Using messaging apps to teach English

Hi, I'm the freelance editor of Notebook, a newsletter published three times a year by ProLiteracy. I'd like to hear from some individuals regarding their experience using messaging apps to teach English, such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc. When have these messaging apps come in handy, and how have they worked out? What pros/cons do they have?

You're welcome to post your thoughts here on LINCS to generate discussion with others or email me directly at I will likely follow up with some additional questions. I'm looking for information by Feb. 19th.




Vanessa Caceres

Freelance Editor




Hi Vanessa, Many ESL teachers are aware that a majority of learners use WhatsApp to communicate with friends and family here in the US and abroad. There are many ways to use WhatsApp to expand on instruction. Teachers can send text, video and audio files to students to build on what happens in the classroom as well as to prepare for an upcoming lesson.Students can record video and audio files to send to their teacher and/or to one another.

Teachers can also share lesson materials with those who are absent. WhatsApp is a great way to encourage persistence since teachers as well as the students in class can communicate with one another to let those who are absent know that we are thinking about them and that we miss them.

I'd love to hear more examples of how teachers are using WhatsApp or other messaging programs.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

Hi...I use WhatsApp and Facebook extensively for all levels of students in the US and internationally. My course is a non formal even informal one which I have been nurturing for about 5 years. Yesterday one of the advanced students from Peru attended a lecture on language learning and neuroscience and we had a great discussion, for example. And I have four Facebook groups with about 5000 members. Anyone can post lessons or ideas on Readings, Songs or Pronunciation / Fluency, and on a group called English for Kids. It is great! Right now I am on the phone chatting with a teacher in Mexico so I gotta go.

I've used both What's App and FB messenger and found both extremely helpful. Students often change phone numbers but seem to always keep their facebooks active. For that reason, as an outreach tool, it's been great. Both also allow for online content, pictures documents etc. to be shared quickly and easily. It is also a great way to boost digital literacy skills with students by introducing new content and features they may not otherwise see. The cons can be the same with any group messaging, too many responses and students can start to tune it out or not be able to navigate to the original thread. 

A few years ago I used WhatsApp and Facebook at a small family literacy center. It worked well for the reasons mentioned above, but it also turned into privacy concerns when students were contacting me on weekends about non-education related issues. Now that I have moved to a larger ESL program at a community college, I worry about having a group messaging system where students have access to each other's information without explicitly sharing it with every classmate. Instead, I use Remind for general announcements and links to Canvas assignments/discussion boards/messaging, as well as college Gmail accounts.

Paul, the most serious issue and privacy concern is sexual harassment. We talk frankly about such issues in class, but sometimes comments are made that make others uncomfortable. Even mild positive comments on another person's appearance can be off-putting or worse if the advances are unwelcome. Title IV is a big deal in college settings and we abide by those expectations.

Hi Cat, thanks for sharing your comments about using WhatsApp and Facebook. That's a good point about using Remind. I will use them on background in the story (without quoting you). However, if you would like me to quote you or you want to share any other information about your experience, you're welcome to email me at