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ESL Lesson Idea: Telephone Messages


Provides practice understanding telephone conversations well enough to take an accurate phone message; a skill that requires experience and strategy.

  • Help your students to become familiar with the layout of a standard phone message slip. Distribute and discuss the Message Forms to identify what information is needed and how it is generally reported. Define the vocabulary on the message form.
  • Read (or play a tape of yourself reading) the phone messages from the Message Scripts sheet, and have students write notes first on a practice paper, and then on the message forms.
  • Have each student make up his/her own phone message and read it to a partner to take notes.
  • Discuss telephone answering machines and how they work. Read the answering machine message and response from the Message Scripts sheet. If you have a tape recorder, play a tape of yourself reading the answer message. Then speak the response into the toy phone.
  • Emphasize the importance of speaking slowly and clearly. Introduce the students to phonetic spelling with the Telephone Spelling handout, to help them understand better and to be understood when spelling aloud on the phone.
  • Have students make up their own answering machine message and read them to a partner, who then responds.
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