The Innovation Lesson

Innovation and Technology ESL lesson

History teaches us about the industrial revolution, its impact on the world, the urbanization that ensued as a result and how lives were transformed because of it.  The energy revolution also gets covered for its transformative impact.  Now we’ve been going through another revolution which is just as significant, and some may argue that it’s brought about changes in almost every aspect of our lives, from medicine, to communication, security, and access to information.  The changes are happening at such a staggering pace that it’s been very difficult to keep up and adapt to these new devices, gadgets and software that supposedly are meant to make our lives easier, but do they? Today’s lesson is all about innovation and its beneficial as well as adverse effects on our society. Strap in and let’s get rolling.

Start the lesson with the question: What are the most important innovations for you in your daily life?

  • Communication
  • Transport
  • Home entertainment
  • Food
  • Work

What innovations would you like to see in these areas above?

This is a fine start and allows for a lot of ideas to flow and be exchanged on many different areas.  Let students discuss this for maybe even ten minutes if they seem to have a lot to say which they very well might.  If students lack ideas remind them of smart technology being incorporated into a lot of household appliances, cars, televisions ans stereos.

Put these adjectives on the board and ask students to decide which have a positive and which have a negative meaning. Put a (+) or (-) next to each during feedback.

Brilliant, pointless, wasteful, revolutionary, beneficial, ridiculous, life-changing, space-saving, practical, ground-breaking, life-saving, annoying, money-saving

Ask students to justify their opinions with reasons when using the adjectives.  The words here are probably familiar to student but they more often then not don’t make an effort to incorporate these types of words into their speaking.  Discourage words like useful, helpful, good or bad.  When monitoring be firm.

You can ask students to use these words to discuss all the innovations that have had a major impact on our society the last 10-20 years.  Here’s the picture I posted on the Facebook page about a week ago with the ideas:

tech-lessonSo far students have had plenty of opportunity to speak and share ideas.  They have also had a chance to use some fantastic vocabulary to discuss these innovations.  Additionally, you can remind your students of the last lesson idea on expressing opinions and encourage them to use some of the language in this lesson.  This allows for an opportunity to recycle and revise previous language learned, boom! Click on the lesson idea link to get the language from that lesson.


Here are some discussion statements you can incorporate anytime:

  1. The computer is the most important invention in the history of civilization.
  2. A computer makes it possible to do tasks which were completely unnecessary before.
  3. To make mistakes is human, but to really mess things up you need a computer.
  4. Technology makes people work harder.
  5. Technology is a waste of money.
  6. Today’s devices and technology can become an addiction.

I especially like the last one.  If students are in college or are adults with children of their own they should have an opinion on this.

Another idea for this is to put these statements on slips of paper around the class and ask students in pairs to dictate the statements to their partners to write down.  They then discuss them in groups or with their partner.  The dictation element just adds a bit of movement to the lesson, if you have teenagers, and also gives them some reading and listening practice.  Feel free to add a listening or reading task to this lesson.  Most course books, especially newer editions, will have a chapter on this topic and you can easily incorporate the reading or listening into this. For instance there is a great upper-intermediate listening from FCE Expert on technology and the modern family. Here is a scan of it:ccf11272016_00001

The listening provides some great talking points for adults or younger students on how technology has effected their family life and how different family members use, overuse or misuse it. (Prefix lesson point)

You could also start or follow up all of this with a spider gram that covers other tech ideas.  A spider gram for instance with the question: What are the benefits and drawbacks of these inventions? EBook readers, driverless cars, 3D television, robots, portable gaming devices.


As you might have noticed, I put in bold, expressions when talking about effects and causes.  The language will be covered again in a subsequent lesson but can we highlighted in this one because it can be used to talk about how innovation and technology has impacted our lives. Highlight this language to students, encouraging them to use synonyms and alternatives to the more common words they already know. Remember that this lesson serves as a great follow up to the previous lesson idea (Expressing opinions, Agreeing and disagreeing), as well as to the subsequent lesson idea which will be on Talking about cause and effect.

Happy teaching peeps! Over and out.






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