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WJH Students are Selling History

Students working on commercials When working on the Industrial Revolution, Waller Junior High (WJH) History Teachers Azereth Alanís and Santiago Martinez encountered a common issue. How do they make the lesson fun and engaging for students? They brainstormed ideas on projects that incorporated student voice instead of just reading and writing. Their solution, have students take on the role of marketing managers and create their own commercials selling popular inventions from that time.

“For our unit on the Industrial Revolution, students have to learn about the different inventions created at that time, but even more, they have to understand their impact and why people would want them,” Alanís said. “So we wanted to find a way to draw out that piece of the lesson.”

Students were broken up into groups and randomly given an invention to research. Before starting on their commercials, classes watched popular infomercials to provide inspiration for their own. Alanís and Martinez did not want students to simply talk about their invention, they encouraged them to actively sell their product by persuading their audience to feel that their invention was going to change their lives.

“We didn’t realize that this was going to be such a hit,” Alanís said. “We watched commercials for the Shamwow and Flex Tape and students completely ran with the idea.”

Using their Chromebooks or phones, students got creative when recording their commercials. They marketed inventions such as the cotton gin, telegraph, railroad, and steamboat. Students also naturally compared life before and after the creation of their invention and what areas of life would be most impacted. Another part of the project was developing a written advertisement for newspapers, magazines, or billboards. In creating both an advertisement and commercial, students were able to write and speak about the different information they learned through the process.

“I think it had a really big impact on students because they were struggling with why the inventions during this time were even needed,” Alanís said “Since they had to look at things from another person’s perspective they were quick to understand. We are definitely thinking about how we are going to do this for next year.”