Six classroom activities with mobile/cell phones

I have just started classes again, and the other day I arrived to see my students all gathered around someone’s new iPhone chatting quite animatedly about it (they are adult students, by the way). They switched to English when I arrived and we devoted a good fifteen minutes checking out all the different aspects of the phone. It made me think of other activities I have done with mobile phones, which for me count as one of the “ultimate” realia items in class… so many people have them and they are so multifaceted now.

So here are, you guessed it, six activities you can do with a mobile phone/cell phone in class.

1. Describe, compare and rank them

Ok, this is the obvious one. It’s what my students were doing quite naturally. To make it a bit more formal and generative, put students into groups of three or four and tell them to 1) describe their phones and capabilities 2) rank the phones in order of usefulness/value/interestingness etc 3) decide which is the best and worst feature of each phone.

2. Role play conversation back to back.

The arrival of mobile phones has made this technique of “playing a phone call” much more realistic than holding your thumb and forefinger up to your face as I used to get students to do (I even brought in bananas once for this purpose). One of the ABSOLUTELY best phone roleplay activities I have done comes from Ken Wilson’s book Drama and Improvisation, where students pick a card saying where they are and what they are doing and improvise a conversation from there.

3. Think of alternative uses

Hold up your phone and ask “What is this?” When the chorus of bored responses “It’s a phone” comes back at you, say “No, it looks like a phone, but it is in fact a garage door-opener and alarm” (or some such invention). Elaborate on this a little. Then tell students to think of an alternative use for their phones. Each student presents their “alternative phone” in small groups. Each group then decides which is the most interesting, and that student shares their alternative phone with the class.

4. Roleplay at the phone shop

Who hasn’t a problem getting something to work on their phone? Brainstorm a list of possible “phone problems” and get students to write these on little pieces of paper. Put students in pairs and redistribute the papers, one per pair. Each pair of students have to roleplay a conversation at the phone shop, with one student playing a customer with a phone problem and the other playing the shop attendant/technician.

A variation would be to have students try to “sell” their phone to a partner, explaining all its attributes etc.

5. Discuss issues

Of course, the whole issue of mobile/cell phones is a rich area to tap for discussion. Questions include: Are they bad for your health? What is good phone etiquette? How old should you be before you get your first phone? Are phones in class a problem? Where should phones be banned? Are phones too expensive? Can you remember old phones, what were they like? Do you screen your calls? Do you still remember (or even know) phone numbers or do you depend on your phone for that now? Could you live without your phone? Many of these could kick off a discussion, which may even get quite heated.

6. Make your classroom more “souped up” with a smartphone

I was quite happy with my list of ideas so far until I saw Karenne Sylvester’s post and its responses on using smart phones. Suddenly I felt pretty old-fashioned with my ideas. With today’s smart phones you can connect them to your computer, hook up to speakers, play songs or podcasts, show videos, make films, use apps, record students, playback recordings, project things, play games etc. Check that post out to find out more. It almost merits a separate list altogether, as my ideas are all things to do with the phone turned off.

Have you had any ideas on using the phone in class? Post a comment.

Published in: on September 25, 2009 at 1:00 pm  Comments (16)  
Tags: , , , ,