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ESL Lesson Idea: Using the Telephone


Provides practice phone conversations and phone etiquette; important but difficult skills, due to the lack of visual clues for the non-native speaker.

  • Students will have better success responding to phone calls if they are able to be the ones asking the questions. In order to take control of the conversation, or ask for clarification, students need appropriate language to interrupt the caller. For example:
    “Who are you trying to call?”
    “What was it that you wanted?”
    “Pardon me, but who did you say this was?”
    “Could you please spell that slowly?”
    “Is that ‘C’ as in Charlie?”
  • Model the conversation in the handout A Phone Conversation and have the class ask questions about anything that they do not understand.
  • In pairs, students will read the Phone Dialogues to each other, and then make up their own conversations using the Phone Situations as a guide. Initially have students practice face-to face, and then back-to-back. Using the toy phones or cut-outs is helpful.
  • Discuss telemarketers and how to respond to them. If a student discerns that a call is from a telemarketer, s/he can simply say, “Please take my name off of your list.” New legislation requires that telemarketers must immediately end the call when that request is made.
  • See additonal lessons on calling 911 and taking a phone message.
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