Bringing the Cell Phone into Language Learning

I bet you thought you’d never find a teacher actually wanting her students to own cell phones. After all, the cell phone is probably one of the most common and annoying classroom distractions. However, they may actually be seen as a means to facilitate language learning. They were made for communication, weren’t they? Why not consider putting them to use in ESL? For a group of students who all own cell phones (with texting and built-in cameras), here are some possibilities to consider:

  • For High Beginners

Language targeted: Telling the time of day and using prepositions of location.

Students send 3-4 photos to an assigned partner over the course of one day. Each photo must be in a different place. There must be clues indicating the location. The student receiving a photo must note the time and identify the place. For every photo, two sentences must be written. Model:

It’s 12:30 PM. Maria is at school.

It’s 3:00 PM. Maria is on a bus.

It’s 3:30 PM. Maria is at work.

It’s 8:45 PM. Maria is at home.

 

The students show the pictures and read their sentences aloud at the next lesson.

 

  • For Intermediate Students

Language targeted: Present simple and present progressive.

Students send 3-4 photos to an assigned partner over the course of one day. Each photo must show the student doing a different activity. The student receiving a photo must note the time and identify the place and activity. For every photo, 2-3 sentences must be written. Model:

It’s 12:30 PM. Maria is at school, but she’s not studying. She’s eating lunch.

It’s 3:00 PM. Maria is on a bus. I think she’s going to work.

It’s 3:30 PM. I think Maria works in a restaurant. She’s getting ready to work.

It’s 8:45 PM. Maria is at home, and she’s making dinner.

The students show the pictures and read their sentences aloud at the next lesson.

VARIATION: You can use this activity for the simple past to describe a sequence of actions. You can also use this activity for the past progressive. Just have the students write about all the photos after the last one is received.

 

  • For Advanced Students

Language targeted: Paragraph organization and reporting.

Students play a game of 20 questions with an assigned partner. However, in this game, each student must ask the other a total of 10 questions about his/ her current activity. The information must be collected via texting and then organized into a paragraph. While texting, students are free to use abbreviated words and non-standard language. In the paragraph students must use standard English. Model:

[texting – first half, 10 questions by Student A]

Student A: hi wassup?

Student B: not much

Student A: where r u (1)

Student B: home

Student A: where is that? (2)

Student B: brookline

Student A: wat r u doing? (3)

Student B: reading

Student A: for school? (4)

Student B: no for fun

Student A: wat r u reading? (5)

Student B: a magazine Mens Health u know it?

Student A: no wats in it? (6)

Student B: stuff about exercise diet clothes advice etc

Student A: u work out? (7)

Student B: yeah

Student A: how often? (8)

Student B: almost every day

Student A: @ nite? (9)

Student B: yeah cuz i got school and work in day

Student A: u work out today? (10)

Student B: not yet

 

[Student A’s paragraph]

 

I started texting with Max around 8 PM last night. At the time, he was reading a magazine in his home in Brookline. He reads Men’s Health. I didn’t know about it, but Max explained that it gives advice on exercise, diet, clothes, etc. I’m not surprised because Max seems like a healthy guy. He said he works out almost every day. When I texted him, he still hadn’t worked out, but he planned to later.

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