Imagination is one of the most remarkable qualities that the human race possesses.
Over time, humans have seen needs in all areas of life and have taken the steps necessary to meet those needs through invention and innovation. Inventions have made day-to-day life easier, have enabled us to communicate with people on the other side of the world, and have saved lives over and over again. Encourage your students to channel some of their creative energy into making their own inventions. The inventions these lessons encourage probably won’t change the world, but they are fun and will give your students a chance to use the language skills they are working to improve!
How to Proceed
Invent a machine
Human beings use machines for all kinds of activities: medical tests, food preparation and personal care just to name a few. If anyone has an idea for a machine with value, eventually mankind will produce that machine. Give your students a hands-on creativity outlet to create their own machines using marshmallows and toothpicks. Start by asking your students to think of a machine that might make life easier. It could be for their daily life, for the fields of medicine and science, something to aid in communication or any other idea they can come up with. Then, challenge each person to build the machine he or she thought of using marshmallows and toothpicks. By poking the toothpicks into the marshmallows, your students will be able to create all kinds of shapes and designs. If a student is having trouble coming up with an idea for an invention, encourage him or her to start by putting together the raw materials and then deciding later what that machine is. Once everyone has had enough time to create their machines, ask each person to share with a discussion group what their machine is and what need it meets. Make sure you have extra marshmallows for groups to snack on during their discussions!
Invent a character
One of the keys to writing engaging fiction is having interesting characters. You can walk your students through the character creation process step by step with this somewhat silly activity. Give your students around thirty seconds to scribble on a piece of paper. Call time and then challenge each person to find five images in their scribble. Each person should then look at those images and decide on a character to which one or more of those images relate. The image might be a picture of the character, something the character owns or likes to do, or any other object that connects with the character. Then have your students write an imaginary interview with their characters. To do this, as a class, brainstorm some questions a person might ask during an interview. They can be serious questions or ones that are more frivolous. Once your class is finished, challenge each person to take ten of those questions and answer them from the point of view of the character they have created. If you like, ask each student to use the character they have created in a story which they write and illustrate.
Invent a game
One of the great contributions Bill Watterson made to the world was Calvinball – a game his characters Calvin and Hobbes played in the comic with the same name. In this game, Calvin and his stuffed tiger Hobbes would make up new rules every time they played. In fact, one rule of Calvinball is that it could never be played the same way twice. In the same spirit, challenge your students to come up with their own games using the materials you have available in your classroom. The materials might include balls, dice, timers, game pieces and index cards along with anything else you are not using for another activity. In groups of three or four, have students invent an original game and make a list of the rules of how to play. Then each group should present their game to the entire class. After all the presentations, have the class vote on one game they would like to attempt to play. Afterward, have everyone write a short journal entry explaining whether they liked the game and any suggestions they have to improve it.
Invent a word
Language is a fluid thing. Everyday people use language in new and creative ways. With that in mind, challenge your students to create their own English words based on what they already know about the English language. You may want to take a few minutes to review some common word roots with your students so their words have a basis in the existing language. For example, review word parts like -phobia (the fear of something), bene- (something good), mal- (something bad), bi- (two), mono- (one), etc. Also, take some times to review the prefixes and suffixes that give meaning to words, like –tion, re-, un-, -ly, etc. Once each person has decided on his or her original word, have the person write a definition of his or her word including the part of speech, its related words and come up with an original sentence using that word.
Invention is a beautiful thing that has potential to improve the human race as well as individual lives.
These silly inventions may not affect the rest of the world, but they will certainly make your ESL class a better place, so encourage your students’ creativity and get their inventive minds moving in the right direction.