Phone Calls

Making phone calls in English is really hard. Speaking is hard enough. Taking away expressions and gestures just makes it harder. The speech is a little unclear. Everything together stops many students from even trying to use the phone.

And that’s a pity because the phone makes life easier. Students who are afraid to use the phone can’t call to see if a store has something—they have to go the store. They can’t call to check up on a client—they have to hope things are fine. And perhaps the ultimate tragedy, they can’t order a pizza—they have to go out.

Teachers know this, but what’s a teacher to do? Here are some ideas:

Call Each Other Students practice speaking together all the time, but never on the phone. Send half the class to another room. Have a normal discussion, but have them talking on the phone.

Order Food for a Charity As a class, choose a charity you like. Find out where their office is. Then, call them and tell them your class is going to support them by buying them a pizza. Ask them what kind they’d like. Call a pizza restaurant and order one for the charity. One student will actually make each call. The cost for the pizza and the phone calls shouldn’t be more than $30.

Go Slow Of course you don’t need to jump right to using real telephones. Before making any calls, write practice dialogues to imagine how things will go.

Back-to-Back Ask the students to memorize dialogues (or get close) and do them with their backs to each other and their eyes closed. They’ll have a harder time hearing each other and won’t be able to rely on gestures, etc.

Lights Out! Turn off all the lights and do your discussion that way. This will also help them practice speaking without relying on images.

Analyze the Problems Sometimes just knowing why something is hard can make it easier. Ask the students to write down all the possible problems they might have making a phone call. Then brainstorm solutions to each problem.

What?! One of the big problems on the phone is not understanding. Review ways to ask someone to repeat things.

Plan a Holiday Hotels and airlines often have toll free numbers you can call. Ask your students to put together a holiday package. Give them a budget. Then ask them to call different hotels and airlines to get information on prices and amenities. Just don’t all call the same hotel…

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