ChatGPT to Support Reading Development and Critical Thinking

Rachel Toncelli
Course Subject:Advanced Reading and Writing
Student Level:First-year international students in the NU Immerse program
Number of Students:14
Developed by:Rachel Toncelli, Lecturer, College of Professional Studies

What Students Did

In this lesson, students engaged ChatGPT to identify and analyze key themes from a reading (i.e., “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan) and to “interview the author” to extend students’ thinking about language, identity, and society.

Learning Goals and Purpose

The learning goals of this activity were for students to:

  • Identify key themes from the reading 
  • Generate critical definitions of “standard” vs “broken” English
  • Analyze the relationship of language and identity in the context of the reading
  • Critically engage with AI-generated output 


This was an in-class activity that was not graded. It was completed early in the semester to broaden the discussion about how/when ChatGPT could be a useful tool.

Faculty Reflections

The students were highly engaged and curious about the ChatGPT responses. They took the critical evaluation seriously and did not automatically agree with generated ideas. One student noted that generated themes “complemented” his group’s ideas in interesting ways, so it helped them think more deeply. Another student strongly questioned the output during the “interview” process. Overall I found the students eager but critical about the effectiveness of ChatGPT. I think having them formulate their own ideas and then comparing those with generated output got them thinking more deeply about the content of the reading and its major themes.

Step-by-Step Student Instructions

Step 1Prior to the class, students read the essay “Mother Tongue.”
Step 2To build connections to prior knowledge and lived experiences, students participate in a whole class discussion of accent (how everyone speaks with one) and how we use language differently with different people, contexts, relationships.
Step 3Students learn about the author’s background through a brief presentation.
Step 4Students complete a freewriting exercise to identify main ideas.
Step 5Students use ChatGPT to identify key themes, paste these into their Google doc, and then compare them to their ideas. Collaboratively, they generate a final list of 3 main themes, which each group presents to the class.
Step 6Students learn about the  controversial concepts of “Standard English” and “Broken English” through a brief presentation.
Step 7In small groups, students engage ChatGPT to “interview” the author (Amy Tan) about these concepts.
Step 8Students refer back to the reading to locate evidence confirming or negating the ChatGPT-generated “author responses.”
Step 9Groups then define how these concepts can be controversial and present their perspectives to the class.
Step 10Groups then explore how language use connects to identity with the option to use ChatGPT to aid their discussion.
Step 11Students participate in a whole class discussion of language and identity.

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