I wonder what goes through the mind of Bunnings staff members when they see adult after adult scouring the plumbing aisles only to emerge with a piece of narrow PVC pipe and way too many elbow joints for the size of the pipe. What could all these people be up to with that many elbow joints? Why is January such a popular month for this product combination?
The answer? Whisper phones.
Whisper phones (also called fluency or phonics phones) are not new, but have gained popularity over the last few years as teachers have realised how useful they are for both reading and writing instruction.
What are whisper phones?
Essentially, they’re the very low tech equivalent of having students record themselves reading a piece of text and listening back to it to see how they sounded. The difference is that students hear themselves reading the text as they are reading (rather than later on when you’ve finally found the saved audio file on the class ipad).
Don’t worry, the batteries on these phones don’t require charging, the screens won’t crack and no tricky phone plans need to be entered in to (thank goodness!)
Where can you get them?
Don’t pay for commercially made phones, head to Bunnings and follows these steps to make 10 of your own for less than $30*
*(Note: Cost of compulsory Bunnings sausage is not included in the price):
You will need:
- 1 X 1m piece of 20mm PVC pipe. (I used this $3.98 one from Bunnings)
- 20 X 20mm 90 degree PVC elbows (I used these $1.29 ones from Bunnings)
- A small hand saw/ hacksaw to cut through the PVC pipe. (I used an old hacksaw similar to this).
What to do:
- Cut the PVC pipe in lengths of approximately 90-100mm. (I made mine a range of sizes to cater for all year levels).
- Push a PVC elbow onto each end of the pipe.
- Pick the phone up and make your first call (remember to whisper though as these things are powerful!)
*Note: You can also wrap some decorative contact around the middle tube to make them look a bit more stylish than my ‘industrial’ looking ones. (See the photo of Kim Austen’s fluency phones at the bottom of this post)
Some ideas on how to use whisper phones:
- Have students read books into the phones to help them hear themselves reading. This can be great for helping students to notice their fluency and help them practise sounding smooth and less robotic when they read.
- Have students read individual words into the phones and listen carefully to hear how different parts of the word are pronounced. Have them identify the phonemes (sounds) they hear when they say the words into the phones.
- Have students read Guided Reading books into the phones.
- Use in Independent Reading time to reduce distracting behaviours.
- Have students read their writing into the phone to listen for sentence fluency. Older students (and indeed adults) may feel silly doing this, but sentence fluency really is best worked on by reading the writing aloud. Reading it in your head is nowhere near as good. (Sentence fluency is, after all, all about the ear!)
- Have students read their writing into the phones to listen for pauses in their breath and identify possible locations for punctuation.
Have any other ideas for using whisper phones? Let us know below!
Related blog posts:
- Reading Workshop: The what, why and how
- 5 Common mistakes teachers make in independent reading
- Should you teach genre or the 6+1 traits (if you want more info about sentence fluency in writing)
- Why Guided Reading shouldn’t be mandated in schools