Sylphie Squizzes: A Tea-riffic Invention

article by Mina , photo by Alamy

Learning Intention:

I am learning to assess and order the main points of a non-fiction text so that I can write more effective summaries in paragraph form.


Success Criteria:

  • I can demonstrate my comprehension of both visual and written non-fiction texts by answering related questions
  • I can conduct research on a specified topic
  • I can write a paragraph summary based on information from my research.


Essential knowledge:

As this lesson is focused on aspects of the non-fiction genre, The School Magazine video for the English Concept of Genre may be helpful in considering how this influences the way they interpret and create non-fiction texts.


Understanding text:

After reading the article, pose the following questions to the class:

  • What is the main idea of the text (the accidental invention of the tea bag)
  • When was the tea bag invented (the early 1900s)
  • Who invented the tea bag (a tea merchant named Thomas Sullivan)
  • In what way was this invention accidental? (Thomas Sullivan put small samples in silk bags to send to customers but people were confused and put the bags directly in the hot water)
  • How did he refine his accidental invention? (he made the bags out of gauze for better infusing)
  • What happened when people discovered his invention? (it became so popular that other merchants copied his idea and tea bags could be found in just about every household)
  • How has the tea bag changed over time? (different materials and types of tea have been used and it has become more environmentally friendly)


Using these responses, write a collaborative summary on the board of the information in the article. Ensure students understand that a summary is a brief retelling of the text in their own words, focusing on the main points. An example may be:

The tea bag was accidentally invented in the early 1900s by a tea merchant named Thomas Sullivan. Thomas put small tea samples in silk bags to send to customers, but they were confused by this and put the bags directly in hot water. Seeing an opportunity, Thomas made bags out of gauze for better infusing and began selling them. The idea became so popular that other merchants copied his idea and tea bags became a standard item in most households. Over time different materials were used for tea bags along with many different types of tea, and they are now made to be more environmentally friendly.


Inform students that many things were invented by accident, including Play Doh, Coca Cola, Post-It notes, match sticks and microwave ovens. Ask students to think pair and share about how the microwave oven could have been accidentally invented. Watch the video How the Microwave Oven was Accidentally Invented then ask students to recall the main points for the information.  Answers should include:

  • Radar testing was first being used during WWII
  • An engineer named Randy Spencer was making improvements to radar technology
  • While he was doing this a chocolate bar in his pocket melted
  • He suspected this was due to the radio waves and successfully tested other foods
  • From this realization, the first commercial microwave oven was created
  • Household microwave ovens were later developed, and popularity increased over the decades.


Assessment as learning:

Students should then conduct online research about other accidental inventions, either independently or with a partner. From their research, they should choose one of these inventions to write a summary about. To do this, they should first write down the main points in their book, then use this information to compose a summary paragraph, using the modeled example as a guide. Relevant points from the stage 3 assessment and evaluation rubric for informative texts can also be used by students to check their work.