Monday, August 31, 2009

How Twitter Helps ESL Students Learn

Besides advertising for ESL students online and my ESL blog and websites, I must admit that I'm a bit behind with all the social networking opportunities on the web. However, there is no doubt that English learning opportunities abound with the world wide web.

Here's a post by guest author Donna Scott on ways to use Twitter to help ESL students learn.

Donna Scott writes:

Twitter isn't just for bloggers or niche networking: it's also a great educational tool. From sharing links and study materials during your off time to encouraging students to keep up the conversation outside of class, Twitter has unlimited potential for learning. ESL teachers can turn to the microblogging platform for word games, quizzes, contests and vocabulary challenges. Here are different ways Twitter can help your ESL students learn more effectively.

  • Students can't go over 140 characters. This fundamental rule challenges students to use the phrases, vocabulary words and abbreviations that allow for the character restriction.

  • Extra space for learning materials. On Twitter, you can link to supplemental online education materials, upload videos and photos, and add music to your posts so that your students can continue learning even after class is over.

  • Set up private groups. There are lots of ways to create groups on Twitter, allowing you and your students to play word games and talk about assignments in a shared space that's also private from the general public.

  • It forces them to become a part of the greater conversation. Connect your ESL students with native English speakers by encouraging them to follow celebrities, news feeds, and industry insiders from the subjects they like to follow.

  • Track words. With Twitter, you can track words to find out all of the conversations that incorporate that word or key phrase. This is an excellent exercise for ESL students, as you can show them all the different meanings of a word.

  • It provides a central place for messages and announcements. If your class or school doesn't have a website or a private spot for you to make announcements online, Twitter is great for sending direct messages to your students and giving them free access to chats, extra material, and more.

  • Use polls: Ask your student to participate in Twitter polls (Poll Daddy has a Twitter feed, for example) to get feedback from them about lessons.

  • Create group stories. One student will start writing a 140-character story, and each student will take turns writing the next "chapter."
This post was contributed by Donna Scott of She welcomes your feedback at DonnaScott9929 at

Please let me know your thoughts on this article or if you have any other suggestions for how to use social media to teach ESL to adults.--Thanks, Debra


Allison said...

Great ideas in this post.

Since I am a Spanish instructor, I changed my Facebook language to Spanish and I suggest my students do that as well. It's great exposure and a good communicative exercise, ie reading ads and other Spanish text.

Carissa Peck said...

Hey Allison I do the same thing! I am a Spanish learner (ESL teacher) but I find that having my facebook in Spanish helps for the reflexive.

I also like using twitter as a sort of lazy man's class page. I update the syllabus, post tips for the test, reminders about projects due dates etc. It works well, sometimes stduents even re-tweet to remind one another