Chen Gao – Learning to Write Chinese with a Social Network


Professor Chen Gao (East Asian Studies) used WeChat, a social networking app popular in China, with students in the EAST-UA 205 Advanced Chinese I class. The use of WeChat extended the learning community beyond the classroom to include native speakers and users of the app.

Each week of the semester, Professor Gao selected 1-3 samples of student writing (daily responses to classroom readings) to share in WeChat’s official “四海八荒青年说 (World Youth Forum).” Students were then asked to provide constructive feedback to their peers’ posts, while the published students were asked to respond in kind. By the end of the semester, students were also engaging in conversation with native Chinese speakers on WeChat.

At the end of the semester, Professor Gao produced a student journal comprised of the WeChat posts; each student received a physical copy.

Instructor and Students of FA18 Advanced Chinese 1 Class

Learning Objectives

  • Build a virtual learning community to facilitate collective and immersive language learning.
  • Promote students’ interest in writing and build their awareness both as a reader and a writer.
  • Provide level-appropriate reading for students.
  • Connect students with a cultural social-networking experience.

Screenshot of We Chat App

Student Experience

This project required students to:

  • Submit their daily writing assignments related to classroom readings
  • Read their peers’ posts on WeChat every week
  • Leave comments on peers’ writing and provide constructive feedback
  • Respond to comments on their own writing

Screenshot of Post in We Chat App

Technology Resources

Students accessed WeChat via their personal mobile devices.

Screenshot of Posts in We Chat App


Reflecting on the project Professor Gao says, “This activity helped increase students’ reading and writing proficiency. WeChat provided more opportunities for students to engage in meaningful language output in a stress-free learning environment. It helped students develop awareness as a reader and a writer. Students not only had to consider how their words might be received by their teacher, but also by the wider audience of readers who will see their work when it is published online. When they adapted their literacy learning to new contexts, with a new audience of readers, they became more aware of that learning and its potential uses. Students became more independent learners when they knew how to articulate and demonstrate what they were aware of and what they needed to work on further.

The WeChat project encouraged collaborative learning. Students could learn from and with each other. Also, because during the project, I closely monitored the participation of all students, gave feedback and corrected their grammar errors in their writing on WeChat, it also increased teacher contact time and strengthened teacher-student relationship.”

Student Journals

Selected Student Feedback:

“I liked that it was a different way to learn!”

“It allowed me to view other peer’s writing that was close to my own level.”

“Reading classmates’ posts helped me in reviewing the content of the lessons.”

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