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Philp and Duchesne (2016) refer to engagement as a state of heightened attention and involvement, in which participation is reflected not only in the cognitive dimension, but in social, behavioral, and affective dimensions as well. Goss and Sonnemann (2017) assert that it is vital for teachers to create the right classroom climate for learning; raising pupils’ expectations; developing rapport with pupils; establishing routines; challenging pupils to participate and take risks as they affect how much pupils engage and learn.

No doubt, some teachers are not certain how to promote learning engagement especially during online distance learning. For this home-based learning, do teachers and pupils really need sophisticated gadgets or tools to promote good learning engagement? What if teachers are unsure of operating breakout rooms either via Zoom, MS Teams or Google Meet? Can engagement be maximised just by using a very basic social media like WhatsApp (WA)? Well, the answer could be a definite Yes! Below are five practical activities which can encourage participation from all pupils in the classroom even through Whatsapp.

Activity 1

This activity can be on grammar focusing on sentence structures. Some temporary WhatsApp groups can be created and the teacher is invited to join each of the temporary WA groups. Each group member prepares a simple sentence which carries a simple idea. Then all group members have to examine each simple sentence and suggest another idea to be combined to the existing sentence to form a complex structure [which has more than an idea]. Then, when all pupils have joined the main class WA group, each group shares their complex structures.

Activity 2

The lesson may focus on reinforcing pupils’ understanding of simple, straightforward and complex ideas. However, it may begin with a revision on grammar, in particular, modals. Similarly, temporary WhatsApp groups can be created. Through collaborative activities, pupils in each group have to collaborate to make sentences using “will”, “will not” and “will + verb + ing”. Each group member has to contribute at least a sentence. Then, they are required to arrange the sentences they make according to the length. Group members have to examine all the sentences and determine if they convey simple, sophisticated or complex ideas.

Activity 3

New WA groups are formed or pupils may remain in their existing WA groups. Each group member has a role to play. One member provides a digital photo which is shared in the WA group. The other members have to construct a sentence each. Their sentences should be related to the photo. Then, they need to collaborate to write a short paragraph about the photo. Connectors and cohesive devices must be used in their paragraph.

Activiy 4

This activity focuses on enhancing questioning skills among pupils. The questions are formulated by pupils on their own, done either in groups or individually. The teacher may select one short text for all groups and then let them formulate relevant questions. For instance, these low and high order thinking skills questions may be formulated based the short text taken from Full Blast! Plus 4 (page 71):

Activity 5

Each WA group is given the same theme such as love. In their group, pupils are given a starting sentence which they have to complete. It is good if each group is given a different starting sentence. For example, they may get one of these; “Love is ....”, “Love can be ...” or “Love makes ...”. The group members prepare a sentence each. Later they decide the arrangement of each sentence to form a stanza. When all pupils rejoin the class WA group, they will share their stanzas about love. Pupils collaborate to determine the arrangement of each stanza to form a poem with the title ‘Love’.


Obviously, the activities suggested above are practical and doable even without any state-of-the-art online platforms. No doubt, it could be a hassle to be in several WA groups and monitor pupils' engagement. Well, the point is, choices are always there and surely every teacher is the best decision maker! Please do not misunderstand this article; it is not suggesting all teachers to carry out activities merely using WA. This piece of writing only attempts to offer insights on the possibilities of maximizing learner engagement even by using a simple tool.

Definitely, teachers may make necessary changes to suit their actual teaching context and their pupils’ abilities as well readiness. What really matters, even by only using a simple and basic tool, teachers can enhance engagement among their pupils during online classes. We cannot deny the fact that it is teachers’ responsibility to provide platforms and opportunities for their pupils to maximize engagement in learning. Perhaps, teachers need to adopt and adapt the activities suggested above. Blackburn (2014) asserts that by adjusting pedagogical instructions, teachers can actually increase the opportunities for pupils to be engaged. Hopefully, what are shared above can at least offer some insights for teachers to improve engagement among their pupils no matter what platform they choose.


Blackburn, B.R. (2014). The Five Rules of Student Engagement.

Goss, P. and Sonnemann, J. (2017). Engaging Students: Creating Classrooms that Improve Learning.

Philp, J. and Duchesne, S. (2016). Exploring engagement in tasks in the language classroom. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics. Retrieved from


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