From the washer and dryer to the blue whale: 3 Activities for Generic Nouns

1. Greatest Invention Debate. Ask the class to call out significant inventions. If you want, you can limit them to the past 100, 50, or even 25 years. Write their suggestions on the board and stop when you have 10: the radio, 3-D movies, the computer, the washing machine, etc. Place the students in small groups and ask them to agree on the top 3 most significant inventions from the list. Encourage them to note concrete reasons for their choices. When the class assembles again, groups will agree and disagree with one anothers’ choices. You may offer appropriate prompts on the board, such as: I see your point, but…/ I’d have to argue otherwise./ We’re in complete agreement. / Etc.

2. Music Maestros.  Play short samples of music, from classical symphonies to heavy metal. Ask the students to write down the instruments they hear. When the given piece is over, have students compare their observations using generic nouns: I think I heard violins. / I know this song. That was Phil Collins singing and playing the drums./ Etc. VARIATION: Place students in two teams. Award one point for a correct guess and a second point if a generic noun was used correctly.

3. One-Day WebQuests. Give students a short list of endangered animals (e.g., the panda, the blue whale, the Siberian tiger). For each animal, they must find out population statistics, specific threats to its existence, and what’s being done to protect it. (Require sources so that conflicting information can be analyzed later.) Online research should be done outside class time. In class, have students work in pairs to compare information. With their partners, students will write short statements for each endangered animal using generic nouns: There once were 4,900 to 6,000 blue whales in the Pacific Ocean. Now there are only 1,200 to 1,700. Whaling caused the population of the blue whale to decrease. The end of whaling in the Pacific has helped the blue whale. There have been more sightings of blue whales since that change. (Alaska Department of Fish & Game: August 11, 2008)

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