August 25, 2019

Teaching Ideas for Old Phone Books

When I taught in Micronesia, the phone company came at the start of every year to donate extras of the previous year’s book. In a school district that had very little in terms of a materials budget, this was one of those rare times when I had a full class set of anything. Here are my top picks for using these great freebies in the classroom.

Practice ABC order with a name chase activity.

Make sure each of the students has a book, and you should have one too. Call out the name of a person in the phone book and have students scramble to see who can find the right name. The first one to read off the correct phone number, gets a point. Decide ahead of time on a free prize, such as a homework pass signed by you. This works with the entire class or in small groups. Bonus? It’s a legitimate language skills activity that costs nothing, wastes no paper, and doesn’t leave you with extra paper work. Additional perk? It can be pulled off with absolutely no advance planning. Can you say cancelled assembly?

Recycle them as craft project work pads.

Doing something a bit gooey with the class and want to avoid desk cleanup? Take off the front cover and use the first page available to glue on, color over the edges of a pattern pieces, paint, etc. When the project is finished, each student can tear out that top page and use it as a drying space by the window for their work. The books can then be stacked on a shelf until the next time you have a messy craft project.

Use the books to familiarize the students with the community.

An extra perk of this approach is that the students will gain familiarity with the format of information recorded inside, and you’ll be able to instruct them on how to find information they might someday need. Here’s a cool link with some interactive lessons.

Alternative bulletin board backing.

Rip out the yellow pages and overlap the individual pieces to form an inexpensive covering for the backing of a bulletin board. The overlapping is what gives it the visual interest and keeps it looking interesting instead of cheesy. The pale yellow is a decent backdrop for blue construction paper-backed art projects. I’ve even seen a damaged dumpy apartment wall done in this stuff once and I have to tell you, it didn’t look half bad. The newsprint makes the backdrop a bit more serious, which is nice for a classroom with older students.

Paper mache.

Have the students tear the white pages into small pieces and bag them. When everyone has enough torn paper, commence with your art project of choice.

Got another creative idea for phone books? We’d love to hear it. Sound off below!

Flickr Photo Credit: How Can I Recycle This?

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