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Speaking activity: "Catalogue Shopping"

Objective/ product

In the initial stage, a customer makes a catalogue shopping order by telephone, and the operator at the catalogue shopping company takes the first student's order and "fills" the order by making a drawing that represents the items ordered. (The student role-playing the operator may be directed to make at least one significant mistake in filling the order to facilitate the second stage of the activity.) The drawing is then delivered to the customer.

In the second stage, the customer telephones back to the company, complains about the order, and requests that the order be fixed.(The operator in this stage may be the same as the original operator, or may be a different person.) The operator may be directed to change or annotate the drawing to suit the customer's request.

Followup: the ordering process that produced a given drawing is reconstructed.

Materials needed

  • drawing materials, including various colors

Procedures for traditional classroom

Pairwork. This activity works best in a "telephone pairwork" format: customer and operator are seated so they are not looking at each other, but can hear each other.

The whole class can participate in a followup activity: a drawing (annotations and all) is displayed and students are invited to state what they think was ordered and what the problem was with the order.

Adaptations for ITV

Since "catalogue shopping" does not absolutely require students to interview more than one partner, the channel can be used to pair two "extra" students who have no partner at their own site; these two are joined on program through the use of split-screen or switching shots, and carry out their interview while the remaining students speak face-to-face and ignore the pair on program.

Problems for adaptation will crop up when there are more than two such "orphans." One possible solution is to allow multiple "orphan" pairs to work on program consecutively; the problem with this is that presumably other pairs will finish their work before the pairs on program are finished.

Another possible solution is to cast the extra student(s) as "customer service quality control supervisors": the extra students eavesdrop on the pair who are on program, taking notes on the "customer's" order; when the drawing representing the order is "delivered," the supervisors, rather than the customer, critique the order. Again, as in "Who drew this?" the best alternative is to have visual presenters under learner control available at each site, so that drawings by receive-site students can easily be displayed; otherwise, drawings have to be faxed.


Sample Clips

Student-produced visuals may be used as more than a single-point stimulus for student speaking; in some instances, they may be created and/or changed in the course of an activity. In the example shown here, students work in pairs; we see one pair (origination site to receive site) connected via the TV channel. The student role-playing the customer “telephones” an order for clothing to “LL Bean.” The student role-playing "LL Bean" is instructed to make a drawing of the filled order, making one deliberate mistake, and then to “deliver” the order by showing the drawing to the customer. The customer then calls “LL Bean” again to complain about the mistake and request an exchange or refund.
Each stage of the activity may involve a modeling or training phase in which the teacher is more heavily involved, and an open phase where students are on their own. Both phases are exemplified in the clips below.

Speaking Task: Telephone Order. Having been trained in the language needed to carry out "telephone orders," a student at the origination site dons headphones to take an "LL Bean" clothing order from a receive-site student and to create a drawing based on the order. Classroom speakers are turned down so that other pairs of students can work independently in this open phase of the speaking activity.

Checking: Botched Order? This clip shows the first part of the modeling/training phase for the portion of the activity dealing with complaining about botched orders. The instructor, visible in a window onscreen, asks the receive-site "customer" to confirm his order and directs students' attention to a possible problem with that order.


Modeling: Fixing the Problem. Continuing the training phase, the instructor role-plays "LL Bean" while the receive-site student who made the order asks to have the shoes exchanged. Meanwhile the instructor uses white space on the drawing to display useful phrases.




1999 Stephen Fleming, NFLRC, University of Hawai‘i.All rights reserved.