If you can’t get your student to stop playing on their phones in the classroom, don’t struggle with it. Embrace it and get students to use their smartphones to learn English in your classroom.

Phones in the classroom are often viewed by those of us who teach as an unwelcome distraction preventing students from paying attention. With the growing popularity and widespread use of smartphones (in China alone there are over seven hundred million smartphone users), maybe it is time we instead embrace the many learning opportunities offered by smartphones in our ESL classrooms.

Read on for five fun ways to use your students’ smartphones to help them learn English.

Reading and Writing with a Smartphone

After your students read a text for gist and then for detail, why not supplement the reading task with a permitted search on their smartphones for unfamiliar words? You could then ask your students to explain the new word to you in their own words. If you are setting a writing task, you could encourage your students to use their smartphones to expand their vocabulary and find synonyms for common words.

Classroom Polling and Multiple Choice

For an alternative way to get your students to participate in answering questions, you could use a program such as ResponseWare or Poll Everywhere to create interactive questionnaires and PowerPoint presentations. These programs enable students to link to your presentation or questionnaire with their smartphones and provide answers through their devices. The answers get processed and displayed in real time on your screen or smartboard.

Smartphone Games in the Classroom

Games are a fun and engaging way to learn a language. There are hundreds of smartphone games dedicated to grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary building. For example, Words with Friends, a smartphone variation on Scrabble and 4 Pics 1 Word offer an entertaining way for your students to learn new words.

Language Teaching Apps

There are thousands of smartphone apps, or applications, dedicated to teaching English. Duolingo is perhaps the most known and is available in a format specifically catered to the classroom called Duolingo for Schools. This version gives you an overview of what activities your students do and how well they perform. Other similar, popular apps include Rosetta Stone Ltd., Memrise and Hello English.

Group Texting

A group chat for your class can be an excellent way to encourage your students to write in English. Programs such as WhatsApp, WeChat or Line are all apps facilitating group texting and sending videos or pictures. Hopefully, the text conversation between your students will float naturally, but you can always post some questions to get the conversation going again if the group goes too quiet.

For more ideas on how to use technology in your classroom make sure to read our exhaustive blog post on the subject.

We’re keen to know if you allow your students to use their phones in your classroom? If so, what are your favourite ways to use them to teach English? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook or Twitter.

About the Author

Aleks Kaye completed a blended CELTA course while working full-time in Student Support at a university in the UK. She is currently exploring Canada with her husband David and blogging about it at daleksabroad.travel.blog.

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