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Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices

Arabic: Making Sales Calls

Grades 9 and 11, Arabic I: Eric Bartolotti’s high school class of novice and heritage speakers use basic greetings and express likes and dislikes through a role-playing activity. Students pair off, assuming the roles of telemarketers and prospective customers.



Eric Bartolotti


Arabic I


9 and 11


Watertown High School, Watertown, Massachusetts

Lesson Date

April 13

Class Size



1 hour, 4–5 days per week

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Video Summary

In this lesson, high school students demonstrate their ability to use basic greetings and express likes and dislikes through a role-playing activity. To start, Mr. Bartolotti reviews with students what they have been learning in this unit and explains the day’s planned activity. Next, students arrange their desks in two rows and pair off, assuming the roles of telemarketers and prospective customers. During a simulated phone call, telemarketers must politely greet customers and then try to sell their products. Students change partners, and once all students have spoken with each other, the class determines the best telemarketer according to criteria Mr. Bartolotti has set. To wind down and end on a relaxed note, students vote on a song to sing as a class before leaving.

Standards Addressed

Communication: Interpersonal


heritage speaker
A heritage speaker is a student who is exposed to a language other than English at home. Heritage speakers can be categorized based on the prominence and development of the heritage language in the student’s daily life. Some students have full oral fluency and literacy in the home language; others may have full oral fluency but their written literacy was not developed because they were schooled in English. Another group of students — typically third- or fourth-generation — can speak to a limited degree but cannot express themselves on a wide range of topics. Students from any of these categories may also have gaps in knowledge about their cultural heritage. Teachers who have heritage speakers of the target language in their class should assess which proficiencies need to be maintained and which need to be developed further. See also native speaker.

informal assessment
During an informal assessment, a teacher evaluates students’ progress while they are participating in a learning activity, for example, a small-group discussion. Results are typically used to make decisions about what to do next, namely, whether the students are ready to move on or whether they need more practice with the material.

Role-playing is an activity in which students dramatize characters or pretend that they are in new locations or situations. This activity challenges students by having them use language in new contexts.

Connecting to Your Teaching

Reflect on Your Practice

As you reflect on these questions, write down your responses or discuss them as a group.

  • How do you modify the register of language you use with your students to fit the task at hand? Do you have your students use the same register when speaking as they do when they are writing? Why or why not?
  • During what percentage of the class do you speak? During what percentage of the class do your students speak? What are some ways that you can increase meaningful student language production in your classroom?

Watch Other Videos

Watch other videos in the Teaching Foreign Languages K–12 library for more examples of teaching methodologies like those you’ve just seen. Note: All videos in this series are subtitled in English.

  • Making Plans (Arabic) shows students engaged in authentic conversations about what activities they will be doing in the future.
  • Touring a French City (French) shows students assuming the roles of tour guides and tourists and demonstrating oral proficiency.
  • Sports in Action (German) illustrates discussion around a narrowly focused topic.

Put It Into Practice

Try these ideas in your classroom. Where it’s not already evident, reflect on how to adapt an idea that targets one performance range for application to other performance ranges.

  • Mr. Bartolotti had his students do a role-playing activity about selling products over the phone. Role-playing activities in general provide a great tool for encouraging your students to use authentic language in real-life contexts. They can be incorporated into each unit you teach and enhanced with realia. Here are some important things to remember when setting up role-playing activities:
    • Each time you do a role-playing activity, make sure to model the scene clearly yourself. Using an appropriate, authentic video of a similar conversation can also help set the scene. Choose scenarios in which students assume roles they are familiar with and know well so that they are not trying to think of what to say, but can focus on how to express their thoughts. Also, make sure the roles require real negotiation of meaning. Avoid one-sided exchanges in which one person asks all the questions and the other has to answer every time.
    • During the role-playing activity itself, try to use realia as much as possible to enhance the atmosphere in the classroom. If the role-playing activity involves money, print out pictures of money from your target culture to use. If the role-playing involves drinking tea or coffee, give students cups found in the target culture to help them act it out. Keeping and using a set of basic props in your classroom for role-playing activities and skits can help increase student engagement.
  • Mr. Bartolotti connected the language across the curriculum with his Novice students by having them create a business and sell their products. Extend this idea with your Intermediate and Advanced students as well by adding extra components to the activities. For example, in your Advanced classes, have your students write a mock business plan for the business they would like to create. Then have them record a commercial or write an advertisement for the products or services that they offer. Not only does this connect to a business and marketing curriculum, but it also provides students with the opportunity to practice their presentational skills and use persuasive language.


World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages
The World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages create a roadmap to guide learners to develop competence to communicate effectively and interact with cultural understanding. This lesson correlates to the following Standards:

Communicate effectively in more than one language in order to function in a variety of situations and for multiple purposes

Interpersonal Communication

Learners interact and negotiate meaning in spoken, signed, or written conversations to share information, reactions, feelings, and opinions.


Lesson Materials

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Telemarketing Activity—Conversation Exercise (PDF)
Instructions for completing the conversational activity featured in the classroom video, including worksheets for both the telemarketer and the person receiving the call to complete during the conversation.

Telemarketing Homework (PDF)
Instructions for work to be completed prior to the classroom activity, including “telemarketer training” information and a company information sheet.

Arabic fruit song
A YouTube video of the song students sing at the end of the class.

Curriculum References
Massachusetts Foreign Language Curriculum Framework (Aug. 1999)

Eric Bartolotti’s Additional Resources
Print Resources:

Standish, Sarah, Richard Cozzens, and Rana Abdul-Aziz. Jusoor: Beginning Arabic for High School (tentative title). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, forthcoming.

Series Directory

Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices


Teaching Foreign Languages K–12: Teaching Arabic © 2016 Annenberg Learner and Qatar Foundation International. All rights reserved.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-731-2