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Tip of the Week: Text messages from the past

A couple of weeks ago, while catching up on a massive backlog of RSS feeds, I ran across a handy tool that seems perfect for helping you integrate Common Core ELA stuff into your instruction.

Created by Russell Tarr and shared out on the incredible Free Technology for Teachers blog (do you think Richard Byrne ever sleeps?), the Classtools SMS Generator does a great job of recreating the look and feel of an ongoing text message conversation. Kids can immediately relate to the idea that two people would use this sort of medium to share information back and forth.

I see kids recreating conversations between historical or fictional characters, using actual facts and information interspersed while giving kids a chance to add a realistic voice to the discussion.

sms creator

No setup. No account needed. Just go to the website, click the grey Add button on the bottom left, type your text, click OK. Click the green Add button on the bottom right, type your text, click OK. Rinse and repeat.

Pretty simple. It looks like you can add as many texts as you want. You do have the option of saving the conversation for later edits. And once you save, you’re offered the options of copying the unique URL, getting an embed code, a QR code, or a URL shortcode.

The tool also seems to work okay on an iPad – so assuming it should work on other types of tablets and mobile devices as well.

You could use this as part of your Exit Card strategy. Have kids work in groups of two with each kid typing as a specific historical character. It could either a before reading activity to activate prior knowledge or an after reading activity to summarize what was read.

Have kids use the tool during a short video or audio clip of a historical speech and assume the role of an audience member of the time reacting to the speech’s content. What would a text message look like from someone who was listening to the actual Gettysburg Address?

Assign different groups to respond to historical events from different perspectives. How would text messages sound if written by students inside Little Rock High School during the crisis of 1957? NAACP? Congress? Southerns? KKK? From your state? Maybe have kids create their texts both before and after doing research on the event as a way of assessing learning.

You could ask kids to embed their conversions on a class wiki so kids could read each the stuff from other groups. They could send you their URLs. Take screen shots for a class collage.

There really seems to be endless ways to use this sort of tool.

Have fun!

(And be sure to go back to the Classroom Tools main page. Lots of other goodies there!)

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hi Glenn,

    Thanks for the mention. Sleep? What’s that? It’s been in short supply around these parts this week 🙂

    March 15, 2013
    • glennw #


      I truly amazed on the amount of stuff you find and share! Your site is one of the first places I go when I have questions about stuff. Try and get some rest this weekend!


      March 15, 2013
  2. Saw this when it came out and fell in love. Then my assistant principal asked me not to use it for fear of fake text messages with discipline and bullying:(. Sad huh?

    March 25, 2013
    • glennw #

      Sad indeed! Your principal does know that this is a fake texting tool and the texts never actually get sent? And because the texts would just be used in class by you, that your classroom management skills would take care of anything that might be a problem?

      It is very sad indeed when our fear of social media is so great that we can’t even use fake social media to engage with kids. Hang in there! There are other Tips of the Week that you might find interesting. You can get them all here:

      And if you haven’t signed up to automatically receive them via email, you can do that here:

      Click the Sign Up button on the left hand side of the page.


      March 26, 2013
      • No worries! He’s afraid that kids will make fake texts and bring them into him printed. A lot of kids come to him with screen shots of their text messages printed out to prove bullying. Aaahhh…!

        March 26, 2013
      • glennw #

        Wow. Maybe an intervention to train your admins on real and fake social media? If nothing else, perhaps you can use the idea to encourage small group discussion and focus on summarizing with paper and pencil.

        Good luck!


        March 27, 2013
  3. Hi Glenn, thanks for the kind mention of one of the new SMS tool I’ve been working on. I’ve launched ‘BrainyBox’ and ‘Mission MapQuest’ on Classtools in the past month as well, so it’s been a pretty exciting time on the site. Delighted to hear you like it – and big thanks too to Richard Byrne for being kind enough to spread the word on his blog!

    April 1, 2013
    • glennw #

      You always have such great stuff! I could spend hours digging around on your site. Thanks for all the hard work you do for the social studies community!

      (Will be sure to check out your new goodies.)


      April 1, 2013

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  1. Tip of the Week: Text messages from the past | History and Geography in the 21st Century Classroom |
  2. Tip of the Week: Text messages from the past | ks3humanities |

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