ChatGPT for teachers – Our thoughts, hints and tips

Written by: Mike Turner



Time to read 6 min

With the debate about AI and ChatGPT seemingly reaching fever-pitch in recent weeks, we thought it would be useful to provide our 10 best tips on the technology and how to get the most from it if you are a teacher.

1. Use ChatGPT as an Assistant

Remember that it doesn’t have to do everything. At least at this stage of its development, there are things it is good at and things that it does less well. Use it as a tool to do the ‘heavy lifting’ but bring your own intelligence and experience to bear. Think of it as a really good assistant who works hard, is very keen and incredibly quick. Use it to create drafts, brainstorm ideas, make suggestions and research possible solutions to problems. Create learning aids such as glossaries and vocabulary lists. Select what is useful, fact-check where necessary, and refine and edit. Remember that it can be inaccurate and that it currently has a cut-off of 2021, so you won’t be able to get it to take account of anything that has happened in the world since then.

2. Encourage your students to adopt a nuanced approach

AI is here to stay, and students will use it, so help them to use it productively. It could be a real game-changer in terms of helping develop student autonomy and independent learning.

Having said this, when it comes to AI in general, and ChatGPT in particular, be very clear about what is acceptable and unacceptable to you. Depending on your viewpoint, legitimate uses may include generating ideas; producing a rough draft of a text; suggesting links to interesting articles or research; getting initial feedback on a piece of written work. Students can also use it for home study: for example, for practising conversational exchanges in English, to create vocabulary lists for revision, to get tips on exam preparation, to help them understand grammatical concepts, or to help them develop an effective study plan. Unacceptable uses include students using it to respond to a task you have set - and submitting this without understanding it, checking facts, or editing it; also trying to pass off work it has created as their own. Sanctions for using AI in this way should be significant and strictly enforced. It is worth letting students know that there is software out there such as GPTZero, that has been developed specifically to assess the likelihood that a piece of text has been written by AI.

For higher-level students, you could insist that when they submit a piece of work, they should preface it with a paragraph that details the process by which it was produced – a bit like the methodology section in a scientific paper - and submit a paragraph where they reflect upon the task, their response and what they have produced. You could reinforce this approach by a marking scheme that rewards process as much as product, and which gives weight to originality and creativity. For example:

  • 20 marks: task response, cohesion and structure.

  • 20 marks: appropriate use of grammar and vocabulary.

  • 20 marks: creativity and originality of thought and expression.

  • 20 marks: effective and appropriate use of technology.

  • 20 marks: reflectiveness and reflexivity.

3. It’s not all about the materials

Remember that whilst ChatGPT can produce materials and ideas, it can’t manage classroom activities, respond to the student’s mood and behaviour, create and manage energy levels, or be physically present and moving in the space, modulating voice and tone, using gesture and making eye contact. This means that schools will remain highly reliant on skilled teachers doing the things that they have always been great at. Continue to hone these skills, value your CPD and use the time that AI frees up to refine and develop your classroom practice.

4. Practise using AI

Like most things, the more you use it, the more you will understand its possibilities and limitations. Learn what it is good at and what it struggles with. Also, understand the most effective ways of using prompts to produce the best results. The more specific you are, the more appropriate and usable the response should be. Don’t forget to use that ‘regenerate’ button if you aren’t happy with the response. Finally, as ChatGPT remembers what has been said in the rest of the thread, so continue to get it to refine its responses until you are happy you have something you can work with.

5. Use AI to create extra written resources for a topic you are studying

Given the right prompts, AI can produce, in minutes, a text (or series of texts) for use with your students. You will need to double-check them for accuracy and will probably want to do some light-touch editing, but what AI produces is generally pretty good. You can also specify the age and level of your students to ensure the generated text is appropriate for your class. Use these texts in the same ways as you would any other. For example:

  • For reading comprehension (yes, you can even ask it to produce some comprehension questions).

  • To generate interesting discussion questions on a topic you are studying.

  • To produce resources for communicative activities such as jigsaw readings or running dictations.

  • To produce situational dialogues or role card texts for role-plays.

  • For generating quizzes. You need to be a bit careful with this one – our experience is that some of the answers it gives will be wrong. There are a couple of ways around this: either fact-check any answers you don’t know are correct, or cut and paste the questions you know and trust into a text document; then simply click ‘regenerate’ and do the same from the next set of questions it produces. Repeat until you have enough questions for your quiz.

6. Produce different versions of a reading text to help differentiation and inclusivity.

Use ChatGPT to edit a text to make it simpler, or to incorporate more challenging language. In the prompt, use your in-depth knowledge of the student or students to give the bot its best chance of producing something appropriately differentiated. Consider age, level and any specific learning needs or challenges such as dyslexia, and ensure you include these in the prompts. If you are doing group work with a heterogeneous class, you can use differentiated texts to ensure that each group has material appropriate to their level.

7. Help with creative ideas to engage your students.

Ask for ten creative teaching tasks for teaching and/or practising a specific language point. Again, remember to provide details such as the ages and levels of the students, any particular interests and how long you want the tasks to last. You may want to include examples of tasks and activities they have enjoyed previously and ask for tasks similar to these.

8. Lesson and syllabus planning

Generate a draft lesson plan. Remember to be specific about what you want. Include the length of the lesson, the ages and levels of the students. Ask the lesson to focus on a specific area of grammar or vocabulary or a specific topic. Think about the structure you want – for example, a 5-minute warmer, a presentation of the language, some controlled practice activities, followed by freer practice and a review. Remember, you can get it to help you with specific parts of the lesson if there are suggestions you don’t like or you want a wider range of options.

You can even get it to help you produce a syllabus with appropriate language content and a structured development and revision plan.

9. Troubleshooting

Ask it to generate some practical strategies for addressing any classroom issues you are struggling with. For example:

  • managing challenging behaviour

  • effective instruction-giving

  • concept-checking

  • encouraging L2 use

10. Report-writing

This is a contentious one, but there are already apps out there for producing individualised reports for students. This capability will only get better, and it is likely that schools will move towards systems that can auto-generate report drafts for teachers to review, edit and personalise. I know very few teachers who enjoy the process of report writing, so this is one use that I can see being a real boon in the future!

We have produced a resource with ten practical activities you can do with your students using the capabilities of ChatGPT that you can download below.