by Josh Johnson, Advanced Plus Winter 2014
I’m coming to the end of my first teaching experience at Washington English Center and have thoroughly enjoyed teaching Advanced Plus in the company of my wife, Kelsey, a much more experienced teacher than I am. It has been a great class to teach but also challenging as their language skills are, of course, advanced and the students often have questions that strain my understanding of the grammar and logic behind American English. In this short blog post I wanted to offer a teaching activity that we have found useful during the term. We call it “Call an American” and it’s been entirely too much fun.
The premise is simple: throughout the American Ways book there are suggestions for students to interview an American on various topics such as work, values and religion. Instead of using one of our funnier student’s idea to shout the questions at a passersby from the class windows, we have arranged for the class to make phone calls to Peace Corps friends and, in a pinch, to family. First, we usually post a notice to Facebook with the time and topic to see who’s available. Then we use the portable speakers from the Volunteer Lounge to project the phone call so that everyone can hear. We divide up the questions before hand and place the call to “The American” and the students ask their questions and record their answers.
The “Call an American” activity is valuable as it is a real challenge to understand someone over the phone where there are no visual cues to draw upon. Additionally, our friends and family have not gone through teacher training so they speak quickly, use idioms, and bring up interesting slang. Plus, it’s great for the students to hear viewpoints beyond what we can provide. Lastly, it brings great joy and satisfaction to the American on the other end of the line as they can contribute to language learning and learn about Washington English Center without even leaving their home. When we called my brother he answered the phone while riding his bicycle which brought a lot of amusement to the advanced plus class.
I hope that you can use this no-cost, effective and fun activity in your own classes!