WeChat in the ESL Classroom

The most effective way to communicate with an entire class of mostly Asian students is WeChat.

WeChat is a messaging app that is very like Facebook Messenger, but WeChat is much more popular in Asia communities. If I see a student using their phone in class, they’re usually using WeChat.

On the first day of my ESL class, I asked the students what would be the best way to communicate with them outside of class, and without hesitation, they said WeChat. I was expecting this answer, so I downloaded the app to my phone and setup a profile ahead of time, but I’d never used it before. When I asked my students if we could set up a group chat with all the members of our class, one vocal student said, “Yeah, we already did it.” All they had to do was quickly add me to the group.

To add me to the group chat, one student asked me to open the QR Code from my WeChat profile. Within just a second, he had scanned the code with an internal WeChat QR Reader, and I was added the group. To top things off, a couple other students sent quick messages of “hi” and “hello.” Suddenly, I was connected to my whole class with the ability to text questions, send links, or just post an emoticon. One student even showed me how to send an audio voice message. It was brilliantly quick & easy, and the best part was that my students did the entire thing. All I did was open my phone.

Since using the app, my students have been very vocal asking and answering questions. Someone asked about the class homework, and another student quickly replied and answered the question. Peer to Peer. Another student had problems understanding how to upload a video to YouTube, and I was able to send a link to a video that gave step-by-step instructions. Overall, I’ve seen the engagement level of my students go up, and I feel like I’ve earned some street cred with them because I’m using their communication tool.

Another thing that I really enjoy about using this app to communicate with students is that I currently don’t use it for any other purpose. I’m not connected to any of my personal friends, so its sole purpose for me is work related. It’s nice to have a little separation between work life & home life.

There are a few shortcomings, though. I wish there was a way to see who has seen which posts. If I send a quick message, it gets time stamped, but I’m unable to know who has read my message. Also, by incorporating this app, I feel like I’m ‘on call’ at all hours. Students often send messages on the weekends or late at night, and I feel obligated to reply. This will take some getting used to, and in the future, I may have to set designated hours when I will reply, but for now, it’s kind of fun!

Are you using WeChat in your classes? If so, please leave a reply and tell me how you’re using it? Do you have a better way to communicate? I’d love to hear some feedback for making student communication more effective.


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