ESL Activity: Conversations and Note-Taking about Inventions

Here is a high beginner+ ESL classroom activity that blends reading, writing, listening and speaking skills.

ESL Lesson Overview

This is a 20-minute, small group activity. There is a small amount of student homework, so a little organisation is required. Otherwise, it is an easy activity to run in class.

This conversation activity requires students to summarize a story and think about the wider consequences. While listening, students practice note-taking skills.

Step 1. Set Up

Students get a bit of reading and listening homework in order to prepare for the activity, which is run next class.

Copy and handout one short story for each student. Each story is a one-page (about 300 words) overview of a famous invention.

Below, you’ll find a link to a short listening file (about 3 minutes or less) as well. I usually ask students to listen and read to their stories to improve a broader range of language skills.


Shipping Containers


Printing Press


Step 2. Student Instructions

Give the following homework instructions:

  • read and listen to the assigned story
  • prepare a summary of the invention story
  • describe how the invention changed human development (describe a cause and effect connection)

Students like guidelines, so I usually suggest the summary and analysis of human impacts should be 1-2 minutes.


Step 3. Run the Activity

Next class, put students in small groups of 4. Each student should have a different story.

One student begins by telling their summary. Discourage people from reading text. The other students listen and take notes.

I require each listening student to ask at least one question. Remind students to focus on the global impact of the invention.

Rotate story telling until each student has completed their turn.




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