The Cost of Living Project Lesson Plan
Written by Judith Bickart
By building on the basic material provided here, a teacher could use this project to teach several topics:
grammar -- review of count/noncount nouns; partitives; comparatives and superlative
math -- comparisons and graphing
speaking -- presentationscomputer skills -- using Excel to tabulate and graph numeric results (and to do unit pricing, in a follow-on exercise)
survival skills and consumer behavior -- unit pricing; comparison shopping
The project as presented
gives a list of 7 fairly specific products, including groceries, household
products, gasoline, and bus fare. It has a template for students
to enter the lowest prices they found andthe corresponding brand names.
In the online project, this price information was compared between two ESL
classes (so only two sets of prices were shown).
-- discussion of shopping behavior (e.g., do ss shop around or go to one store for everything; do men as well as women shop for groceries and household items; is food shopping a social activity; do ss have interactions with local merchants)
-- review of count/noncount nouns and partitives
-- comparatives and superlatives
-- a supermarket flier may be used to support these topics
Students survey prices at a number of stores -- large and small. ss do the initial work in teams of 4 or 5. In class, the team members agree on a store for each member to check the grocery/household item prices. All team members look at their local prices for gas and bus fare. This step would take 2-3 days (outside of class).
Teams meet in class. Teacher gives training on entering the data, and each team member enters his findings online. The team identifies the lowest price for each item. Team members might discuss the relative merits of their observations. The teacher could provide a list with some discussion prompts (e.g., was one store cheapest in all categories?) Each team chooses a spokesperson. (about 1 hour)
The spokesperson for each team presents their findings to the class -- the price comparisons as well as any other observations. General discussion on findings. Teacher uses findings for grammar questions. (1 hour)
Lesson in using Excel for recording and graphing data [data would need to be reformatted to separate figures from text; this probably should have been done already by redesigning the initial data entry form shown in the exercise. Teacher time still would be needed to ensure that all figures are properly entered]. Depending on ss skill level, either the students or the teacher then would do tabulations, sorts and graphs of the data collected by the entire class (2-4 hours, depending on how much emphasis is put on this part of the lesson, and whether the students or the teacher will be doing most of the work).
Further discussion on reading and describing graphs.
Follow-up discussions: consumer awareness; brand vs. generic products; contrasting price patterns between neighborhoods or between large and small stores; checking supermarket fliers and shopping the sales; were the men in the class accustomed to checking prices in a supermarket (45 min- 2 hours, depending on ss interest).
T develops grammar exercises for review, using the data collected. Unit pricing would be a very useful variation to pursue. SS could learn about unit pricing, and then do a similar exercise looking at different brands and package sizes of a product. The emphasis here would be on calculating the unit price -- and discussing the related tradeoffs.
The products listed in the website example are specified pretty clearly, but some of them still have room for more detail, which could be useful consumer reminders as well (e.g., is the "cheapest toilet paper" one-ply or two-ply?). Also, the students could be asked to identify the products that they want to compare.