Repost: Can You Hear Me? – Can You Hear Me Now?

I was recently asked about this post from 2007 about our editing phones, and thought it was time to repost it now:

Teaching my students to be CAREFUL proofreaders is always a struggle. Most of my students are second language learners so they already struggle with proper English and English syntax and all that goes with that. So I emphasize with them that they have to catch the mistakes that they actually know better than to make. They all know they are to capitalize the first word in a sentence or names, but that doesn’t always happen. So I’ve been teaching lessons on catching as many errors as possible – especially since we have the 5th grade writing test looming ahead of us right after we get back from break.

We have put our fingers on every first word in a sentence, and then every name. We have read one word at a time to catch words without s’s that need them and so forth. So after they have supposedly proofread their work completely I have them use their “phones” to make a last check. Of course their phones are really PVC pipe and elbow joints pieced together. But they work incredibly well. When you talk into them like a phone you are forced to whisper or your ear is blasted with the sound of your voice. So every student in class can be reading their writing aloud at the same time and it makes about as much noise as a herd of earthworms crawling across your lawn.

I gave a sample writing test this week and had the students treat it like it was real. “You have to catch those mistakes you really know better than to make!!!” I admonished them. We went through the entire writing process and proofread their pieces profusely. Students were sure they had caught every mistake they could. Then I had them read their pieces with their phones. I asked, How many of you found mistakes you missed before?Every hand went up. “You notice things you missed when you read with the phone,” several students shared. It is amazing how when they experience their work “auditorally” as well as visually, they pick up things they miss otherwise. My students that have a hard time figuring out where periods go do better when they “phone in” their work too.

My wife and I each made sets of phones several years ago. I believe the parts cost us about $12 each at a home store to make 30 phones for both our classes. Now the question is will they allow us to use them during the writing test? I doubt it.

I should add that PVC pipe phones are not my original idea – but I don’t remember where I got it from or I would cite the source. I’m just passing on my experience with them because they work so well. I also take them home and run them through the dishwasher every so often to sanitize them.

Learning is messy!

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16 Responses to Repost: Can You Hear Me? – Can You Hear Me Now?

  1. Maureen Tumenas says:

    I made a set of those “phones” back when I taught Kindergarten. They really help young learners or ESL kids to hear all the sounds without having your room get too noisy to hear.
    Great idea to help the kids hear their own mistakes.

  2. Danielle says:

    have always suggested to my students (both in my English classes and my language classes) that reading out loud is a great way to proofread – but hadn’t thought of anything like this. Thanks for sharing!

  3. AllanahK says:

    I am so definitely going to give this a try. So simple but effective. Wanted to go out right now and buy some. Have put your photos as a prompt for me to go looking as soon as I next get into town.

  4. Stacie Bolton says:

    I love the idea of using PVC phones for ELLs. I have also struggled with teaching proofreading. I have found that creating a “Community of Editors” from WritingFix.com really is a good way for students practice editing all aspects of proofreading (spelling, capitalization, grammar, and punctuation). Incorporating the used of the PVC phones can help increase the effectiveness of this tool.

  5. Danielle says:

    What a fantastic idea! This is a great way to give each student privacy but at the same time get them listening to how their writing sounds. I may “steal” this idea in the future :)

  6. AllanahK says:

    I went to the hardware store today and bought two ‘phones’. Unfortunately they cost $16NZ eah. It really does work well. I look forward to using this low tech tool in the classroom.

  7. Ann V says:

    Thanks for the idea. I am currently in a teacher ed program with the intention of earning the ELL endorsement. So, I’m really excited anytime I run across an idea that’ll work in this area. Am looking forward to trying this “phone.”

  8. Kristen says:

    I remember in the book Tested by Linda Perlstein she talked of the “whisper phones” that they use in her elementary school. Here is the link http://lindaperlstein.com/tested.html .

    I love the idea of the students being alone in their own head and auditorially editing their writing. It brings new meaning to the term voice.

  9. Cara says:

    I am a student teacher this year working with 2/3 kiddos. We had them “reading to the wall” for clarity and editing. This is such a better idea. I think I may have to make a trip to the hardware store. The class would love the idea of the phones! Thanks for the tip on hearing their “voice”.

  10. ark says:

    In my student teaching classroom, they too use “whisper phones” made exactly the same. They are a great tool to have. I agree that “auditorilly” the students catch their mistakes from being able to hear their own sentences. Great tip, thank you for the post

  11. Liz D says:

    I bought two Toobaloos

    http://www.toobaloo.com/

    last year, but they have some problems

    1. The colors are distracting
    2. The mouth-to-ear dimensions are too small for many kids
    3. For older kids (>4th grade) they have a “baby” feel.

    I mostly work with kids 1-on-1 — I have the tools & skills to have a “whisper phone assembly kit”. Having the kids I work with assemble their own, & having a good selection of colored Sharpies might increase buy-in & pride of ownership.

  12. Mel says:

    What a great idea! I love the idea of using phones in the classroom for reading, but I never thought of using them for writing as well! I would have also never thought of making the phones myself, and I was impressed with the price. The teacher that I am working with right now uses some of these phones but she bought them instead of making them and so the students have to share the phones, so I thought that i would eventually have to buy my own set. I am so happy to know I can make them instead and not spend too much money!

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  15. Thank you for this idea. I wonder if this could be used in a general classroom as well as in an ELL classroom. Would the telephones be distracting or would other students see the point or become distracted by the sound practices in a general ed classroom that is trying to incorporate ELL differentiation? I like the idea of reflective sound for those hard to learn phonemes like “s” and “r.” Even the sound “sh” and “ch” can be difficult but in an authentic life skill such as speaking into a phone, it might make the activity of learning everyday English language sounds more bearable and user-friendly. Love the idea…just wondering how it could work with minimal distraction in a gen-ed classroom.

  16. Megan V says:

    What a great idea! I love it! I have always heard that people are able to catch so many more mistakes when they read there papers aloud, but it is awesome to hear this example. I think it would be so much fun for the students and interactive as well. I love the idea of being able to talk through a phone while doing homework. Helping the students read their papers aloud will help them with proof reading.

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