telephone activity

My adult immigrant class in Alaska is split between those who are comfortable speaking and those who avoid it (on phone or in person!). These fun telephone activities have been a great way to get them talking and increase their comfort level using English in useful, real life situations.

  1. Who Ya Gonna Call? (complete with Ghostbusters sound track!)

Students make weekly phone calls around town using a handout designed to guide them through the process of making a call (phone number, name, greeting, reason for calling, closing.) Having a handout helps if they panic and can’t remember what they want to say. Students might call offices, museums, libraries, or the swimming pool for real or imagined reasons. Students then report their experience in class.

  1. Telephone Call in Front of the Teacher!

Gotta love speaker and conference-call phones! Students bring contact info for a phone call, practice what they are going to say, and then call in front of me. I use a familiar rubric for evaluation and feedback.

  1. Spell your Name, Please

My students give words to represent certain letters of their names (that’s D as in DAD, S as in SAM). We practice in class, and the most skilled students write what they hear on the board. We’ve handpicked words that are easy to understand (Tom not Tomás) depending on students’ pronunciation skill.

  1. Key Expressions

I’ve had students repeat themselves endlessly on phone calls, so I’ve incorporated language to get them past hurdles: “Let me say that another way.” “What I meant to say was…” “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.” “Oh, my mistake, what I meant was…”

  1. Please Leave a Message

A co-worker let my students leave messages on her cell for ungraded practice. To build skill at this, we use mock scenarios (You are calling the school to talk to the counselor about your child, but you have to leave a message) and practice key phrases (“My name is…”, “The reason I’m calling is…”, “I’m trying to reach….”) in order to leave short, sweet messages.

Practice reduces panic, and there’s no avoiding making telephone calls in my class! So who ya gonna call?!

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Natasha Zahn-Pristas

Natasha Zahn-Pristas completed both her TESOL Certificate in 1997 and her Advanced TESOL Certificate in 2011 with the School of Teaching ESL. She teaches English in an Adult Basic Education program in Kodiak, Alaska. Natasha is amazed at the lengths to which her students will go to make it to class. She aims to give them the English skills they need to succeed in the community.

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