Invent Something Out of the Ordinary for Your ESL Class
Are you looking for an activity to do with your class that combines both written and spoken language but has a creative element, too?
If so, try this lesson on invention which challenges students to think creatively as well as linguistically and just may improve the world in the process.
How To Teach An ESL Lesson About Inventions
Ask your students think of something they could not live without. After a minute or two, break your class into groups to share those most important items. While in those groups, ask your students to tell the others why they need this item, what they would do without it, and how they could make it better. Your students may say that they could not live without a cell phone or laptop computer, but what about life’s more basic items? Could they live without a bed? The light bulb? A refrigerator? We often do not realize how many modern inventions we find irreplaceable. Have your groups make a list of all the modern conveniences they use on a daily basis and would not want to live without.
Once your students are thinking of those important items in their lives, challenge them to think beyond their daily limits. If they could invent anything, what would it be? What would it do? Why would they want it? Give your students some time to think and make notes about their invention, and then divide your class into groups to talk about what they would create. Encourage students to ask questions of one another to refine their ideas. You should allow students to take notes on their classmates’ comments and ideas so they can use them later when refining their inventions.
History in the Making
Now that your students have inventions that they can really picture, it is time to introduce those inventions to the world. Each student will be responsible for creating an advertisement for his or her invention. Help your students get ideas by making old catalogs and magazines available to them. They can look through the magazines for style and content of advertisements and model their own advertisements off those in the magazines. Once your class is familiar with these ads, have each person create an ad for his or her invention. The ad should include a picture of the product, a description of it, the creator’s name and some information about the product. Once everyone in class has completed his or her invention, compile them into a class catalogue. You can reproduce a few copies for your class and then break them into groups to look at their classmate’s products in the catalogue.
After the groups have had a chance to read about their classmates’ inventions, explain to your class that they will make a commercial for one of the products. Each group should select one product from those created by its group members. As a group, they should then write a commercial for the product. Encourage them to be creative and engaging. You may want to show them classic commercials in English like Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” or other classic commercial such as Dunkin’ Donut’s “Time to Make the Donuts” or Coke’s commercial starring Mean Joe Green. Stress that effective commercials appeal to the viewer’s emotion as well as his logic.
Once the commercials are written, give your students a chance to perform their commercials in front of the class. Stress to your class that everyone should participate in the commercial. Once all the groups have performed, take a vote in class for the most popular product. Either by a show of hands or by ballot, have your class vote for the product they would be most likely to purchase. Recognize the inventor of the winning product with a certificate of creativity and/or a prize.
To follow up your lesson on inventions, you can use the Newberry Award winning book The 21 Balloons by William Pene Dubois. In this book, a balloonist travels around the world via a series of original inventions. The main character, a retired schoolteacher, decides to spend one year in a hot air balloon of his original design. Though he fails in his attempt, he is rescued to an island whose inhabitants are inventors in their own right. Your students will enjoy the straightforward language and creative inventions, some real and some imagined, presented in this novel. Another follow up activity would be researching an inventor who made a significant impact on the world. You may want students to research the inventor of that item they said they could not live without, or you may want your students to focus on more classic examples such as Thomas Edison. In either case, give your students an opportunity to present their findings to the class.
People everywhere everyday strive to make the world a better place in which to live. Give your students a hand at this goal by asking them to invent their own creation.
You will be surprised at the creativity your students show when given the chance. Who knows, maybe one day one of their inventions will take the rest of the world by storm.
Susan likes to enjoy every day to its fullest whether she is freelance writing, teaching homeschoolers, or developing her special talent of instigation. When she is not imagining sand castles or catching others off balance, she cooks, sings, reads and takes walks in the sunshine. She earned an M.A. from the University of Delaware in Linguistics and an M.A. from Trinity School for Ministry in Youth Ministry. She currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her wonderful husband and her three cheepy cockatiels.
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