Do you have to create a speaking activity for a basic phone conversation? Out of ideas? Tired of memorization and fill-in the blanks? Here’s a fun idea to spruce up your classes’ phone conversations. I used this activity seven times, and it was wonderful each time. Students had fun, and the fifty minutes just flew by. Plus it involves almost no preparation on your part. It is possible to adapt this activity to New Horizon 2 Speaking +2 and New Horizon 3 Speaking +1 and +4 as well.
45 to 50 minutes
Purpose: To get your kids speaking, to learn the grammar point “Hello. This is …” and to get them to have fun so they forget that speaking is scary.
Prep: Two “phones” labeled “A” and “B.” You can use two toy cell phones or do what I did, make your own cut outs from cardboard (preferably red, which also happens to be the color of the boxes the printing paper comes in). Music: choose an upbeat song to play on the CD player or use your phone/tablet/laptop
Execution: Start the lesson as usual with your JTE, covering the new vocabulary with flashcards, and practicing pronunciation. Then demonstrate the dialogue with the JTE (use your prop phones!). I made a couple “ringing” noises before the first “Hello?” It works well later as a cue for the students. Also act out the gestures of picking up and hanging up the phone. Go over the dialogue, checking for understanding. It’s pretty straight forward, but the JTE can translate for them if necessary.
Have the students repeat the dialogue after you. Split the class in half and have half play Sakura, half play Kevin. Switch and repeat. Now have the students practice in pairs. During this time, write on the board:
B: Hello, ___________? This is _________.
A: Oh! Hi, __________.
Now have the students look at the Step 1 box on page 58. Identify who is in the first picture, and use the sentences on the board to have students fill in the blanks with the correct name. Do this for all three pictures, then have the class take part B while you take part A. They have to use your name and their class number: “This is class 1-1.” Use your fake phone for added comedy. Switch the roles, and make a ringing sound to cue the students.
Ask for a volunteer student, or choose one at random. This is a nice chance to let your good kids shine, or to effectively discipline your trouble students. Have them take part B first, unless you are confident with their name. Give them the other fake phone to use. Go through the dialogue, and then switch parts. If you have some stickers on you, feel free to reward them. The student who just performed can choose anyone to give the phone to. Do this a couple more times with different students.
Now it’s time for the students to do the dialogue on their own. I combined this activity with the game “Hot Potato” to make it a bit more exciting. Using mostly gestures, you can explain to the students the rules of “Hot Potato” which I renamed “Atsui Denwa” (hot phone) for this exercise. It is important to note that each phone should be clearly labeled A or B.
Starting the phones at different ends of the room, students must pass the phone along while you play some music. When the music stops, whoever is holding the phones must stand and recite all the dialogue on pages 58 and 59, using their own names. The person with the phone labeled A starts the dialogue, the same as what’s on the blackboard. It will be a little noisy from the commotion, so use your ringing sound to let the students know to settle down during the dialogue.
Rules for Hot Phone:
-They must pass the phone with both hands on it (no tossing or throwing, be sure to demonstrate what not to do).
-They must say “Atsui denwa!” or “Hot phone!” before handing off the phone. This helps slow things down a bit and makes it clear who is holding the phone when the music stops, but the kids usually get excited and forget to say it. So don’t worry if that happens, as long as the phone is moving.
– They can pass to anyone in front, back or to the side of them (or to the teachers) but they have to stay seated.
– If a student who has already had the phone ends up with it again, they can choose to give it to any student who hasn’t yet done the dialogue.
Using the iPhone or iPad for the music is nice because they can’t predict when it will stop quite as easily as a CD player. I used The Beatles “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da” for this. All my students know this because they play it constantly in the grocery stores here.
Play for as long as you like, the more students who get to speak the better. If you have extra time at the end of class, have the students try to go through the dialogue with you from memory. For a laugh, you can pretend to be Batman and ask the students to come to your Halloween party. Make up whatever you like. Step 3 on page 59 has different options for the conversation, so you can demonstrate alternate conversations with the JTE using these. “I’m sorry, I’m busy. Maybe next time” etc.
Final thoughts: This was a lot of fun for me and the students. Really try to get them to act it out, with lots of emotion for “Great!” “It’s my birthday party!” etc. so they don’t sound depressed the whole time. They will really enjoy seeing you be a ham, and the more fun it is for them, the better the activity will go. You can adapt this concept for any of the phone conversations in New Horizons, there is one for year 2 and another in year 3. Of course, you can change the “hot phone” into any item you want and use this for any speaking activity. The components I really like are the randomness of calling on students and the upbeat energy level. Let me know if you find this useful!