Classroom Chat Room – A Great First Technology Project

Technology in the classroom ideas

If you are  just dipping your toes into the waters of technology, classroom chat rooms are an easy and powerful project to try first. Chat rooms are a great way to have a classroom discussions that enable and invite more students to participate than the traditional teacher-call-on-students model (or even less teacher-focused models like Socratic Seminar).

I recommend as the first interactive technology teachers try at school.  This simple, intuitive and free chat room platform does not require any accounts, usernames or passwords to be set up.

All you need is an internet connection and a plan to keep things organized.  Another advantage is that TodaysMeet has a built in, one-press-of-the-button option to generate a transcript of the chat, which you can save to read (and assess) later.

“If you are just dipping your toes into the waters of technology, classroom chat rooms are an easy and powerful project to try first.”

Ways To Use TodaysMeet Chat Rooms

Here are some ways that I have used TodaysMeet chat rooms to augment student learning. Classroom-Chat-Room-Animal-Farm-Characters

  • Role Playing – While reading the book Copper Sun by Sharon Draper, students were assigned  a character from the book to study.  Two days later, they chatted in the first person point of view as that character. Update – October 2016:  I am not so fond of this activity anymore.  After doing it a few times, I realize it’s hard to have adolescents try to chat in character, in 140 characters, and in real time.  I like this idea, but now I have students do it as an internal monologue/diary entry, not as a chat.
  • Analysis of Text – Knowing that my students had so many thoughts about Animal Farm even before we finished the novel, I set up a chat to give them a platform to discuss the plot, characters, motivations and major issues of the novel so far. (For more interactive activities for this novel, check out my Animal Farm board games).
  • Wrapping Up A Unit – The theme of  the first semester of my 8th grade ELA class was choices and we did a major unit that looked at activism through the eyes of Antigone, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Thoreau and others.  Although we had many opportunities to discuss each text in pairs, small groups and as a class, I used TodaysMeet to give students a chance to focus on the big meaning of the unit. Update: October 2016 – One of my new favorite ways to wrap up a unit is to have the chat, then use many of the same chat questions for an essay. The chat helps students begin to process their ideas, which make the essays stronger.

Benefits of Using Chat Rooms In The Classroom

  • Forget about the loudest and boldest dominating the conversation.  Chatrooms provide a more democratic way for students reflect.  Typing gives students a chance to formulate and rehearse their ideas in writing, instead of being put on the spot to answer verbally
  • Classroom chat can reach the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy because students have to generate their own questions and comment on others’ contributions.
  • You, the teacher, can have direct contact quickly with students as you virtually jump in and out of chat rooms.  I love using descriptive praise in chat rooms (and elsewhere, of course) – it’s quick, personal and students always seem to respond positively.
  • I find that most students love to use technology, so sometimes they are willing to be more engaged and take more intellectual risks in order to not miss out on the fun.  This is a fast paced activity that seems to keep students very involved in their learning.

How To Organize A Classroom Chat

Classroom-Chat-Room-With-TodaysMeet140 Characters in Academic English– The first thing to know is that like Twitter, TodaysMeet limits each comments to 140 characters. I make sure students know that while they are using interactive technology in the classroom, they need to write using Academic English.  Predictably, they protest, but I think that is the job of an adolescent, even when they can’t wait to get started.

Privacy – I have my students sign in with their first name and last initial – just to keep things safe. Update: October 2016 – TodaysMeet now allows you to require students to sign in using their school Google account.  I love this feature for privacy.  But, you need to build in a little extra time to have your kids set up their TodaysMeet accounts before diving into the chat itself.

I do this by setting up a “part room” for each class. As students establish their accounts, they get access to the party room to say hi and do all those silly things teens love to do with social media.  Once everyone is signed up, we move on to the real chat.  This also gives me some space to talk about the difference between party room kind of interaction, and serious academic discourse in a chat room.

A Room For Each Small Group – I never create a single chat room for all students in class to chat. It’s too chaotic to follow individual lines of thinking, and too easy for students to opt out.

Instead, in advance of the lesson, I set up multiple rooms for each class.  I assign four or five students max to each chatroom.  Since I have a class blog, I create a blog post that lists each group, its members, and provides a hyperlink to each chatroom (below is a screenshot from my class blog).  Not having a class blog is not a problem.  Just project or distribute this information.  Update: October 2016 – Now I distribute the list of chatroom URLs through Google Classroom.

Setting-Up-Chat-Room-For-ClassModerating The Chat 101 – If I don’t provide guidelines and structure, my students will be happy to fill the time sending each other emoticons and various versions of “Hey, fool. What’s up?”

The party room concept helps.  But, I also prepare a list of questions ahead of time to guide the discussion.


I project these questions one at a time, making sure the earlier questions remain visible.  If some groups are still on question one, I do not force them to move on. But if a group feels like it has exhausted a question, I want to quickly have another available for them.

Once classes gain experience, I make my life easier by assigning a moderator in each group.  I give her or him the list of questions.  The moderator’s job is to “drip” each new question into the room when the discussion of the previous question has begun to wane.

Encourage Interaction and Cross-Talk –  Since the purpose of a chat room is interaction, I verbally encourage  students to talk to each other in the chatroom.

I encourage them to agree or (respectfully) disagree with their classmates, to pose questions to the group and to use the @ sign to address individuals in their chat room.

Monitoring The Chat – Just before the chat begins, I open an internet browser tab for each room.  As the chat takes place,  I move sequentially, starting in room one, and reading some of the comments. Then I comment on what students are saying.

Sometimes I address a single student individually with individual questions or comments, such as  “@David, how do you think Snowball would have responded if he was still on the farm?”

I also interject questions to the whole group.  But I don’t stick around long enough to read many of the answers.  Instead, I move to the next virtual group – just as I would if this were a small group discussion among physical groups of kids.Animal-Farm-Characters-Chat

Moderating The Chat – Part 2 Throughout the chat, I speak to all the students verbally (not by chat) to ask them what question they are on, who needs more time, etc.

Likewise, I remind students that they should be responding to the prompts but also engaging other students in discussion. The most learning happens when students direct questions or comments to specific students in their chat group.

Don’t Forget To Stand Up – I also like to get up and walk around so I can see each student’s screen. Not that I’m terribly worried, but I want to make sure that I see only one browser tab opened and that students don’t suddenly (and guiltily) look like they are closing other windows.  Moving among them makes sure that the technology is being used in the sanctioned way.

Closing The Chat – Like other activities, I keep an eye on the clock and announce how many minutes left before the chat ends.  I always have a few reflective questions to give students a chance to comment about what they learned, to comment on how well they think they worked together, and their favorite, to say “Bye” in that oh-so-adolescent ways.  Sometimes, if I”m feeling generous, I let them have a minute of zapping smily faces, hearts and other emoticons to end on a light note.

Want to learn more about technology in school? Take a look at this fabulous article that talks about TodaysMeet and more: 7 Tips For Using Social Media In Your Classroom.

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