Recently, several friends posted a video on social media depicting a imagined text conversation among Harry Potter, Hermione, Ron, and others from the Harry Potter world. It is not a literary masterpiece but it did make me chuckle. One of the things I noticed was that without familiarity with the characters, the video was much less interesting—or even intelligible. Try the texts to the left. Your familiarity (or lack of familiarity) with the Twilight series will make it more or less understandable. Text messages, by their very abbreviated nature, require the reader to fill in a lot of blanks. Sometimes these blanks are literal, as when using abbreviations like lol or idk. Other times blanks are more implied, as the reader has to use knowledge of the writer and circumstances to make sense of messages that use very few words. It occurred to me that imagined text messages could be an interesting way to teach about inferences and spark some creativity at the same time. It appears I’m not alone. A quick search for “teaching inference text messages” identified a number of teachers selling worksheets for that purpose.
You could start with any one of those or invent a text conversation like this one between Hansel and Gretel.
While it may not be brilliant dialog, this was easy to do. I was able to create it in two or three minutes using the website ifaketextmessage.com. Even a message this simple could spark the beginning of a conversation. What do we know from the messages? What can we “fill in” from our prior knowledge? What is implied?
The ifaketextmessage site can be useful for teachers who want to begin teaching about direct and implied messages in text, but it can also be an interesting way for students to create original stories or conversations among characters in literature or history. I’m tempted to imagine a “Texts to Santa” story, imagining what would happen if Santa texted back. It might not be appropriate for most public schools, but it could be fun!
There also are apps that will create videos of text conversations, you might want to explore. Either way (and for better or worse), texts are a staple of 21st century communication. We’ll do well to help our students understand and use them wisely.