Learning English Through Constructing Infomercials

Writer(s): 
David O’Flaherty, Kyoto Girls’ High School

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Group work, presentation, describing objects, infinitive, gerund
  • Learner English level: Intermediate  
  • Learner maturity: High school 
  • Class size: Approximately 20 students
  • Preparation time: 1 hour
  • Activity time: Three 50-minute lessons 
  • Materials: Handouts (see appendices), fake money

The goal of this activity is for students to describe the appearance and functions of everyday objects. They achieve this by selecting a product from their classroom and then preparing and performing a TV infomercial-style sales presentation in small groups with the aim of selling that product to their fellow classmates. The students acquire the necessary grammar and vocabulary for the presentation through a mixture of pre-teaching and brainstorming. Groups compete against each other to earn the most money for their product.

Preparation

Step 1: Put students into groups of three or four.

Step 2: Prepare ¥10,000 (10 x ¥1,000) for each group by buying some fake yen or by making your own.

Step 3: Make a copy of each handout for each student (all handouts can be found in the appendices).  

Procedure

Lesson 1

Step 1: Put students into groups and, with reference to Handout #1 (Appendix A), explain the purpose and format of the presentations.  

Step 2: Using Handout #2 (Appendix B), set a two-minute limit and have students brainstorm materials, sizes/shapes, and colors (one at a time). For colors, encourage creativity. For example, shocking pink, ruby red, snow white, etc. Elicit words from each group after brainstorming each category, write them on the board, and label them nouns or adjectives. Highlight the ones you deem to be the most useful for their presentations. After brainstorming, write “It is adjective” “It has (adjective) noun” and “It is made of material noun” on the board. Choose an object in the classroom and make sentences about it using these structures. Choose another object and elicit sentences about it.

Step 3: Teach students how to explain the function and merits of a product. Handout #2 contains the relevant structures for this, as well as the chance for students to practice by making sentences of their own.

Lesson 2

Step 4: In groups, have students choose an object in the classroom to be their product (pencil case, bag, dictionary, etc.). They must then give it an original name.

Step 5: Pass out Handout #3 (Appendix C) and show the example of how to make an everyday object sound more appealing. Have groups use the questions provided to discuss how they will sell their product and organize their presentation. 

Step 6: Groups begin to write and prepare their presentations using Handout #4 (Appendix D). If time permits, an extra lesson can be allotted to prepare and practice.

Lesson 3

Step 7: Students give their presentations.

Step 8: After the presentations, give each group their money. Students must allocate this money to the other groups’ products based on how much they liked the presentations. Students have 5 minutes to discuss this. During this time, line the products up at the front of the class. One student from each group comes and places the money they have allocated for each product in front of that product.

Step 9: Count the money. The product with the most money is declared this year’s “best-seller”.

Step 10: Give brief feedback about each group’s presentation. As a short review, elicit the goals of the activity and the key grammatical structures. Allow 15-20 minutes for steps 8-10.

Conclusion

Students always approach this activity with enthusiasm. They often start their presentations with a skit emphasizing the need for their product and then move onto describing the product and its various features and uses by utilizing the vocabulary and structures they studied in their preparation lessons. The result is a set of presentations that are original and creative, but also very structured in terms of the English used. Student feedback has shown that they enjoy the format of the presentation and its competitive element.  

Appendix

The appendix is available below.

PDF: 
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