great tool for facilitating communication and encouraging use of English in a real-life context. This particular article on using Twitter to support learning offers some guidance on using the social network – worth bearing in mind for educators interested in evaluating Twitter for their own teaching purposes.

The most effective uses I’ve come across for including Twitter in teaching have been simple ideas which take a more light-hearted approach to making use of the social network. So to simplify things even further, here are just a few suggestions and practical activities you can try out with your own class to see if Twitter works for you.

1) Keep the discussion going

Learning doesn’t end as soon as you leave class, as students will naturally discuss amongst themselves topics covered once they’ve left the confines of the classroom.  Naturally it makes sense for students to have an informal space where they can continue the discussion and seek guidance when they need to, and Twitter can be great for this. Create a unique hashtag for your class and encourage them to share with you and their fellow students any feedback, questions or additional resources which may be of interest. Tweeting assignment reminders or supplementary materials can also help reinforce the link between learning in class and the real world.

2) Learn a new word

Since everything happens in real-time on Twitter, the platform can be used to help students see how language is used in real-life as well as develop an understanding of colloquial and topical terminology.

As a quick activity or discussion point, give your students an unfamiliar word and ask them to search for it on Twitter to see what they can find out about the particular context of the word and examples of its use. To avoid an excessive amount of noise, try choosing words which are less commonplace. Why not try searching the latest Macmillan Dictionary BuzzWord for instance and then discussing in class the dictionary definition as a group?

3) Track topical events

Trends on Twitter can often (but not always) be a useful indicator of what’s happening in the outside world. Try getting students to follow a topical #hashtag to put together a short presentation about a current event. It may be interesting to give groups of students different twitter accounts related to the same news item to follow. Ask them to feedback to the class the particular opinions of that person.

4) Correct your grammar

Like anything on the internet, Twitter is abundant with grammatical inaccuracies. Rather than seeing this as a reason to avoid Twitter, why not use it to your teaching advantage? Ask students to each pick out an example of a grammar mistake they’ve spotted on their Twitter feed and get them to feedback in class what the error is and how they would correct it. If you can get them to do it in less than 140 characters then all the better!

5) Create a story

There are plenty of apps which allow you to do whizzy things on social media and one that I particularly like is Storify. This allows you to collect media across the different social networks and apply your own narrative to your story, which you can then share with others. Whether you want to use it to share collections of resources with your students with additional guidance, or as a class project to encourage them to build their own narrative, Storify offers an interesting way to organise information from sites like Twitter into what matters to your class. Best of all it’s free to use.

Julie

 

 

 

Read more top Twitter tips in the posts below:

Twitter in ELT: Introduction

Do’s and don’ts: An etiquette guide to Twitter

Twitter as a professional tool

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