Nina Loback is Richmond Brazil’s Commercial and Academic Coordinator for Language Schools. (You can read her complete biodata at the end of this post.)

Online shopping is a reality for most of us and even if you are not used to buying from retail online shops (sometimes importing straight from Asia yourself), you surely know somebody that is. And most of all, you’re always bombarded with ads that pop up at any moment when googling almost anything online – you never know when it is going to happen. So, teaching students to deal with that kind of language becomes relevant as they are bound to face it sooner or later.

To make it more fun, I suggest using the site weirdorconfusing.com as a starting point. The website is all about a single button that leads you to goods that you can actually buy online, for real, on shops like Amazon or eBay – the special touch to the site is that the objects you find are all either useless or plain weird.

Activity type: speaking / pairwork.

Topic: online shopping.

Target language: describing objects.

Level: A2+ upwards.

Age: 12+ (18+ with access to weirdorconfusing.com website).

Classroom Time: 25-30 minutes.

Preparation: make one copy of the photocopiable 1 (and 2 for underaged students).

Instructions

1 Hand out photocopiable 1 for each student and introduce the online shopping topic by asking students to answer questions from activity 1 in pairs.

  1. What kind of things are possible to buy online?
  2. Have you ever seen anything weird being sold online? What?

2 Ask them to go over the questions and to imagine the kind of objects they’ll find in the activity.

Option A If your students are over 18 and have access to the internet, ask them to use the browser of their preference on their phones and open the site

Ask them to click on the “please” button and to find an object they want to talk about. Ask them not to show the object to their classmate yet.

Option 2 If you have no access to the internet or your students are younger than 18, you might prefer to work with the photocopiable images provided, instead of going online as there is no control of what they might find. There might be something inappropriate if they are too young, or they might find something that puts you or your institution (if that is the case) in a delicate position. If you decide to work with option 2, hand out images from photocopiable 2 provided here. Give each student an image and ask them not to show their classmate yet.

Once each student has an image/object to work with, ask them to research and make notes of any vocabulary they might need in order to answer activity 2 questions:

  1. What does it look like? Describe it.
  2. What is it for?
  3. Is it useful or useless? Why?
  4. Would you buy it/give it to somebody as a gift? Who and why?

3 Once they are ready, ask them to talk about the pictures/objects in pairs. They should only show each other the images after asking and answering all 4 questions.

4 The language used to describe the imported goods might be somewhat challenging to understand or even funny to our cultural background at times as meaning can get lost in translation (often made by automatic artificial intelligence translator software). In activity 4 students have the opportunity to work and play with this kind of language. Ask them to improve the names of the objects by changing word order, to replace words or to simply give it another totally different name/description.

5 As a final activity, ask them to ask and answer these last two questions in pairs:

  1. Do you or your family/ friends usually buy goods online? What kind of objects?
  2. Have you or somebody you know ever regretted buying something online? Why?

Options: Ask them to repeat activity 2, 3 and 4 with other objects, as many times as you have time for and they feel interested enough. You can set finding a second object as homework. You can also set it as a competition in which they have to vote for the weirdest and most useless objects found in the group.