Here´s an idea for a lesson on telephoning that I successfully used with a group of managers in a logistics company this week.
It seems that the majority of calls that in-work business English learners have to answer are unexpected, and what they need is, therefore, not only the language of strategies, but also strategies for dealing with these unexpected calls. The aims of this lesson are to engage learners in a dialogue about the unexpected calls they receive and how they deal with them and then for them to take part in simulations of unexpected phone call scenarios and possibly to practise how well they can spontaneously react to an unexpected phone call from their partner.
1. Write UNEXPECTED PHONE CALLS in the middle of the board or flipchart and ask the learners what that means to them. Make it clear before they respond that you´re talking about unexpected calls at work only. What is an unexpected phone call? Which phone calls are expected and which are unexpected.
2. Draw four lines coming out from UNEXPECTED PHONE CALLS in the centre and write these headings at the end of them: 1) How often? 2) Who are they from? 3) What do they want? 4) Strategies. Ask the learners to discuss their answers to these questions in pairs and then feedback to the rest of the group. (1. How often do you get unexpected phone calls? 2. Who are they from? 3. What do the callers want? 4. Do you have any strategies for dealing with unexpected calls?)
3. Write up the learners´ responses on the board or flipchart during the feedback/ group discussion phase. Ask the learners to be a bit more specific or give some more details, if necessary.
4. Now ask the learners to choose one person (or type of people, e.g. suppliers) who they get unexpected calls from, one thing that this person could want from them when they call them unexpectedly, and one strategy they could use to deal with the call effectively and to do this in cooperation with a partner.
5. The learners then prepare for a role-play based around the scenario they have chosen in pairs.
6. The learners perform the role-plays either individually with their partner, in front of the rest of the group or both. Alternatively, the learners could create an outline of a telephone conversation within the context they´ve and then pass this on to another pair. In this case the unexpected element would really be there because the learners wouldn´t know for sure what scenario they were going to get and they could then role-play it as spontaneously as possible as a test of their ability to deal with the unexpected and stay cool under pressure!