Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Human Fax Machines

Lilith Reller


This activity is a fun way to introduce the technological communication process. The student uses verbal instructions to command another student to duplicate his/her building blocks. ISTE Standards 1 and 4.


The student uses a technique employed in media messages to achieve a specific purpose.

The student uses appropriate available technologies to enhance communication.


-Peanut butter
-Plastic knife
-Plate or napkin
-Bread (2 slices)
-Building blocks (5 per student, note that there must be matching colors)
-Communication Activity Sheet (see attached file)
-Teacher's Rubric (see attached file)


1. Gather all materials needed for activity.
2. Make copies of Communication Worksheet for each student.
3. Make a copy of the rubric for the teacher's use.


Students should have previous basic knowledge on types of mass media and technology. They should be able to understand and define these basic terms (technology and mass media), and be able to identify different examples. Students should understand that the Internet, telephones, fax machines, etc., are all examples of mass communication and technology.

Day One:
1. With peanut butter, jelly, plastic knife, and bread in front of you, ask students to verbally instruct you to make a sandwich.

2. Follow students' exact words literally. (i.e.: If a student asks you to put peanut butter on the bread, place the jar of peanut butter ON the bread.)

3. Complete procedure until specific communication is given, and the sandwich is complete.

4. Analyze with the class what did and did not work.

5. Give an introduction on clear vs. unclear communication. Explain to the students that it is important to explain and communicate in a manner in which one can grasp a full concept of the topic at hand. Leaving out a step or not giving specific (clear) directions can alter the entire task!

6. State how technology and mass media are based on communication. Ask the students if they can think up any other ways in which we communicate through technology. Write these ideas on the board: telephones, fax machines, video-conferencing, television, e-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms, and message boards (all heavily rely on effective communicators). Sending unclear information through mass media resources can even stop the process altogether. (Ask the students what would happen if someone entered in one wrong letter when typing in an email address.)

7. Explain to the students that in every act of communication, there is a sender the one who puts out the information and a receive (the one who accepts and interprets the information). This same process also occurs in technology and mass media.

8. Tell the students that they are going to be the first human fax machines tomorrow!

Day Two:
9. Pair up students into groups of two and have them place their desks back to back. They should be able to hear each other easily, but not see each other.

10. Distribute the building blocks (5 per student). If one student has 2 green blocks, 1 blue, 1 red, and 1 brown, the partner must have the same.

11. Instruct the students that one will be the sender (the fax machine carrying out the information), and the other student will be the receiver (the fax machine which accepts the information).

12. Allow the sender to arrange his/her building blocks in any manner on his/her desk.

13. Tell the sender to communicate with the receiver, using only verbal instructions. Have the sender clearly explain how his/her building blocks are arranged on the desk. The receiver (using just listening skills) must take in and interpret the information, copying the arranged building blocks onto his/her desk.

14. When the procedure is complete, allow the students to look and see if they were successful fax machines!

15. Allow the students to switch roles as sender and receiver and repeat the procedure.

16. Encourage the students to compare successful techniques.

17. Distribute Communicate Activity Sheet and allow ample time for completion.

18. Encourage students to compare results. Remember, sharing information will improve the communication process.

19. Teacher will assess the activity using the activity sheet and rubric.


Use the Communication Activity Sheet to assess the student's ability to use appropriate available technologies to enhance communication and employ media messages. The attached rubric includes criteria for successful responses. (See Attachments.)


This writing activity can also enhance the communication technique employed in mass media and technology.
1. Inform your students that an alien has just arrived on Earth.
2. Tell them that he is trying to learn about our culture and adapt to our world. He is just now learning how to use email and wants to know what kids do for fun.
3. Have each student compose an email to the alien, welcoming him to Earth, including how to play the student's favorite game. Remind your students that this alien may not know ANY of the rules of their favorite game, and they must explain them clearly and in full detail.
4. Make sure that students enter in all essential email descriptions (sender's address, receiver's address, subject).
5. If the students have email addresses, with parental permission, have children send the letters to you; otherwise, have students type out letters.
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