October 2014
Quick Tip: Online Chat Rooms for ELT: 5 Reading Activities
by Trisha Dowling

Audience: Teachers of academic English or adult ESL

If your students are anything like mine, they are equipped with a variety of electronic devices that are constantly connected to Wi-Fi. Why not use these devices to our benefit and allow students to use them to participate in class? You can simply provide students with a web address during class, have students input their names, and the interaction begins! No sign up required.

TodaysMeet is a free website that allows users to create their own chat room. You decide on the name of the chat room (which then becomes your web address) and choose the duration of the chat room’s existence. If using the chat for one class period, it is probably best to choose just 1 or 2 hours. If you are looking for something a little more long term, you can keep a chat room open for up to a year. After entering the chat room name and the duration, click on “Create Your Room” and—there you have it—your own class chat room! The last step is to enter your name, and the communication can begin. These activities are for you to use with students during class.

Chat Room Teaching Activities

1. Prediction
Before reading a text, students can predict what they believe will happen by simply reading the title or the first few sentences. Students’ predictions can be entered in the chat room and read by classmates, encouraging class discussions.

2. Vocabulary Practice
To practice or review vocabulary, the teacher can type in definitions while students enter the vocabulary words matching the definitions into the chat room. This can be turned into a competition (e.g., the first student to type in and correctly spell the right word gets a point) and is great spelling practice!

3. Reading Comprehension Check
After reading, the teacher can type follow-up questions into the chat room, and students can respond to them. This helps the teacher ensure that all parties have read and understood a resource.

4. Noting Vocabulary
While reading, students can have the chat room open and type in any unfamiliar words that they would like to look up later. This can help create a class vocabulary list with all of the difficult words from your students.

5. Paraphrasing a Passage
Upon completion of in-class reading, students can use the class chat room to paraphrase what the reading is about. This is a helpful way to demonstrate the multiple ways that the same reading can be paraphrased.

All of these ideas may be done individually or with a group. If some students are not as comfortable (or as fast) as others typing on their phone, tablet, or laptop (or if not everyone has his or her own device), dividing students into groups may work better so that everyone is able to participate and not feel discouraged. If you choose a chat room duration that’s long enough to cover the term, you can even make use of the chat room for homework assignments and out-of-class discussions.


Trisha Dowling is currently an MA TESOL student at Eastern Michigan University. She works with adult English language learners in academic and business English settings.