Skip to contentContribute to ReadWriteThink / RSS / FAQs / Site Demonstrations / Contact Us / About Us



Contribute to ReadWriteThink

ReadWriteThink couldn't publish all of this great content without literacy experts to write and review for us. If you've got lessons plans, videos, activities, or other ideas you'd like to contribute, we'd love to hear from you.



Professional Development

Find the latest in professional publications, learn new techniques and strategies, and find out how you can connect with other literacy professionals.



Did You Know?

Your students can save their work with Student Interactives.

More more

HomeClassroom ResourcesLesson Plans

Lesson Plan

Great American Inventors: Using Nonfiction to Learn About Technology Inventions

E-mail / Share / Print This Page / Print All Materials (Note: Handouts must be printed separately)

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three class sessions, plus time for reading biographies and creating presentations
Lesson Author

Andrea Kent

Mobile, Alabama

Skipper Malcolm

Mobile, Alabama


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Work collaboratively in small groups to research and gather important information about an inventor and his or her inventions by reading biographies and accessing online resources

  • Synthesize researched information into a PowerPoint slide show, and develop oral presentation skills by presenting the slide show to the class

  • Compare the three inventors using a 3-circle Venn diagram

  • Examine how inventions of the past have impacted their own lives and the global community

back to top


Session 1

1. Gather students in a large semicircle facing the white board. Show students a telephone, a bulletproof vest, and a jar of peanut butter (or pictures of these items). Ask students if they know who invented each item. After a brief discussion, tell students to look at the three portraits posted on the board (see Preparation, Step 2). If students are not able to identify the inventors by item or portrait, introduce them and explain that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, George Washington Carver invented hundreds of uses for the peanut and is known for popularizing peanut butter, and Stephanie Kwolek invented Kevlar, which is used to make bulletproof vests.

2. Tell students that they are going to be using biographical information to help them learn more about these three inventors and how their inventions helped to change the technology we use today. Show the biographies that you selected for each inventor, explaining how you found them to be interesting to read and to also include a wealth of information about the inventors.

3. Tell students that they are going to be divided into three investigational groups by pulling popsicle sticks. Once everyone has settled into their groups, have one person from each group draw an inventor's name from the hat (see Preparation, Step 5). The three students will then return to their groups to share their assigned inventor.

4. Give each group the box of materials that you compiled for their assigned inventor (see Preparation, Step 7). Explain to students that inside the box they will find several biographies, a few Web addresses to visit, a set of task buttons, an instruction sheet defining their task, and three evaluation forms.

5. Review the Biography Instruction Sheet with students, making sure that they understand the task and what it involves.

6. Review the three evaluation forms: Inventors PowerPoint Rubric, Oral Presentation Rubric, and Inventors Comparison Checklist. Explain to students that as they are working, they should refer to the evaluation forms to ensure that they are meeting the project's requirements.

7. Review the six task buttons, which indicate specialized jobs for group members (see Preparation, Step 6). Ask each group to decide who in the group will be responsible for each job.

8. Since each box of materials contains three to four biographies, ask students to divide into minigroups of two or three students each. Each minigroup can then work together to read one of the biographies about the inventor and also access the Web addresses to find more information. As they are reading, students should be taking detailed notes in their journals. Remind students that they need to collect information on the inventor, as well as information about how his or her invention used technology to change the world.

9. Minigroups will need to be prepared to share the information they have gathered from their readings with their full group in the next session.

back to top


Session 2

1. Instruct students to gather in their investigational groups.

2. Begin by allowing each minigroup to share their findings within their group. After these minigroup presentations, the group should then discuss, compile, and create a working chart to display the most important findings. Suggest to students that charts include the following categories:

  • Who is the inventor you are researching?

  • What inventions did he or she make?

  • When were the inventions made?

  • Where is the inventor from?

  • Why did the inventor decide to explore this area of interest?

  • How do these inventions impact our world and you personally?
3. Refer students to the Biography Instruction Sheet to find the criteria for creating their PowerPoint slide show (see Step 4). Review this information together.

4. Allow time in class for students to work on their slide shows (and encourage students to work on them during free time also).

back to top


Session 3

1. Allow each group adequate time to present their research on their assigned inventor orally and visually using their PowerPoint slide show. Prompt the audience to write questions they have about the inventor or new information they learned from the presentation. Conduct a whole-class discussion based on these responses from the audience.

2. After the presentations, have students form a large circle in the center of the room. Explain that you would like students to compare the three inventors using a 3-circle Venn diagram.

3. Lay out the three large hula hoops in the shape of a 3-circle Venn diagram, and ask students to create appropriate labels for each section of the diagram. At the same time, project the online Venn Diagram interactive tool on a large screen for the whole class to see (see Preparation, Step 9).

4. Pass out at least one posted note to each student in the class. Have each students write a fact about one of the three inventors on the posted note.

5. Invite a student volunteer to share his or her fact and place the posted note in the correct section of the 3-circle Venn diagram. Have the class discuss the fact to decide if it is located in the correct section of the Venn diagram.

  • For example, a student writes, "Stephanie Kwolek invented Kevlar, which is used to make bulletproof vests." This fact is specific to one inventor; therefore, the posted note would be placed in the section of the Venn diagram for Kwolek.

  • If a student were to write, "Carver and Bell are both men," the posted note would be placed in the space that overlaps these two inventors.

  • If the statement were, "All three inventions are still used today," the posted note would be placed in the space that overlaps for all three inventors.
After some discussion, students can use a simple voting strategy of thumbs up or thumbs down to decide on the accuracy of the fact's placement.

6. After determining the fact's placement, add it to the online 3-circle Venn diagram that is projected on the screen.

7. Continue this process until everyone has had the opportunity to share a fact about the inventors and add it to the proper section of the Venn diagram. Print the completed online Venn diagram before closing the program and make enough copies to distribute to students to use as a review of the facts they learned about the inventors.

8. While students are still seated in a circle on the rug, ask them to look again at the portraits of the three inventors posted on the board. Ask for volunteers to correctly identify each inventor and his or her inventions. Then ask each student to share one way these inventions of the past have impacted his or her life today.

back to top



  • Have students create a Bio-Cube for each of the three inventors that they studied. This tool requires students to summarize the most important information about a person to fit on a printout that they can then fold into a cube.

back to top



  • Observe students' participation throughout the lesson:

    • Did students take detailed notes while reading the biographies and accessing the websites?

    • Did students make connections between inventions and technology?

    • Did students make connections between technology and the global community?

    • Did students lead intelligent discussions in their groups using information found in the biographies?

    • Did students successfully compile and create a working chart about their inventor and his or her inventions?

back to top