Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Art of Critical Thinking with Store Receipts

Today, after being back from the TESOL Conference in Philly, I was organizing things, throwing out papers. Though I've been trying to be less and less attached to my old teacher voice that reminds me of keeping all the papers, recipes, booklets, brochures when I travel abroad, I simply can't resist it! When I get back home, I always have to clean up and get back to the new paradigm of going digital and avoiding clutter.

Well, I was about to throw away all the receipts I collected during my trip when I had this idea of using them for a critical thinking lesson plan mixed with digital storytelling. I took the photos of the receipts, having this idea in mind:

1. Distribute the receipts to different groups.
2. Give them some time to check the receipts.
3. Warm-up questions:
  • Where was the item bought? (Teacher can encourage sts to look for the city in google maps)
  • What did the person buy?
  • Was it a recent purchase?
  • How much did the person pay for the purchase?

3. Food for thought:

  • How do you imagine the person who bought the item is?
  • Why do you think the person bought the item?
  • Who do you think the person bought the item to? To himself/herself or to another person?
  • Do you think the person paid a fair price for it? Why or Why not?
  • Do you think that the person lived in the city where the item was bought or was the person just visiting town?
4. Students then exchange information with members from the other groups.
5. They get back to their groups and recreate the story behind that purchase, specifying who bought it, who was he/she buying the item to, where they were...The story should be told up to the moment the receipt is given to the client. 
6. To help them prepare their stories, show them sample introductions:

"Mario was a witty, funny teen that loved video games. In fact, it was hard for him to decide for the right balance between study, play, family time, hanging out with friends...All he knew was that video games gave him that adrenaline rush of moving from one easier stage to that of a bigger challenge. So, that day he decided that it was time for..."

B. "Pampering yourself. That's the key for a happier life. That day she decided to do something different..."

C. "He has just arrived from a very tiring trip in which she couldn't close his eyes because of a crying baby. He longed for home already..."

D. "Her boyfriend moved to another country to study German. She was devastated. However, that day she decided to be happier and more connected to him. She went out to..."

For the stories, the students could draw and record it using the iPad app educreations or show me.
They can also use movie maker (Windows) or iMovie (Mac) to tell the story.
Another idea would be to record a video using images and voice and post it to youtube.

Going Beyond:
If the teacher has the chance to connect to other groups around the world, a neat cultural project would be to compare prices for the items in different countries, using a common currency. So, for example, how much would a PS3 game cost in different countries? Is it the same price? What is the price variation in terms of percentage? Is the item found anywhere in the world or is it harder to find in certain countries?

Any other suggestions to improve this lesson plan?


  1. Really nice idea! Mine just get thrown out or are filed in the accounts if they are important.

    1. So, now, Anne you can think of ways to use it for learning!

  2. Great ideas, really like it - always have a stash in my wallet & students always 'nosy'!

  3. Glad you liked them, Jim! So, you might want to take them out of your wallet for some great discussions with students! It would be great if you could ask some coworkers for which receipts they have in their wallets and the stories behind those receipts, and then bring them to class.

  4. This is a lovely idea. I'm always on the lookout for ways to stimulate teenager students who need writing exercises to prepare for exams.Perfect. Thankyou very much Carla.


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