Phoning It In (Upper-Intermediate/Advanced Reading Lesson)

ESL Level: Upper-Intermediate and advanced

Skill Focus: Reading comprehension, vocabulary, speaking via discussion

Topics: Business, Wellbeing, Philosophy

Material Downloadphoning-it-in-reading-advanced-lesson-14112016.docx

a construction worker phoning it in

Foreword: Phoning It In is a short article written by Stanley Bing for Fortune Magazine. This lesson would be suitable for advanced students interested in business topics. The article can be accessed freely here and printed in two pages. I cannot provide the text here as I do not own the copyright.

The below questions go with the article. I have used this lesson as weekend reading homework for my upper-intermediate adult students. My advanced students enjoyed it but some of my lower-level students had a tough time grappling with the concept of phoning it in (even though the lesson plan provides a definition).

Below is a preview of the comprehension, vocabulary, and discussion questions I have made. View the above document for a well-formatted version.

Note that question #5 refers to a swear word.

Business Reading Lesson Plan – Comprehension Questions

  1. What is the main idea of the story?


  1. What did all six of the people who rushed into his office have in common?


  1. Who were the people in the story who were not phoning it in? Why did he think they weren’t?


  1. Vocabulary: what does the author mean when he tells his (telephone) operator, “Your instincts are good. Go with `em”?


  1. Vocabulary: the author uses the word `fig’ a lot instead of another word. What word does he not want to say?


  1. Why does the author feel like he’s phoning it in?


Business Reading Lesson Plan – Word Family Table

                    Noun                    VerbAdjectiveAdverb

Business Reading Lesson Plan – Discussion Questions

 In life (at work, in school, or in relationships), do you ever feel like you are phoning it in?


  1. Should people who feel that way quit whatever they feel that way about?


  1. Is it possible to stay excited and motivated about our job as we age? Why or why not?


  1. Imagine an office worker. How much of his or her day do you think he or she is working efficiently, and how much of the day is she or he slacking off?


  1. The article was written by an executive of a Fortune 500 company (which are the 500 richest companies in the U.S). Are you surprised that an executive could and would write this?


  1. To phone something in is to do something inauthentically. To do something sincerely with passion is to do something authentically. In life, what in life do you do authentically?


  1. Can humans live an authentic life while working 40 hours (or more) in an office?


  1. Overall, are you living authentically?


– Supplementary ESL lesson plan created by Matthew Barton of

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