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Tin Can Telephone

A lovely ESL craft activity to encourage listening and speaking skills. Long before the telephone was invented, people found that they could get two empty tin cans, attach them together using string and speak to each other over pretty long distances. These have become to be called Tin Can Phones and the chances are that you made one of these as a kid yourself.

Making Tin Can Telephones to Teach English

You can make a set of Tin Can Phones at home or in English class and have the kids practicing English words, sentences or short dialogues in a really fun way! This is an especially good ESL activity for children if you have a large classroom, are easily able to make use of a corridor or, best still, have a safe area outside.

You will need:

two empty tin cans, a long length of good string, a small nail, a hammer

How to Make the Tin Can Telephones

Get two empty and clean tin cans. Using your hammer and small nail, gently tap a hole in the bottom of both of your tin cans. Try to get your holes as close to the centre as you can. Thread your string up through the hole, so that the string is poking into the can. Tie a big knot in the string so that it can't fall out. Repeat with the other can and you are ready!

Using Tin Can Telephones in your English Class

When you are ready, clear lots of space get half your class at one end of the tin can phone and the other half of your class at the other. Get two students to speak to each other in English, practice words, phrases, tongue twisters, whatever! They'll love it!

Safety: If you do make this in class, never leave your hammer and nails unattended. If you are at all concerned, then make the phone at home before class.

Like this ESL Activity for Kids?

If you liked making Tin Can Telephones with your students, you should try these other ESL activities for your young learners!


Draw the Job! - Kids learn different ESL job vocabulary baker, postie, police officer, teacher, etc, and then have to draw the job on the board for other classmates to guess.

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The Human Buzzer - your kids are put into teams to answer the teacher’s questions in a Saturday night TV-quiz show style class…only other kids have to buzz in when their heads are pressed!

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Hot Marker - Your children are put into lines facing the board. The teacher gives the two kids a massage at the end of the line and the kids have to pass down the massage down the line by whispering from one child to the next, but there’s a secret twist to this game!