It can be used in the language-learning classroom for students who still find it too difficult to speak without first having a little thinking time, and also as a means of moving students away from being overly concerned with accuracy, and focusing more on successful communication. My students really enjoy this activity, especially the fact they are 'allowed' to write notes in class!
You will need one copy of the chatting page worksheet per pair of students.
- The first time I do this activity with a class, I spend a few minutes discussing online chatting with students, highlighting some of the key features through concept-checking questions, such as: Do you spend a long time thinking how to formulate each message when chatting? What is more important when chatting, writing everything correctly, or communicating quickly?
- I also elicit or pre-teach some useful abbreviations. Basic items could include:
- u = you
- 2 = too
- c = see
- r = are
- 8 = ate
- Students should also be encouraged to use contractions, and forms such as gonna and wanna.
- I then arrange the classroom so that each student is sitting back-to-back with a partner.
- I choose a suitable subject for my students to chat about, e.g. favourite sports. Subjects requiring students to reach a solution are particularly effective, for example: Arrange to meet up with your partner at the weekend and decide what you are going to do together.
- I explain to students that in order to communicate, they write a message on the first line of their paper, e.g. Hi, how are you?, and 'send' it over their shoulder to their partner, who will respond and pass the paper back as quickly as possible.
- I set a time limit for the activity, e.g. 15 minutes, and then students start chatting.
- Whilst students are chatting, I stand back and observe, only getting involved if anybody seems to be interfering with the communication process by taking too long to write back.
- At the end of the chatting session I ask students to report back, either on the content of their chat or on how successfully they communicated. More advanced students can analyse their messages and discuss how in this situation communication is more important than accuracy.
- Another follow-up activity can involve students talking aloud with their partner about the same subject they chatted on (i.e. redoing the activity, but without that extra thinking time).
- With higher level groups, you could also encourage students to start off several conversations, so as to chat with different people at the same time.