3 Uses for Socrative in ESL Classes

Other teachers have been encouraging me to use Socrative for awhile now, but until recently I just didn’t care to try it out. I’m not against using tech in the classroom; it can make things a lot easier. I just didn’t want to have to learn yet another educational technology.

And Socrative is intimidating. Students use their own smartphones to navigate the program, so that’s a lot of small screens to pay attention to. There are teacher accounts and student accounts. There are a few different ways to do things, but that means more decisions you have to make. In short, it has the appearance of that kind of tech that isn’t worth the time to learn. That was my first impression of it.

But I was wrong. Socrative is easy, useful, and even fun.

How Kris met Socrative

I’d heard its name floating around conference halls and coming from the mouths of teachers I worked with, always spoken with a warm tone. But the classes I was teaching were fine. I didn’t need anything new.

Until I taught grammar last fall.

We used a textbook that has great grammar charts and tons of useful exercises, but that’s a little dry. I did my best to supplement the stuff from the textbook with YouTube videos, speaking activities, and games, but all that quickly became exhausting. If I had too much to plan and grade that week, my students were getting textbook stuff only.

They complained. They whined. It didn’t help that this was one of the most energetic classes I’ve had, middle school students included.

I limped through the semester with the textbook as my crutch. When I was the same class grammar class again this semester, but at 8 a.m., the hour of zombie students, I knew something had to change.

I had success with using warm up discussion questions at the beginning of my listening and speaking classes, but I wanted something else for my grammar class. Something that students could do at their own pace for 5-10 minutes as people are waking up/showing up late to class. Something engaging, but also useful.

I picked Socrative, and it’s worked out great.

How to set up Socrative in your class

The following section is a description of how I set up and use Socrative. It’s pretty intuitive, so if you’re good at figuring tech out by yourself, skip this section and just play with it on your own. If you want even more details than I’m providing here, Socrative has an excellent user guide.

Go to socrative.com and click Get Account

Fill out your information to get your account. I’ve only used the Free version for Higher Ed/Corporate since I teach adult ESL learners.

Once your account is set up, click the Rooms tab. Try to create a room name that is easily identifiable and easy for your students to type in. This is where the Pro version helps – in the Free version, you can only create one room. Since I’m only using Socrative in one class, one room is plenty for me.

Once you’ve picked a room name, click on the Quizzes tab. This is where you manage all the quizzes you use in your “Room.” Every quiz you create is saved there. So click +ADD QUIZ in the top right. Socrative lets you create multiple choice, true/false, and short answer questions. You can also write an explanation and add an image. Make sure you select the correct answer too (I’ve accidentally picked the wrong correct answer before – confusing).

Once you have a quiz you’re ready to use, click the Launch tab. I’ve only used the Quiz feature, but you can also choose:

  • Space Race creates a race among individuals or groups to answer questions
  • Exit Ticket has students answer 3 questions about their comprehension of the day’s material
  • Quick Question lets students submit their answers to just one question that you ask them in class.

How to use Socrative in your class

Like I mentioned in the introduction, your students will need their smartphone. If a few students do not have a smartphone, they can be paired up with those who do.

Tell students to go to socrative.com (write it on the board or show on the projector so that they spell it correctly).

Then, have them find the three horizontal lines in the top right corner of the screen. Tap that, then tap Student Login.

Here is the beauty of Socrative: they don’t need to create an account. They just have to enter your room name and then their name (if you request it in the Launch section. I recommend it).

I’m very fortunate to have a doc cam in my classroom, so I show my students these steps with the camera zoomed in on and projecting my own phone. Meanwhile, I had logged into my teacher account on the classroom computer (I’m lucky enough to have this connected to the projector as well).

Once that’s all set up, launch your quiz.

Choose the quiz you want, then choose your delivery method.:

  • Instant feedback tells the student if they got the question correct right away
  • Open navigation lets them choose questions and work on them at their own pace
  • Teacher paced means that the teacher controls when students can move onto the next question

Because I like to talk about each question before revealing the answers, I usually do open navigation. When I introduced Socrative to my class for the first time, I used the teacher paced mode because it’s a little easier (no numbered boxes and navigation arrows at the bottom).

From there, you just let the students choose or write their answers. When you’re finished, you can see what percentage of the class got questions correct, and you can even download an Excel spreadsheet of the results.

So that’s the technical stuff. Below are three ways you can incorporate it into your classes.

1. Warm-up

This is how I’ve been using Socrative and it’s been great. Students know the drill now. They come in, log into our room, type in their name, and start answering questions. Since I do open navigation, it’s all at their own pace.

I usually include one fun question (“Are you tired this morning?” “What’s your favorite restaurant?” etc. – just be sure you don’t count these as incorrect and take points away.) And then of course I include four or five questions that review a topic we’ve been working on. I try to make these hard. This is a good opportunity to work on those topics that they’re having trouble with.

Once everyone is done, we review the answers together as a class. Students like to see what their classmates answered and how well they did.

Then I tell everyone to put their phones away for the rest of class. Paradoxically, Socrative is also helpful for this. If everyone uses their phone at the same time and then everyone puts their phone away at the same time, you’re less likely to get those students who are sneakily texting or playing, trying to get around the cellphone ban.

2. Review

The pre-class warmup can be a quick form of review, but you could do a more expanded version as well. I’ve written about ways to review before, but I think Socrative might factor into my review planning now. There’s a few good reasons I think it would work well:

Multi-modal: A smartphone might be easier to use than a worksheet if a student is constantly consulting a textbook for review. Because of the limited area on most desks, students look at the worksheet, then lifting it up and look at the textbook, then write part of an answer, then pick up the paper again to look at the textbook, then put the paper back down to write on it again. A smartphone can be used in one hand while flipping through pages with the other. It’s a very tiny consideration, and some students will inevitably prefer paper, but it’s a good alternative.

Engaging: Again, Socrative can be fun. Tapping a screen is more engaging than writing on paper for most people. If you’re doing an especially dry review, Socrative can spice things up.

Feedback on progress: This is where Socrative can really help with review. Remember how Socrative shows you results in easy to read, downloadable charts? Those will probably help you get a feel for what students still need to review.

3. Student-created

I heard about this idea from one of my colleagues and I still have yet to try it. But the concept is wonderful.

Anyone can sign up for a teacher account on Socrative, which means that anyone can have a “room”, create quizzes, and launch them.

So have your students sign up as a teacher (this is a little bit more involved than the student login, but not impossible). Then teach them how to create quizzes and have them go at it.

You should probably be the first “student” to go into their room and see their quiz, just to make sure that their questions and answers are all correct (and that the distractors are also incorrect). But then students can take each others’ quizzes by getting their room codes.

There are a lot of benefits to having students create their own quizzes. First of all, it saves work for the teacher by creating a lot of material for other students to review with. But more importantly, it makes students think critically. They have to make both correct and incorrect answers, which means they have to know the material well enough to distinguish between the two. It’s also fun for them to play teacher for at least a little while.

Every action has its pleasures and its prices

The above quote is from Socrates himself (so Google tells me…). It’s apt for the app that’s taken and twisted his name: like all classroom tech, Socrative might be a pleasure, but it also has its price. If it doesn’t work in your class, don’t use it. But don’t be afraid to try it out. The pleasure might be worth the price.

Thanks for reading.

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Featured Image Credit: freestocks.org

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