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March 02, 2007

Lesson Plans- Telephone Practice

Hello Readers,

Giving students the opportunity to practice speaking on the telephone can be beneficial to them in many ways. Some students need the practice so they can call up their international friends, others need the practice for their job, and others need the practice so they can get through day to day living with ease.

One school that I worked at actually had a telephone room where students could use a real phone to dial up other students in the class; however...

... I feel that it's safe to assume that most teachers do not have that luxury.

So, what can you do to make the experience feel more authentic?

Since most students have mobile phones, you could actually have the students practice by using them to call another student in the classroom. Unfortunately, you can't force students to use their own phone (and money) to make a phone call in class. So, a compromise would be to have pairs of students sit back to back to each other so that they get to practice speaking to someone that they can not see, as this is a unique feature of talking to someone over the phone. I've found that when students do this, they often get so into it that they use their hands as if they were phones. Without the back-to-back experience, the telephone simulation often fails.

Another important aspect of teaching telephone skills is to give students some opening and closing remarks, as this can vary from culture to culture (and language to language). Before you begin, you might want to act out a phone call with one of the students in front of the class, and write up some of the important expressions on the board. You might even want to discuss how speaking on a land-line or a mobile phone can change the language that you use (eg. on mobile phones, we can see who is calling before we pick it up, so the receiver would rarely ask who was calling and the caller would not probably have to tell the other person who he/she is).

Finally, it's also important to have a real-life purpose for the phone call. I like to find topics that will encourage students to go out and do something in the city that we're in so that they don't hide in their apartments at home. For example, a great resource for this is to collect copies of a free magazine listings from your city. I like to use the sports/groups sections so that students can get an idea of what kinds of things they can do in their free time. If you can't find enough copies for everyone in the class, then just photocopy the section that you want. However, having the original magazines for the students adds another 'real' element to the class that can make the students feel more motivated to do the task.

Here's a sample lesson:

1. Brainstorm things to do in your free time in the city. Elicit ideas from the students and write them on the board.
2. Distribute the magazine to the students and ask them to turn to the appropriate page.
3. Ask students to skim through the listings and choose three things that they'd most like to do. Give them 3-5 minutes to do this.
4. Ask students to discuss their options with the student sitting next to them.
5. Ask students for feedback in large group. Would they prefer doing these things alone, with a friend, or with a group of friends?
6. Ask a student to volunteer. Stand back to back and "call" the student to invite him/her to go to one of the activities/events with you.
7. Ask students to recall what was said. Would they change anything/use different language/change the order??
8. Write up some of the important expressions on the board.
9. Allow students to ask questions- and answer them.
10. Number the students so that half the students are 1's and half the students are 2's.
11. Have the 1's stand in a straight line and have the 2's stand in a line opposite of them.
12. Have them stand back to back and then have the 1's call the 2's to invite them to go somewhere with them (using the listings as a reference). Remind them to discuss what, where, why, when, how much, etc.
13. When they finish, have the 2's call the 1's.
14. If there's more time and the students are enthusiastic, have the students change partners and do it again.
15. Feedback: what did the students decide to do? What did they like about making their telephone calls? What didn't they like?
16. Give students feedback on language used during the telephone calls- point out common mistakes.
17. Give the students a copy of the listings so that they can use it at home.

Good luck!

Carol Rueckert
Writer, ESL Lesson Plan
E-mail: crueckert@eslemployment.com
Blog: www.esl-lesson-plan.com

"I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand." - Chinese Proverb

Looking for more articles about lesson planning for the ESL classroom? Click HERE!

About the author of this entry:
Carol, a native English-speaker who hails from the small town of St. Joseph in Minnesota, USA, and lived and worked in China for more than 7 years. During that time, she worked with students that range in age from three to more than sixty years old. She worked in universities, private language schools, grade schools, international schools, as well as private tutoring. Besides teaching, she also worked as a head teacher, an education manager, and a material development manager. In addition to working on this newsletter, she currently writes a monthly column for Time Out Beijing. Carol is also currently working on her MA in TESOL at the Oxford Brookes University in England. Look for her posts on the ESL-Jobs-Forum discussion boards!

Posted by crueckert at March 2, 2007 03:54 AM

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