Getting Inventive: A Conversational Review of Past, Present and Future Language

Getting Inventive
A Conversational Review of Past, Present and Future Language

Susan Verner
by Susan Verner 14,161 views

The world around us is filled with interesting inventions.

Some have changed the world so much that many of us could not live without them. This exercise gives your students a chance to talk about the inventions they think are most interesting and challenges them to think up another that the world has never seen.

Use the Following Practical Steps for the Review of Tenses

  1. 1

    What is an invention?

    Inventions are not the same thing as discoveries, though some people tend to confuse the two. Have students work with a partner and look up the English definitions of these two words. Ideally they will determine the following. Inventions are items or tools that a person created. Discoveries, on the other hand, are items already present in nature which people found. With their partner, students should discuss the difference between the two items based on their definitions and try come up with at least three examples of each. (Discoveries might include electricity, gold, fire, etc. Inventions can be found all around us. They might include cars, clocks, computers, telephones, etc.)

  2. 2

    Present Tense and Passive Voice

    Review the present tense with your students by asking them to list as many inventions they can find in your classroom. (One invention is… I see another. It is…) Make a master list on the board. When a student names an invention, ask him or her what we use that invention for. If your students are less proficient language users, have them use the simple present for their explanation. (People use pencils to write.) More advanced students can phrase their statements in the passive voice. (Pencils are used to write.) Once your class has compiled a large list, have each person choose one invention and write three to five sentences which describe that invention. Each person should take turns reading their description to the class, and the class should try to guess which invention they are describing. Again, students can use the simple present or the passive voice to describe their invention.

  3. 3

    Past Tense

    What do Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, the Wright brothers, Thomas Edison and Eli Whitney have in common? They were all famous inventers. Write these names on the board and have pairs of students share any information they know about these people. As they share, they should use the past tense to talk about the inventors and their inventions. After five to ten minutes, divide your class into five groups and assign one inventor to each group. Then, take your class to the computer lab or have them use their tech savvy devices to research their inventor. Each group should gather as much information they can about the inventor and their invention. What did the person need to create his invention? Why did the world need it? How has it changed people’s lives? Each group should take notes using the past tense. Once students have completed their research, have each group share what they learned with the class.

  4. 4

    Present Day Inventions

    For homework, have students make a list of all the inventions they see and use in their homes. Warn them that this list will be extensive but that they should try to make it as complete as possible. They should sort their inventions into categories by room. Inventions in the bathroom might include toothbrushes, toilet paper, running water, etc. In the kitchen, inventions will include knives, dish washers, ice cube trays and similar items. Along with their lists, ask each person to write a sentence describing what each one is used for. These sentences will be in the present tense.

    The next day in class, divide students into groups – one group for each room in the house. Give each group several index cards which they will use to create invention flash cards. On one side, they should draw or paste a picture of the invention. On the reverse side, they should list the invention, who invented it, when, and how it helps people today. As students complete their cards, they should write in complete sentences and use the correct form of past and present verbs.

  5. 5

    Future and Conditional

    Now that your students have thought about the inventions that affect their everyday life, challenge them to imagine what the future may be like. In groups of around three students, have your class discuss the following three questions.

    1. How do you think the world will change in the next 100 years?
    2. What new things will people in the future be able to do? Consider each of the following areas: medicine, transportation, communication and entertainment.
    3. What new inventions will people need in order to do these things? List at least five possible inventions for each category.

    Throughout their discussions, students should use the future tense to express their ideas. Then, once they have some ideas on paper, have your students choose one invention, either from their list or another they think up on their own.

    As homework or in free study time, have your students come up with the details of their invention. What will it do? How will it be built? Will it be sold? How much will it cost? Why will people need it? How will it help people in the future in their everyday lives? As students think up the details about their invention, they should use future tenses to describe the invention and the conditional tense to explain what this invention would do for people of the future. Then, have each person present their invention to the class. The presentation should be three to five minutes and should focus on two things. First, it should describe the invention (future tenses). Second, it should explain how this invention would benefit people in the future (conditional tense).

    As a follow up activity, have students draw their invention and write a brief description of it, including its price. Then compile all of the inventions together to create a catalogue. Make a copy for each person in your class and have them vote on which invention they would most like to have. If you like, have each student share which one he chose and why. Be sure to require that students use the conditional tense when they describe what they would do with it.

Doing a tense review with your students doesn’t have to be boring. By researching inventions and imagining their own, your students will have fun and still get practice with past, present and future language. Who knows, you might even find a future inventor among your students.

In what creative ways do you review tenses with your students?

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