Mariana Ruiz Nascimento has a degree in English from the Federal University of Uberlândia in Brazil and an Advanced Certification in English Language Teaching from the University of Oregon in the United States. In this article, Mariana shares an activity that is aimed at integrating language skills and life competencies by encouraging students to come up with and present their own invention in English.
The following activity consists of four parts: discussion, creation, presentation, and feedback – each one can be easily adapted to the purpose of the class, available resources, number of students, and their language proficiency. It’s ideal for those who want to increase collaboration and nurture their students’ critical thinking ability, which is an essential skill for children, teenagers, and adults alike.
Practising a range of skills
In order to challenge and engage learners in English language classes, I have designed an activity that encourages teamwork by promoting negotiation, discussion, and task organisation between students. It also enables them to develop their critical thinking skills and creativity as they have to come up with an invention that can solve a problem or improve an aspect of their daily life – a skill often required by employers and one that is necessary for both personal and professional development.
In addition, learners can practise their language skills as they prepare a presentation in English using strategies to convince their classmates that their product is the best. Furthermore, they are encouraged to ask questions and offer feedback to their classmates in a respectful and polite way.
Activity name: Creating an invention in English
Materials: Sheets of paper, coloured pencils
Skills: Speaking, writing, listening
To warm up, I asked students to mention inventions that they considered to have had the biggest impact on their lives. I wrote them on the board and encouraged them to explain how these inventions have changed the way we live today: What do you know about the invention? (e.g., When and where was it invented? Who was the inventor? How does it work?)
I separated students into groups and asked them to think about a problem they wanted to solve or an everyday situation they wanted to improve. After listing the problems, the students had to discuss and select one of them. I then asked each group to invent a product (it could be an object or app) that could solve this problem, agree on the features and design of the invention (name, colour, characteristics, size, price, etc.), and draw it on a sheet of paper.
At this point I taught vocabulary that would enable the students to describe these inventions and I helped them search for unfamiliar words in the dictionary.
Once they had created the product, it was time to present it to the class! I chose a group leader to delegate tasks and organise the presentation.
The next step was to present the name, design, and characteristics of their invention and to use arguments to convince their classmates that theirs was the best. This part of the activity provides many opportunities to help your students build and express strong arguments in English.
I decided to evaluate each presentation using a rubric. To make it more student-centered, I asked the group to come up with criteria that they thought should be included in the rubric. Next, I showed the students the complete rubric before the presentation so that students were aware of the criteria that they were going to be evaluated on.
After the presentation, the groups had to ask questions about the product that had been presented and list one positive point about the presentation and one area that could be improved on. At the end, the class had to vote and select the best invention.
These inventions can be displayed in the classroom or made available online so that students feel motivated and proud of their work.
Integrating life competencies into teaching practice
I noticed that my students were able to work collaboratively as part of a team and, even though they disagreed on some points, they respected their classmates. I believe this activity had a positive outcome on learners because they were able to reflect on certain situations they have faced and identify where improvements could be made in order to find effective solutions. After preparing for the presentation, students were able to use English to present their product and most of them were satisfied with the final result.
This activity has shown that it’s possible to integrate life competencies into my teaching practice (creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving, collaboration, emotional development, and social responsibilities, among others), and that teaching English means more than opening a coursebook and explaining grammar rules. Teaching a language is a constant process of construction and dialogue and it is essential to have a clear goal that students can relate to in their daily lives. Furthermore, students find the activity very entertaining. And this is how learning English should be, isn’t it?
If you are interested in learning more about life competencies, why not check out our post on The Cambridge Framework for Life Competencies where you can download and read about the full framework.