E.T. Phones Home: The History of the Telephone

E.T. Phones Home: The History of the Telephone
Betty Ford: Sports and Popular Culture

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: Four to five class periods


In 1982, in the blockbuster film, E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, E.T. grew so lonesome for his planet that he tried to “phone home.”  Not surprising—isn’t that what we all want to do when we’re worried or scared?  But the notion of even having a telephone is a fairly new one as history goes; and our current love affair with cell phones is barely on the historical timeline!


The purpose of this lesson is to acquaint students with the history of the telephone, and give them experience at organizing data chronologically.  To do that, students will create an illustrated Timeline of the History of the Telephone.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; paper; art supplies; access to a computer that has a program that makes banners (optional).


Divide the class into five groups, assigning each group to research into the history of the telephone in 25-year sections.

  • 1876-1899
  • 1900-1924
  • 1925-1949
  • 1950-1974
  • 1975-2005

2. Each group should create an illustrated Timeline with a drawing or picture and a description of the events related to the history of the telephone during their 25-year span. 
This information should be put lengthwise on 8 ½” x 11” paper, and the pages taped or glued together to make a long banner.   Or, this same information can be put on a banner with a computer.
Post the banner around the room.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson might be extended by having students make large posters instead of banners, and inviting other classes to come to a “Telephone Fair.”

Sources & Resources:

Telephone History 

Telephone Technology 
This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.