One of my students is an adult. I give him private lessons twice a week. His English level is high beginner/low intermediate and he is taking ESL lessons in order to get better at communicating with English speaking people at work. One of his main goals this semester is to learn how to have a successful phone conversation. Phone conversations are particularly hard for ESL students, because students do not have access to the other person’s gestures and facial expressions. So last week, I went to class equipped with conversational activities related to business calls, and we sat back to back in order to make it more realistic. A thought then came to my mind… why have I never used a telephone/cellphone in my classroom before?
A lot of students have access to a cellphone and it has become one of their main ways of communicating. They even bring it into the classroom without permission! I think that allowing them to have their cellphones at specific times would be very interesting, and beneficial, for them. The goal would be to have students practice oral English in a phone conversation setting. I find that it would be a great way to make students more confortable with the oral language, with polite requests as well as informal communication vocabulary words and expressions (and other language conventions related to phone calls), to make them realize how important non-verbal communication is when learning a new language, and to make them develop cognitive and social skills.
Here are a few examples of how I would use it in my ESL classroom. Cellphones could be used with role-playing activities (here is an example), or simply by asking students to have a conversation on a specific topic. The students could also be asked to simply practice the target vocabulary and sentences at first. Another great activity would be to ask students to practice recording a message or leaving a message. Finally, activities related to texting could be done as well. This is what kids and teenagers do in everyday life, so I think that when teaching a language, teachers should focus on things that will be helpful. I am not suggesting one should spend 10 hours on that, but I find that having students use their cellphone in the classroom at a specific time could be a great way to have them improve their vocabulary and fluency.
If the rule that cellphones are not allowed in the classroom is clear, and that the fact that using cellphones in the classroom on a particular day in order to do a specific activity is a special permission, I do not see how this would make having students follow the “no cellphone” rule any harder than it already is!