Using Your Cell Phone for Instruction
Posted by on April 02, 2020 in categoryFacts & ResearchcategoryMember Tips

ProLiteracy has an excellent list of resources you can use with students during this period of social/physical distancing including instructional resources and tools. Let’s talk about some of those resources and tools. Let’s start with a tool that you and your students all most likely have—a cell phone.

If you’re working with ESL students, one of the easiest ways to use a cell phone is to set up regularly scheduled calls where you can talk with students and they can practice their conversational English. Aim for at least a 10 minute conversation two times a week. Before you end your call, determine what you will talk about for the next call so the student has a chance to think about what he or she wants to say and can practice the relevant grammar and vocabulary. If you need topics, I suggest using current events topics from News for You. News for You Online is providing the courtesy password 22667F through June 30, 2020, so anyone can access News for You Online at

If you want to have a phone call with more than one student at the same time, you can google “How to make a conference call on my [insert whatever phone you have].” Though the instructions are different for each phone, they are all straightforward and easy to find.

What if you need to do more than just talk with the student? What if you need to actually provide instruction—show a student how to use a KWL chart, how noun/verb agreement works, or teach vocabulary? It’s time for you to become a YouTuber! All you will need is a phone, a Google account, and a YouTube channel. Here’s a short video on YouTube that shows you how to create a Google account and YouTube channel. The benefit of creating your own videos and uploading them to your YouTube channel is that you can provide the exact content you want and students can subscribe to your channel and easily find your videos.

Now you’ll need to create your home studio. The main thing is to find a quiet, well-lit place to record. Let’s assume you don’t have a giant chalk board or white board in your home. You’ll need to create one. Find a picture frame with a glass front and dimensions of at least 8.5 x 11. Remove that picture of you in high school and replace it with a piece (or pieces) of white paper so that you have a nice white background behind the glass. Find a dry erase marker and now you have a whiteboard. When you’re filming, make sure there’s no glare on the glass.

You can’t film and teach, so you’ll need a stand for your phone. Here’s a YouTube video that shows you how to make a stand for your phone using pieces from a cardboard box. Save some of the cardboard to put behind the phone to adjust the camera angle. Use books to adjust the height. Now you have your own classroom studio. Place the phone so that the camera is focused on your “whiteboard.” Film your lesson, and upload it to your YouTube channel.

Lastly, if you need a way for students to share their work, have students take pictures of their workbook pages, writing assignments, or other work and text or email them to you. If you have a printer, you can print them out and make corrections. But even if you aren’t able to print out the work, you can see where students need help and make that the next topic for your YouTube classroom.

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