Keeping the conversation real

I have recently begun back channeling in my 5/6 classroom.  Back channeling is where you provide a space to allow a conversation to carry on, usually whilst you are teaching or throughout a lesson.  It allows a real time conversation to occur while you are teaching.

I used the Community Chat application on the Ultranet (Victorian Department of Education’s Virtual Learning Environment). This is a great space to use as it is in a walled garden but if you are not a VIctorian teacher you can still back channel through spaces such as Today’s Meet, Edmodo or Chatzy where you can set up a private room and students do not need to sign up to be involved.

Before beginning our first chat we discussed online safety and the importance to read over what we have written before hitting the send button.  Children were aware that once you post a comment it can not be taken back and they should check that what they mean to get across is actually what is written.  They also understood that there is no private conversation and everyone can see what you write.

At first I gave students an opportunity to just chat.  And I admit there wasn’t much of that!  Plenty of one word responses or questions such as ‘Hello?’ or ‘Cool’ but it didn’t take long for kids to extend these to ‘I love nachos’ and ‘I am so cool!’  Yes – I realised there was a little bit of work to do first!

chat roomphoto © 2005 doug wilson | more info (via: Wylio)

How does back channelling look in your classroom?

The next time I used it I gave students a task – to listen to the story I was reading and ask a question about the text.  The great thing about this was that other students started to answer these questions.  And all while I was busy reading a book!

Don’t get me wrong, there was still some chat about how much they loved Justin Beiber or how much they disliked Justin Beiber but after using back channelling with a group of adults recently I noticed a lot of discussion about favourite football teams!

But what was happening, was a great opportunity for students to ask questions that could be answered in real time. They didn’t have to wait for me to finish.  They could share their thoughts and respond to ideas as I was reading.  And I could then see all of this at the end of the lesson and follow up on anything I needed to.  Even students who don’t usually like to share were joining in.

We now use back channeling every time we read and I have loved seeing how the conversation behind the book is developing.  Of course there is still a fair bit talk about nachos but I see this disappearing.  I look forward to using more back channeling in the classroom.

Have you used back channeling?

What does back channeling look like in your classroom?


I was introduced to Wallwisher early last year but have not really had a chance to use it in the classroom.  In the last couple of months I have certainly made up for that!

Wallwisher is an online notice board where people can add a series of ‘sticky notes.’


Using Wallwisher in the Classroom


This week we came up with a list of what we thought was the most important environmental issue facing our school.  By linking the Wallwisher page to our class blog, children used their net books to post a note in a few minutes and then we could look at the responses on the interactive white board instantly. Look at our Wallwisher here.


Have Wallwisher open during the lesson and children can add questions or statements about their learning.  During sharing time at the end of the lesson use Wallwisher to discuss learning and any problems.

Treasure Hunt

I often send children on treasure hunts for words with common spelling patterns.  Instead of writng these words on a poster we collate them on a Wallwisher.

Collate Work

Wallwisher has a fantastic feature where you can embed files to a post.  It is a great way to have children share favourite websites or links to Five Card Flickr Stories.


Use Wallwisher for reviews.  It is especially good at this time of the year with the Children’s book awards coming up. Have children review the different books. Or why not review how a term or theme has gone.

Goal setting

When setting goals at the start of the year children can post these on a Wallwisher. Come back to them at the end of each term to see how the children went.


Why not use it for suggestions in your school.  Perfect if you are trying to decide on a charity day for the Junior School Council.

Compliments Chart

Why not create a Wallwisher where people can post compliments about each other.

Matching it up

Create simple matching activities by writing the two matches on two notes and have children move these around to be together.  Try it with shapes and names, numbers and words or compound words.

Do you use Wallwisher?

Are you using Wallwisher for the first time?

Leave a comment and share how you have used it.