Picture this scene: a woman walks into a store and carefully looks around.
After a couple of minutes, she realizes that what she needs is either not on display or not available at the store. She needs to ask the clerk but the problem is language. She can’t speak English, and that is when she becomes fully aware that no amount of pointing and hand gestures are going to get her what she needs. She can’t describe what she is looking for and therefore, can’t buy it. This is a very common situation for those who travel abroad and want to do a little shopping, but not only for them. ESL business students also need to develop special skills in order to be able to perform in the world of work. For those who work in product development, or sales and marketing, it is very important to be able to describe their company’s products. As ESL teachers, we need to target these special needs in our lessons. Take a look at these useful activities.
Incorporate These Fresh Ideas into Your Description Lessons
What Type of Product It Is
So, let’s consider the product itself. What is it? It might seem like a simple question but, can we expect our students to be able to name all types of products. That is where descriptions come in handy. First the basics,what type of product is it? This is where some new vocabulary comes into play.
Activity 1: First show your students flashcards with images of the following: home/ office device, tool, appliance, machine and instrument. Ask a few questions about what they see in the images. After that, give a card to each student and have them take ask each other questions about products they would like to buy. Encourage them to use the following phrases.
- I’m looking for …..
- I need….
- I’d like to buy …..
What the Product Looks Like
Now that they know what it is, they need to know a little about it. This is a basic description, so we need to cover colors, sizes and shapes. The vocabulary regarding color, size and shape you decide to teach, depends on their level and what they already know.
Activity 2: For this activity you can use the same flashcards you used before. Hand them out and have each student describe what is on their flashcard. For this you can practice the following expressions: I have an appliance; it’s white and this big (here they can use their hands to indicate size)
What It Is Made Of
Here, you are going to focus on materials the products are made of. Words like metal, plastic, wood, paper and glass should be taught or reviewed. They can describe what some things in the classroom are made of.
Activity 3: Students describe something in the classroom and the other students have to guess what it is. They should provide information like color, size, shape and what it is made of. If your classroom doesn’t have much in it, you can use the flash cards.
Product Features and Where They Are
In this part of the lesson, students become familiar with features and where they are located on the product. The features of a product are characteristics that a product has or what it does. For example, some cell phones include features like, camera, voice recognition, GPS, etc. For some products, it is also important to know where these features are located in order to be able to use it.
Activity 4: As a warm up before the activity, practice describing products they are familiar with focusing on their features. After that, show students some ads featuring different products. Give them a minute to read the ad and then ask them to identify at least two product features and if possible, where they are located as well.
What the Product Does
Ok, so knowing how to describe product features is great, but the reason we talk about features in the first place is to understand what the product can do. As you can see, one thing leads to another. At this point, students have all the groundwork for product description. All they have to add now is what the product does.
Activity 5: A great activity to do with them at this point is a role play where one student is buying a product and the other is selling it. You can use the same products you discussed in the previous activities or choose a new one. If you decide to use a different product, I recommend you go over the information with them before the role play. You can use questions to prepare them.
Product descriptions don’t have to be stressful for students.
If you organize your lesson well and divide it into bite-sized goals, it’ll be much easier for them.