Promoting Literacy Through Text Messaging

Text messaging, also called short message service (SMS), allows people to send and receive text messages that are up to 160 characters long on their cellular phones. Billions of people use this service to send quick reminders or start conversations with family and friends. Text messaging has expanded into one of the most rapidly growing forms of communication on the planet. Busy moms, executives, grandparents and children alike use text messages to communicate. Since text messages have become a part of life, both parents and educators have started investigating ways to find educational benefits associated with texting.

Texting in the Classroom

Some educators still feel that texting in schools is a distraction, yet certain schools are embracing text messaging as a vital form of communication. This is especially seen in larger cities where cell phone use is more common. Teachers have started to create lesson plans tailored around text messaging activities. These lessons are designed to build literacy skills by getting children interested in typing in words. Your students may get excited about texting activities because it’s not commonly seen in most classroom environments.


Teachers can use texting to start both informal and formal discussions in the classroom. The kids can send messages across the room and interact with one another. Encourage the students to spell out full words and avoid using abbreviations. Encourage positive interactions with the cell phones and monitor the students’ messages to make sure no inappropriate messages are sent.

Show students how to use various services that you use with text messaging. They can send maps, translations, driving directions and other vital pieces of information through text services such as Google SMS and ChaCha. Students can send and receive definitions with some online services. These services will come in handy when they get older.

Encourage your class to write short summaries about lessons or subjects, and send the information via text message. You can also ask kids to write summaries about short stories, plays, news stories, class speeches or what they remember most about a particular day in a journaling-style activity. Students can also pretend to play different characters and send dialogue text messages back and forth. Grade students based on their level of participation and engagement with the task at hand.

Teachers can encourage literacy by allowing students to text responses during class discussions. The kids will need to think about their answer and, at the teacher's discretion, spell their message correctly before sending it. This activity is especially helpful for people who have difficulty speaking the English language. Texting reduces the pressure because these students may have a hard time pronouncing words correctly. Texting gives them time to think about their answer and practice grammar skills.

Get excited about text messaging as a form of communication, and encourage your students to write often through email, instant messages, text messages and blogging. Students will soon begin to understand that any type of writing is essential. Recent studies reveal that students who use text messaging have better vocabulary, phonological awareness, and word recognition. Encourage students to limit the use of slang, and abbreviations.

Considerations and Rules

Text messaging is a huge responsibility that can easily be abused. Make sure parents know that you plan on teaching students about text messaging before you begin your lessons, and send out permission slips. Some parents may not want their student using cell phones or the internet until they reach a certain age. Texting may be very popular, but the technology is still very new to many people, and they may not be comfortable with it.

Students and parents also need to be aware of texting charges. Include this information on the permission slips that you send out. You can set up an unlimited service for your activities if you are using your own phone or borrowing other teacher’s phones. Some parents may have unlimited service already or they might not mind paying for each text message if the charges are low. Every provider is different, so it’s always best to make sure everyone is aware of possible charges.

Some students may have their own phones, but keep in mind that not all students will have phones. This really depends on the age group of the students you are teaching. Kids can share phones, and work together during text message activities, if phones are limited. Split students up into groups based on the number of phones you have to work with. If students are not able to text, teachers can also engage them in conversations about texting and communication in general.

Arizona Department of Education: K12 Literacy

Literacy Games

Components of Literacy

Improving Literacy is a K12 Student: Tips for Parents

Seven Literacy Strategies That Work


Discipline Focus: JCPS Literacy Vision

Text Messaging in Teaching: Tips and Techniques from the Trenches

Teaching English: Texting for All

US News: Teachers Use Cell Phones in the Classroom  


Content Created and Provided By Charlotte Gray



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