Genie in a Bottle


Type and Purpose of Learning

In this lesson, students play with words to create original sentences. The activity requires the children to listen, ask questions and use their creativity to suggest answers. Importantly, students have a chance to work through their feelings and figure out how to respond to different situations, building on each other’s ideas in an active and social classroom.

In this vocabulary game, students are first presented with an envelope containing review list vocabulary words. Students are challenged to use as many of these words as possible in a sentence that will make sense when read aloud. Some students asked to work with a classmate so there is a mix of partnered and independent workers.

As a class, we had read aloud the story “The Merchant and the Genie.” We then held a brief discussion of what a genie might be. Most students shared the opinion that a genie could grant wishes.

Next, students were asked to read over the sentence they had created during the vocabulary game and to turn that sentence into a wish format. It took a little time to help students reconfigure their original sentence.

Previously, the students had received bottles filled with all kinds of random objects and were given the chance to test out and create anything their imagination could devise from these objects.

Once the students had their wish statements, they were asked to think about the object they had created from the contents in the bottle. Could they imagine a story in which the object they created was the answer to the wish they had composed from the list words?

Students were now encouraged to plot out a story using their created object and wish statement as conceptual mapping tools.

This language and make-believe learning sparked a high level of excitement and engagement in the class as the students willingly flexed their creativity to try out all kinds of possibilities at every stage of the activity.

Lesson Focus

Students will generate, gather and organize ideas and vocabulary to communicate a message.

Lesson Plan

Assessment/Reflections for Future Lessons

Assessment for the three phases of the lesson involved circulating and conferencing with students to allow for observation, anecdotal note-taking and reviewing checklists. Questions I looked to answer include:

  1. Were the students using the list words to maximum effect?
  2. How sophisticated were their sentences?
  3. How engaged were the students in the activity?
  4. Did students spend time testing materials before creating a final product?
  5. Were students able to dramatize and make viable connections when linking their wish sentence to their created object which was intended as an answer to their wish?

Curriculum Expectations


(Ref: Ontario Ministry of Education. The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: Language, 2006)

Oral Communication

  • Listen in order to understand and respond appropriately in a variety of situations for a variety of purposes; and
  • Use speaking skills and strategies appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.


  • Recognize a variety of text forms, text features, and stylistic elements and demonstrate understanding of how they help communicate meaning.


  • Generate, gather, and organize ideas and information to write for an intended purpose and audience; and
  • Draft and revise their writing, using a variety of informational, literary, and graphic forms and stylistic elements appropriate for the purpose and audience.

Introduction (MINDS ON)

It was rewarding to observe how language learning stimulated the students. The children received envelopes with review vocabulary list words — each word was separate so it could be cut out and moved around in sentences. The students were observed reading the words aloud and trying out various combinations of words for meaning.

Two girls decided they wanted a huge arsenal of linking words. They proceed to cut and create their own collection of words. Two boys decided to stand up and act out word meanings and eventually played a flip-and-guess word game.

The enthusiasm was high but it was necessary to continually refocus the students somewhat on the game’s actual purpose. One group was drawn to the action words. They created such sentences as (pre-editing), “I was skate then jumped to a bench and went on a swing” and “Tonight I caught a thief on a speeder (bike).”

A few children used only one required vocabulary word in a sentence and added many linking words of their own. These students required a little encouragement to take more risks.

Some of the sentences surprised me. “The huge whale cries, ‘Fresh lobster!’” is an example of one student independently applying commas, quotations and exclamation marks introduced in previous lessons. Another student creatively put together, “Huge whale cries, ‘Strike against belief’” without any filler words.

Student Tasks (WORKING ON IT)

Game: Genie in a Bottle

Students were given bottles with assorted, random objects inside. Aspects of language and make-believe learning were involved as the children emptied their bottles and spent time inspecting and testing the contents. They asked such questions as, “Can we make anything?”, “Can we rip the paper?”

They proved imaginative in their make-believe learning, using the bottle contents to invent magic glasses, witch hair, rings, power necklaces and bracelets, a hypnotist’s watch. Their ideas continued to evolve as they investigated each other’s work. A lot of jewelry pieces and figurines figured in the final result.

Share and Connect

As a class group we read aloud the story, “The Merchant and the Genie.” A few students volunteered to share the reading. We followed this with a brief discussion of what a genie might be. Most students decided a genie was a magician who could grant wishes.

Students were then tasked with turning the sentence they had made during the vocabulary game into a wish sentence. Next they were asked to plot out a story in which the object they had created from the content of their bottles could be the answer to their wish.

Scaffolding guidelines were provided for example, using who, when, what, where and why questions to help students establish their storyline.

Other Applications (Extensions)

As an extension to this activity, students could research the myth of the genie and develop their own genie story for a specific audience. Students could analyze their story and create a persuasive writing piece, arguing that their genie was either benevolent or malevolent to have given their created object in answer to their statement wish. Vocabulary words and objects in the bottles could be selected to suit a variety of subject areas.


Words used in the vocabulary game were easily adapted to address specific student needs. It was interesting to observe how many voluntary student pairings were optimal in terms of complementary skill sharing. Students were able to select the words they wanted to use, invent their own object and choose how they wanted to format their final story.


During all three phases, students were able to discuss and share their ideas as they worked. They also had the visual and kinesthetic opportunities to physically manipulate words and objects. Final stories were to be of a narrative form but could be presented in a comic or pure text format. A few students chose to create their story using the “Bitstrips” computer program.

Impact Quotes (Impact Analysis)

Many students kept their bottle creations, indicating a sense of ownership over the experience. What Rieber discusses as a design component to play based learning was experienced both by, “teacher” designing the activity and, “student” designing the learning outcome. During the final writing phase, students benefited from the expertise of their computer teacher. He is a professional actor who encouraged them to play with dialogue and suspense in their stories.

Research Quotes

A learning environment can be defined as a social one, even when one is working independently. (Rieber, 2001.) Within the parameters of instructor set purposes and resources, students were able to play while progressing towards a learning target.

Establishing a Safe Place to Learn

Students were able to work independently or with a partner. Many chose to work with buddies with whom they had teamed up over the course of the year. Students had previously worked with the words contained in the envelopes which increased their confidence. They were allowed to choose what they made from the bottle which allowed them some authority over the task. (Rieber, 2001.)

Rieber, L.P. (2001, December). Designing learning environments that excite serious play. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education, Melbourne, Australia.

Story Writing: Genie in a Bottle-Final Writing Task

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