Mobile phones have many features and can provide great opportunities for activities. Here are a few ideas to get the most out mobiles in lessons.

Last month we looked at some ideas for exploiting text messaging in class. This month we’ll see what else a mobile phone can do (without ringing up large call charges for students!)

English ring tones

Some phones can now record voices and use them as ring tones. Get each small group to discuss, agree and write out a sentence or two that would make a great ring tone, e.g. Hi. How are you today? I’m trying to call you! (I’m sure your students will come up with something cleverer!) After you’ve approved the words, each group should record their ring tone on a phone. At the end, get all groups to play their ring tones and the class can vote for the best.

This is the off button

Pre-teach some key lexis (e.g. buttons, menu, fascia, screen etc.) and phrases (e.g. It drives me mad; so badly designed etc). In small groups, students introduce their phones to each other and briefly talk through any special features or oddities. They then describe the single most annoying feature and explain why it is so annoying. Extend the activity by asking students to teach others how to do something (e.g. take a photo) – using verbal instructions only – i.e. without demonstrating. Students may need reminding of useful verbs (e.g. press, cancel, select, go back, etc).

Phone book secrets

(Only do this if your class agrees to it.) Make pairs of students who don’t know each other very well. One student should look through the phone book on their partner’s mobile and ask questions to find out interesting things and start a discussion about a few of the people. (Of course, the phone’s owner can refuse to answer any questions!) You could pre-teach a few curious enquiry questions such as So, who’s Peter Andrew, then? Tell me about Mary Leman! etc.

My perfect phone

Discuss how mobiles have evolved in recent years – with new features all the time. Brainstorm all the things that phones can do now and then start a second list of what they might be able to do in the future. Pairs then discuss, invent and list the features they’d like in their dream phone in ten years’ time, possibly drawing a sketch as well.

60-second movies

With movie-making facilities in their pockets, students can now create their own 60-second masterpiece. Explain that they must plan a complete epic film that lasts just a minute. They should write a script, rehearse it (making sure it only lasts 60 seconds) and then film it. Hold an Oscar ceremony at the end to award the prize for Best Film.

Phone whispers

Distribute a phone number list. For homework, tell each student to be free between certain times. Start by phoning someone and leaving a complicated message in English. Each person should then phone the next one on the list. The last person should call you back. Next lesson, tell them the original message and the final one. Were they the same?