Yesterday, I had some fun in Home Depot. While Mr. Gumby and the Gumby boys were finding a new toilet for our bathroom, I was happily amusing myself in the plumbing section. I rooted through several bins and boxes of PVC pipe parts and found what I needed to make a couple of "phones" for my classroom. I'm not much of a crafter (or craftsman, for that matter), so I needed to go the easiest route possible. I didn't want to saw PVC into sections (that's way too much work) so I opted for the "put-together-already-cut-pieces" plan. With a little twisting, turning and connecting ...voila! I had a "phone"!
Of course, I had to try out my new "phone" right there at Home Depot. Younger Son came walking down the aisle as I was talking to myself on my new "phone". He grinned, rolled his eyes and then jogged off to tell his older brother that Mom was talking to herself again. (My family never quite knows what to expect from me.) In a few moments, Mr. Gumby and both Gumby boys came around the end of the aisle pretending to talk to themselves on make believe phones. I'm telling you I live with a bunch of jokers! I proceeded to explain to the three goofballs that I had a very good educational reason for talking to myself with 1 1/2 inch PVC pipe.
These devices are called whisper phones, phonics phones or toobaloos. They can be homemade (like mine) with PVC pipe or purchased from teacher stores. The ones I've seen at teacher stores and websites are called Toobaloos. Toobaloos come in fancy colors and shiny metallic finishes. According to the Meyer-Johnson website, they are "an interactive learning tool ideal for students to improve reading fluency and comprehension, phonics, articulation and voice. The Toobaloo is a simple, break-resistant device that magnifies voices so students hear themselves loud and clear as they softly practice their reading rate, phrasing and speech." The phones are used by special education teachers and speech and language pathologists.
The devices are also wonderful tools to use with English Language Learners! I made myself two phones and am going to try them out with a couple of my students in the new year. If they're successful, I plan to make myself a few more. I don't need fancy colors and my homemade PVC pipe phones are dishwasher safe as well.
I found several articles on whisper phones. I'm including the articles here in case you would like to read them, too.
Open Websites from the University of Texas Department of Education
The CANDL Foundation
(The CANDL Foundation folks will send you 6 free phonics phones, if you send a request signed by your school's principal.)
Whisper Phone (The Solo from this company has a harness that fits over a child's head to hold the phone in place.)
Make Your Own Whisper Phones
(The author of this blog says it costs her 50 cents per phone when she makes her own.)