Language Development: Yours and Humankind's
- Grades: 6–8
- Unit Plan:
- Use Internet skills
- Experience an online animated cartoon activity
- Brainstorm the various ways people communicate
- Predict and create a timeline of their communication evolution
- Computer lab or smart board
- Overhead projector
- Copies of Language Timeline (PDF)
- Pen or pencil
Set Up and Prepare
Prior to starting the lesson, review the following:
- Have students brainstorm a list of ways people communicate. Guide the students by giving examples of communication such as, "Have you ever seen your best friend at school and you knew he/she was upset? Or maybe excited to tell you something? How did you know this without talking?" Communication methods you and the students might come up with in your discussion: body language, tone of voice, silence, singing, shouting, whispering, writing on paper, mental telepathy, sign language, touch, emailing, etc.
- Explain to the students that even the earliest humans communicated with one another. For example, it's thought that the caveman had a language of communication that has developed into the languages we use today.
- Now that the students have brainstormed ways people communicate, it is time to go to the computer lab to experience the animated cartoon activity, "From Caveman to Spaceman."
Note: The activity is separated into four parts:
Part 1: In the Beginning
Covers pre-language communication, the evolution of speech, and the development of writing.
Part 2: Everyday Life
A look at how almost everything important we do in our daily life involves interpersonal communication.
Part 3: Early Technology
Examines the invention of "talking drums," smoke signaling, flashing lights, and horse delivered mail — all early examples of communicating over distance.
Part 4: Modern Technology
Covers the invention of the telegraph, telephone, and radio, precursors to today's Internet and mobile phones.
- Return to the classroom for a discussion session, and have the students discuss various ways people communicate.
- Discuss with the students what their first sounds and words were and how their communication evolved.
- Distribute the Language Development handout. Inform the students that the handout is divided into age groups and language development.
- With the use of the overhead projector, demonstrate how to fill out the Language Development Timeline. Have students complete the timeline, filling in information about their first words, first slang, and so on.
- Once the students have completed their timelines, invite them to compare with classmates in order to find someone who has a similar experience. Collect timelines for assessment.
- Create anticipation for Lesson 2 by having an ending discussion on where all this has led and the ways we communicated in the past and today (language, print, media, computers, etc.). Early forms of communication for entertainment among settlers was through the use of folktales to pass down a story or legend among their people in the days before the written word. Tomorrow you will be learning more about the exciting and exaggerated communication through folktales.
Supporting All Learners
Allow students who struggle with this assignment to view the interactive cartoon "From Caveman to Spaceman" a second time. Then ask them to write a short summary on the main idea. Students could also draw a cartoon about their first words instead of completing the timeline.
Have the students find out something about how they communicated when they were younger. Examples: first words, funny words, gestures, etc.
- Brainstorm ways people communicate.
- Do the Internet activity.
- Read and discuss the communications timeline, then add milestones of your own language development.
- What would you change or add to this lesson?
- Should the parents/guardians help the students with their timeline?
- Did students enjoy completing the timeline and discovering their language development?
- What other sources would you like to include in this lesson?