¡Aló Clase! (Pass the Telephone)

In the past I've come into class, maybe once a month, and sat at my desk in the back of the room and talked with students from there. Nothing formal, just me doing some CI from a different spot. For a good chunk of time I either check in with students about their day, ask them specific questions about a story, or whatever seems to be of interest in the moment. Not trying to teach new stuff, just chatting.

I can think of three positive outcomes that justified me being lazy and sitting for a bit.

-It's a novel way for us to converse (I'm not standing/sitting up in front or walking around)

-The students are communiting without my non-verbal cues (unless they turn around)

-It's a nice opportunity to assess their true aural comprehension

Well, today I took this informal activity and made it more a bit more formal. And with good results. I'll call it "Pass the Telephone." This is probably nothing new. Nevertheless, here's what I did, how I did it

and what I might do differently the next time, for anyone looking for a novel way to provide some compelling aural input.

The Process

I greeted the class from my desk. I asked one student to write a quiz for the class. I don't have a class quiz writer normally, but if you do, this person would be the obvious go-to. I picked a very able student who can write neatly. I asked her to write one question about each person with whom I conversed. I only spoke with one person at a time (because we're on the phone... duh! :)

Here's a picture of what she ended up with:

As you can see, I spoke with 11 students during that 48 minute class. That's roughly 4 minutes average with each student, though I'm sure I spoke longer with those who were more excited or less anxious to converse. I started each conversation with a Spanish "Hello, who's speaking?" or "Who's this?" and we were off.

The topics of conversation were quite diverse. Here's a sampling of some things discussed:

-the weather (of course, I was "in Mexico on the beach", haha, so the weather was beautiful where I was pretending to be. It was rainy and chilly in SE Minnesota.)

-how they're doing today, and why

-what they did last night

-facts about people in the class, and things discussed in previous "phone conversations"

-hair cuts (several boys had just cut their hair after sporting bleach-blonde mowhawks for the football season)


To make things as comprehensible as possible, I also had someone up front writing words on the board anytime the person I was talking to asked me what a word meant. At the end of a normal class doing this, there was an average of 5 words up on the board. (Our Magic Notebook Guardian would do her normal work recording those words permanently for the class as usual.) This was a pretty good sign that I was staying in bounds.

There was really no prep for this. Even the phone was a wooden statue of a bird I have sitting in the classroom. And we just pretended. If they would look back at me while we talked, I would say casually in Spanish "I'm not here" and they would turn back around. Of course I would sometimes "unpretend" when I saw that the person up front mispelled the word wrong on the board or I noticed something in front of me worth talking about (like the haircuts).

Another interesting result from this activity: The kids were interacting with each other too! This typically happened when a student didn't know a word that I know someone else in the class knew, or if they didn't know a fact from a previous conversation, so I'd say for example (in TL), "Ask Sam".

And of course, since I was "not really there", it wouldn't make sense for me to be trying to enforce the No English rule. So I hired a Police(wo)man to write down names of anyone who infringed on that rule. Worked like a charm. Students were really attentive, because they knew there'd be a quiz, and because I think it was genuinely compelling content and context for them. One student even asked me on his way out, "Are we going to do this with the rest of the class tomorrow?!"

In the very last conversation, a student actually pretended to be the brother of someone in the class and the interest skyrocketed! I smiled and went with it of course, and thought "Why didn't I think of that?!" Next time I will give them the option of being themself or pretending to be someone else, fictional or real (though not another student in the class). I also may pass out some note paper (since my students don't have notebooks in class) so they have the option to jot down information from the conversations if they feel compelled to do so.

To wrap it up, a cordial "Fue un placer. Hasta Luego!"

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