“Home Screen Investigation” for TL Interaction, + Major Zoom Additions!

In this post:

  1. “Home Screen Investigation,” using a cell phone screen to generate focused and fun communication—oral and written—in the interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational modes.
  2. Major additions to my ultimate course on teaching with Zoom!

Home Screen Investigation

Home Screen Investigation is a new favorite source of interaction for me and my students.

Basically, you just project a screenshot of a mobile phone home screen and talk about it with students. It’s terrific because…

…it requires zero prep.

…it offers tons to talk about.

…it’s high-interest both because it offers a sneak peek into someone else’s life and because people love to notice similarities and difference between their and others’ apps.

…you can do it face to face or online.

…it leads to many communicative tasks for students in all three modes—interpersonal, interpretive, presentational.

Let’s make it more concrete with my own home screen

screen shot of an iPhone home screen—Lots of high-frequency language can be used to talk about the arrangement of the apps, the apps themselves, and how people use them.

—Depending on your target language, many of the app names themselves may be cognates. Note that the stock apps on my screen are named in Spanish because I have set Spanish as my phone’s language.

—There are lots of things that you can guess about a person based on their home screen—not necessarily accurately, but it’s fun to make those guesses: For example, what might we guess about the owner’s personality based on…

…the person’s favorite apps?

…the apps’ arrangement?

…their phone’s battery life?

…their background image?

…the number of unread messages and reminders?


You can start by projecting your own home screen, but without telling students that it is yours. You can say you got your hands on the phone of someone who is in the room, or of an unnamed teacher at the school, and after some discussion of the contents, let students guess whose it is. Alternatively, you can actually get a screenshot of a friend’s or a student’s phone.

Some questions to foster discussion:

What similarities are there between this home screen and yours? (battery life, carrier, apps, arrangement)

Who else has this app on their home screen?

Who uses this app, but doesn’t have it on their home screen?

What app do you use most?

How often do you use that app?

Whose home screen is most similar (most apps in common)?

Whose home screen is most different (fewest apps in common)?

How can you build on Home Screen Investigation?

There are many possible follow-up tasks, some quite simple and some elaborate, that help students communicate in the interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational modes. I discuss a bunch of these in the second video demonstration available here. (The first video on that page, which is free, shares more ideas for the initial whole-class discussion described above!)

Banner with text "Low Tech Zoom Success with JBS, EXPANDED"


I have made major additions—four new modules with a total of 11 new videos—to my course Low-Tech Zoom Success for Teachers, to help people take advantage of Zoom’s various recent updates. Yet another module is on the way. If you already have the course, all the modules have been added for you; you don’t need to do anything new to get them.

The course is all about helping you use Zoom confidently and comfortably so that you can focus simply on what you do: teaching.

Some things users have said about the course:

Your Low-Tech Zoom course is the only reason for my sanity right now! It has made a world of difference in my prep/teaching so far this semester. I cannot thank you enough!!!!  ~ Callie S.

Justin is one of the most talented teachers I have ever known. Highly recommend his course for anyone teaching online.  ~ Lisa C.

So worth it! I used Zoom quite a bit during the spring and summer, but I learned so much and Justin models really engaging and skillful teaching. Holy cow! What a talented tech guru and teacher.  ~ Samantha P.

Justin Slocum Bailey is magical and has calmed my nerves many a time! I’ve taken classes of his on zoom and can attest to his skills for building community via zoom as well as teaching content on a digital platform. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by ALLL the tech and want to focus on one thing get this course.  ~ Riana H.

Justin, I’m loving this course so far! Thanks for helping us think outside the box! I’ve used Zoom for different things since last spring (like many of us!), but I’m learning so many new features I didn’t know were available and new ways to get the most out of it! ¡Gracias!  ~ Christa G.

See the full course content and get the course here!

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