Telephone Skills

By Activity Bank on Sep 12, 2013

This activity has been revised and was originally created by Charlotte Cushman and published in the Perkins Activity and Resource Guide (1st edition, 1992).  The second edition is available for purchase.

The ability to use a telephone appropriately is a skill everyone needs to learn. This interactive activity increases social interactions and develops community awareness through role-playing. Lessons include Social Skills, English Language Arts, and Independent Living Skills.


Different types of phones: cell phones (both smartphones and others) and desk phones


  • Telephone skills can be used at many different levels and for many different reasons. Try some of the following:
    • Pretend play
    • Answering the phone
    • Making emergency phone calls
    • Making routine phone calls
    • Telephone safety
  • Begin by having the student pretend to call someone. Role-play the conversation using real phones that are not live.
  • Have the students take turns answering the phone. Have them practice saying “hello,” finding out whom is calling, what they want and what message they have.
  • Keep a digital recorder next to the phone to help students learn to take messages. Have students turn on the recorder before they pick up the phone and then repeat the message as the other person speaks. Students who are unable to process an entire message should repeat, one by one, each sentence the caller says.
  • Talk about who to call in case of emergency. Make a list of emergency numbers and post them by the phone (in braille or large print). Be sure that students understand that these numbers are to be used only in case of an emergency.
  • Discuss what information should be relayed when leaving a message for someone (who you are, when you called, what you wanted to say). Practice leaving messages on voicemail.
  • Discuss safety rules for the phone: don’t talk to strangers on the phone, don’t make prank calls, don’t volunteer information.
  • Practice making business calls, setting up appointments, gaining information (e.g., “What are your hours?” “Do you sell______?”).
  • Call movie theaters to hear pre-recorded messages about times of shows, etc.
  • Practice dialing familiar numbers.
  • Call a friend on a real phone.



Have students practice using different types of phones, such as cell phones and wall phones.