From TikTok to Classroom Standards: Making Classrooms More Connected and Engaged

Two students working posting post-it notes on wall.

In the sixth meeting of the Instructional Innovation Fellows (IIF) this March, Li Hou and Kelsey Whipple presented on the topics of using Tik Tok in Chinese language learning to make language learning more relevant and connected to students and the importance of collaboratively creating classroom standards to promote safe and inclusive learning communities respectively.

  • Tik Tok makes language learning more relevant and connected to students.
  • Classroom standards and participation agreements promote safe and inclusive learning communities.


We opened the meeting with a brief discussion about the survey results from a mid-program survey the fellows completed. As this is our first Instructional Innovation Fellowship, we greatly value input from fellows on what to improve in the future. Many thoughtful and actionable ideas arose from the survey, such as being more strategic with meeting times, finding ways to build community and networks outside the fellowship meetings, and considering alternative presentation formats.

We look forward to enhancing our next fellowship experience! (Note: Applications for the 2023-2024 fellowship are now open. If interested and would like to be considered, please complete this application form)

Digital Storytelling and Second Language Acquisition with Tik Tok

Li Hou’s presentation focused on the use of Tik Tok, a popular video-sharing app, in her Chinese language classrooms. With over 150 million users in the US alone, Li Hou explained how Tik Tok could be a valuable language learning tool, offering students opportunities to engage with authentic language and culture.

TikTok App

Li Hou highlighted the app’s several benefits in language teaching and learning, including that it provides access to videos made by native Chinese speakers, which can be used for authentic listening and comprehension practice. Students can also use the app to practice specific language skills, such as grammar and pronunciation, and learn about Chinese culture.

In addition to sharing useful Tik Tok video links with her students, Li Hou encourages them to create their own study stories using the app and share the links with her for feedback and comments. She also creates Tik Tok challenges and collaborates with other language teachers and students to motivate her students to become both users and creators of the app, making their language learning more relevant and connected.

Looking ahead, Li Hou and her colleagues plan to create a Tik Tok account titled “Chinese Language and Culture Club (CLC),” which will offer additional resources and support for students learning Chinese. By leveraging the power of Tik Tok, Li Hou hopes to make language learning more engaging, authentic, and effective for her students.

Co-creating Classroom Standards with Students

Kelsey reminded us of the importance of creating a safe and inclusive classroom environment where every student feels welcomed, supported, and encouraged to express their thoughts, values, experiences, and perspectives. In her teaching, Kelsey collaboratively fosters this together with her students. For example, Kelsey framed the activity early in the semester, where students were asked to brainstorm ways to:

  • create an inclusive, safe, and supportive learning community in the classroom
  • develop class participation agreements

In the co-creation process, Kelsey divided her students into small groups of 3 or 4 to work collaboratively. Together, they created their own classroom agreements and identified the factors that can help them participate fully in the class and their expectations from other students. After completing the list, the groups came together to discuss and reach a consensus through a process of sharing their ideas, clarifying the desirable behaviors and providing examples.

Once the agreed-upon lists were finalized, they were displayed for everyone to refer to throughout the semester. The groups also discussed the terms and conditions of the agreements and ways to handle class members who violate the established rules. These class agreements, upon which each class member is responsible for adhering, serve as a useful tool for conflict resolution in case of any disputes.

Kelsey highlighted several advantages of the classroom agreements activity. Firstly, it provides an opportunity for students to get to know each other and collaborate early on, which helps create a comfortable learning environment. Secondly, it demonstrates to students that instructors care about their learning and well-being. The agreements serve as guard rails for the course, promoting fairness and establishing social norms. Additionally, involving students in creating these agreements gives them a sense of ownership over their learning environment, which can increase engagement and motivation. Finally, Kelsey emphasized that the agreement document should not be fixed but adaptable throughout the course to reflect changes and feedback. Overall, this activity helps bookend the semester, reminding students of what they have developed together to foster a positive learning community.

Check out our other blog posts to explore more innovative teaching ideas and tools.