Batteries Not Included

Students are prompted with a few disclaimers, then work backward to create a product for which all of those disclaimers would apply.  Students get to be wildly creative (with a chance to be silly, as long as they satisfy the requirements), as they learn to both understand and explain the meaning and need of various disclaimers and product features.

 

The Prompts

First, you’ll need a list of disclaimers.  There are three ways you could do this:

  1. Task the students with developing a list, making this a mini-project before they get to the creative stuff.  Give them a week or so to jot down every disclaimer they see on commercials, packaging, etc.
  2. If your students have had enough exposure to English advertising and product descriptions, have them as a class list as many as they can think of.
  3. Make a list yourself before this you start this project with your students.

 

There’s a wide range of what might qualify as a disclaimer.  It might be the small print, or the secondary voice-over on a commercial that speaks faster and lower than the primary voice, or it could be sticker-looking images on the side of a box.  Essentially, it can be anything that’s not the highlight or primary purpose of a product, but something that affects how a user interacts with the product.

Here’s a list to get you started:

  • Batteries not included.
  • Refrigerate after opening.
  • Must be 5′ to ride.
  • May cause nausea.
  • No animals were harmed in the making of this project.
  • Avoid contact with skin.
  • Dry clean only
  • Shake well before using.
  • Contents may be hot!
  • Do not use in shower.
  • Fragile
  • One size fits all.
  • No shoes, no shirt, no service.
  • May contain nuts.
  • Do not feed the animals.
  • Watch for falling rocks.
  • Enter at your own risk.

Try to make a list of 20-35 disclaimers (if students came up with their own lists and pooled them together, narrow the collective list down).  Then arrange the list so that its entries can be randomly selected (for example, write each down on a slip of paper and place them in a hat).

 

The Product

Divide students into groups of three or four, then draw three disclaimers from a hat (or otherwise randomly assign three disclaimers) for each group.

Students then have one week to create the idea of a product that would require all three of those disclaimers.  Since the disclaimers come from a variety of sources, it’s possible that some groups might have a set of disclaimers that make no sense together.  That’s okay!  The product that the students “create” can be impractical and nonsensical.

The final deliverable needs to have three parts: a description of the product and what it’s used for; a sketch of a prototype; an explanation of why the product comes with the three disclaimers.  Students could either turn in a paper with all this information or present their product to the rest of the class.

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