Google Hangouts: An ELA Teachers’ New BFF?
by Jana Bennett
Finding the time to give students the focused support needed to teach students to read and write is a major challenge for any teacher of ELA or ELL. Inviting your students to “study sessions” on Google Hangouts can make a big difference.
Google Hangouts is free and easy to use with a Chromebook, laptop or mobile phone. Even better, your students probably already know how to use it!
Planning your Hangouts session
- Check your school or district policies before holding any Hangout sessions to ensure that you are following any guidelines or laws that apply, and obtain any necessary permissions.
- Choose a date and time. The optimal time seems to be after dinner, when kids are likely to be doing their homework. The length of the session is up to you, but half an hour is generally good for the first session. You can always schedule more time for later sessions, as indicated.
- Choose what to focus on. You can invite students to talk about anything related to the class or provide a bit more structure if you think that will help get students talking. For example, you might say that for the first 15 minutes, you will focus on a certain topic (such as discussing a text you’re working on) and that the rest of the session will be open for any subject related to the class that they want to discuss.
- Give your Hangouts session a name. “Study session” doesn’t sound too interesting, so think of something that has some personality. (It could even be “Hanging with Mr. Jones”) Or you can change the title of each Hangout session to match the focus of your instruction.
- Find links or materials. These will be whatever you want your students to use during the session. Send them to your students before the session begins.
Announcing your session to your students
- Tell your class about the session a day or two before it’s scheduled. Students don’t tend to plan far ahead, so having the session be “tonight” or “tomorrow night” will often generate more attention and interest.
- Announce the Hangouts session at the start of the class. Say that you will be “hosting” a session and that they are “invited” to join. These words empower students to make their own decision and make the session sound more fun.
- State your purpose. Tell your students that the limited amount you have with them in class isn’t enough to teach them what you’d like them to know. Say that this is a way to give them more time to ask questions or talk about things that interest them. Make it clear that the session is not being held to meet your needs, but to make sure that you are meeting their
- Tell them that participation is completely optional. Remind your students that they’re graded on their work and tests; attending the Hangouts sessions or not attending it will not affect their grades in any way.
- If your students will be discussing certain texts or other materials for discussions, tell them what you will be sending and approximately when you will send it.
- At the end of class, remind your students of the Google Hangouts session and the time. Says you’re really looking forward to being able to spend time with them this way.
Other ways to use Hangouts
Use Hangouts to increase participation and engagement
ELA teachers who have used Google Hangouts have reported that it makes many students more willing to participate in Hangouts sessions than in the classroom. Some students said that seeing their friends jumping in and asking questions made them feel they could, too. This may be because students are now more comfortable with “virtual” interactions than they are with “real live” interactions. Or it may they find it less intimidating to ask questions while in a place where they feel more relaxed, comfortable and less “on display.”
Connect with other students via Hangouts
Some teachers have created study or discussion groups with students in other classes within the school or district — even in other schools around the country. (Could you be the first to do it with a school in another country?
Invite guests to your sessions
Ask people in professions that students don’t tend to associate with reading and writing — such as an IT manager, a financial planner, an architect, a marketing analytics manager or a colleague who teaches science or math —to talk about how much reading and writing their job requires. Tap a journalist, advertising, marketing or public relations writer to tell your students how they’ve turned their writing skills into a lucrative profession.
Record Hangouts sessions to bolster your students’ confidence
- Some teachers record Hangout sessions, then make them available for their students to view online. Students who view themselves participating in Hangouts often have a new and more positive experience of themselves. Teachers report seeing an increase in confidence and an interest in participating more.
NOTE: Check your school or district policies before recording any Hangout sessions to ensure that you are following any guidelines or laws that apply, and obtain any necessary permissions.
Have you held Google Hangouts with your students? We’d love to hear about your experiences!