Each year I do a lesson with my 6th grade ELA class that involves improving on a current product or inventing something new to solve a problem. Students must then pitch their new or improved product to the rest of the class Shark Tank style.
While I don't give you a lesson script, I will provide the basic order in which I follow when going through this unit. I teach a Special Education class, so my specific lessons and times spent in different areas can change greatly year to year depending on my students. I have included some some of the documents I made that I use during this lesson. I also have other resources that I draw upon during this unit that I did not include due to copyright concerns, however they are probably similar to things you already have available and are using.
Optional materials for students to use:
-Cardboard, lots of cardboard
-Lots of packing tape
-Loose parts: My students have used all kinds of parts I have kicking around on their inventions, old computer fans, skateboard wheels, flower pots, LED light tape, anything you can think of.
-3D printer (I've encouraged some students to design products on Tinkercad and print their products)
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Step 1: Step 1: Intro. Persuasive Writing
I often start this unit with a review of the following concepts:
-Facts & Opinions
This then moves into an examination of advertising. I will often use magazine adds and discuss how emotional appeal is used to convince people to buy products. Cigarette and chewing tobacco adds are great examples.
Step 2: Step 2: Invention Process
I move from advertisements into the process of inventions. I draw a great deal of material from https://pbskids.org/designsquad/. My students will spend time exploring this site and I will often choose a few products that we break down as a group to discuss the process that was used.
We then begin the brainstorming process of products we can improve or problems we could solve with a new invention.
Step 3: Step 3: Prototype
The prototyping stage is a lot of fun. It requires a lot of creativity and often I find that I have to help my students get an initial spark. I am often racking my own brain as to various parts I could provide to help give inspiration. We also go through a LOT of cardboard and packing tape as their creations come to life.
I have had a few students express interest in 3D printing, so as an extra opportunity I provided them with the option to come in during their free time and I taught them how to use TinkerCAD. They took advantage of this and rather than using cardboard, designed and created their inventions using a 3D printer! You will see a picture of one of the projects later in the instructions.
Once I had a student who wanted to create a new kind of high heel shoe that was adjustable, but she was struggling to create it. While in the grocery store I saw a collapsible funnel that I picked up for her. Without directing her I just left it for her and she was able to use that as the heal on her prototype that would raise or lower the heel of her shoe.
Step 4: Step 4: Presentation
Once students have build their prototype I have them create a presentation to pitch their product. We will spend time watching infomercials and clips from Shark Tank to help them grasp the concept of building excitement around a new product. I encourage my students to use all sorts of media in their presentations, from music, video recordings of their product in action, flashing signs anything they can think of.
Step 5: Step 5: Delivery
As students deliver their presentations the other students vote on their willingness to back this new product. The students voting can not just give an up or down vote, but must also provide a rational for their vote. This prevents students from voting one way or another because of friendships or lack their of.
Over the years I have had some amazing inventions come from this unit. Anything from special fishing nets that scare away dolphins, silent hamster wheels, remote control high heel shoes, trigger locks that require fingerprints and many more amazing things that have come from the minds of my students. I look forward to this unit every year, I hope it's something your able to adapt and engage your students with.
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