texting as a learning tool: reading, spelling, composing

texting as a learning toolMy kids think texting is so cool.

They think cell phones are cool.

They think cell phones are so cool that they still argue over who gets to have our old, battery-free cell phones that don’t even turn on anymore.

They think it’s cool to answer my cell phone if they notice their dad or aunt or nanny or pap are calling, and they think it’s cool to unlock the screen, answer, mute, put on hold, and hang it up.

So recently, I’ve been playing on it.  For learning’s sake, of course.  I’ve been using texting as a learning tool–for sneaky reading, spelling, and composing practice, and so far? They’re game.

Here’s the skinny:

  • Texting as a Learning Tool–Reading, Spelling, Composing: My kids are not unique in their adoration of the cell phone. Kids everywhere love them.

Since Maddy, Owen, and Cora do not have phones and do not have their own iPod Touch or anything similar to call their very own, the times I allow them to use my phone are pretty golden yet.  For years now, my kids have loved my phone for gaming, playing, buying time when needed.

But only recently have I really tried to steer them in a different direction–trying to teach them how to use the phone while texting in a safe and controlled way.

texting to learn -- owen

 Owen sends a message to his dad. . .

texting to learn =-close

 . . . asking if he’s heard their favorite song on the radio.

Simple, really, and a time-saver for me while I’m making lunches in the morning, straightening up, organizing, or preparing dinner.

But if we have a few minutes, I’ll ask something like:

  • Hey Owen, would you please text Daddy a quick ‘have a good day’ message? You decide what it should be.
  • Will someone please send Dad a message asking him if he is coming home right after work?
  • Will you please answer this text from Dad?  Tell him that I  . . .
  • Who wants to take a minute and send Daddy a quick ‘hello’ note before breakfast?
  • Who has a minute and wants to send an aunt a happy text?
  • Anyone up for a quick text to Aunt Jenny? Want to ask how Wyatt or Myles is doing?
  • Tell me a funny joke or something that made you smile today, and let’s text it to Aunt Mary. I think she needs a smile.


texting to learn -- cora

Cora’s in on the texting fun.

texting to learn -- cora close


Quick prompts that I try to not make completely, word-for-word specific so that the kids have to think about it and compose the message on their own.  It’s not easy to take someone’s general idea and make it into a comprehensive message; that’s a skill that takes practice.

And though I don’t have the kids text people every single day–maybe a few times a week–it’s something they want to do.  And it gets them reading, spelling, and composing in a cool and creative way, so I’m going with it while I can.

I ask that they sign off their text with their name so that the recipient knows what’s going on, and that’s it. I always check before they hit ‘send’, and they always ask for permission before they open up my messages.  Those are the rules.  And those rules are relatively easy to keep up with, when one kid is using the phone at a time.

digital kids teachmama.com button

 And right now there’s no LOL, C U LTR, HTH, ROTFL, or XYZPDQ (I had to throw that in there because I can’t think of any ‘cool’ text lingo right now).  If they’re sending texts from my phone, they’re using the correct words. There’s more than enough time for texting lingo in the years ahead, I’m sure.

So that’s it.

Quick, easy, texting as a sneaky learning tool for reading, spelling, and composing. Buying time sending messages to family members, short ‘hello’ or silly, brighten-your-day messages, 2.0.

One more teeny, tiny baby step in the raising of our digital kids.

Do your kids text? How? How often? Under what parameters? Do tell–I’m learning as I go!

Next up: Learning, practicing, using, and loving Power Point for our International Night display




  1. says

    Sounds like a good idea – right now the little ones are not showing any special interest in texting though, so I don’t feel the need to use cell phones for more than just my own needs – they are still more into books and drawing (sigh of relief on my side!). Once my nephew took my phone as he wanted to text his grandma and could not get through the cyrillic alphabet I had set on as a default…was funny. I told him if he wants to use my phone he should better start learning Russian. His response: “не хочу!” (eng. I do not want to). How surprised I was to hear these words that I have never taught him! :) He has beaten me at my own game, as usual! :)

    • says

      Good call! It’s totally a personal decision, and one that each family needs to make on its own. And using texting as a language-learning tool? I LOVE IT!

  2. says

    I just got my first smartphone on Friday and yes, my 7 year old is texting family – mainly grandparents. I love it and for all the reasons you posted about. He has been reluctant to want to write or sound things out to spell unless I can find something that captures his interest and this does it. I also have him playing Word with Friends with two of his grandparents. They know that I help him think through phonics rules and may help think through spellings, but the words are all his. He is so excited and I LOVE it. I didn’t realize how much I’d love the smartphone from this perspective!

    • says

      YAY! How cool–glad you’ve taken the leap, Caroline, and hope it continues to be a great experience for you guys! If you find any cool apps or other ways of using it for learning, let me know!

  3. says

    So, i had my very first text conversation with Chatterbox over the weekend!! I was out of town and she and I were texting back and forth. it felt so insane to be texting with my 8-year old! But i think it CAN be good spelling, communicating and etiquette practice. And I did have to catch myself when I started to type abbreviations – I don’t know the last time I spelled out TALK TO YOU LATER but on Saturday, I did 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>