Thomas Edison Lesson Plan: How Inventions Build Upon Each Other

Submitted by: Angela Watson

Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3-8, students use BrainPOP resources to identify important accomplishments in the life of Thomas Edison. Students will also research later inventions that utilized Edison’s scientific findings and/or improved on his inventions.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Identify important accomplishments in the life of Thomas Edison.
  2. Research another invention that utilized Einstein's scientific findings and/or improved on his inventions.


  • Internet and BrainPOP access
  • LCD projector and/or interactive whiteboard
  • Computers for students to use


hyperactive; telegraph; invention; laboratory; phonograph; sophisticated; cylinder; incandescent; patent; generate


Preview the movie and its related features. Gather appropriate books and identify relevant websites for students to use when researching their inventions.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Display the movie's Vocabulary for the class to see. Talk about any words students are unfamiliar with and ask students to share what they know about the terms.
  2. Encourage them to listen for the key vocabulary words telegraph and phonograph as they watch the Thomas Edison movie.
  3. Project the Activity to review important inventions explained in the movie.
  4. Talk about how other people have invented important devices and products based on Edison's innovations. Can students name other inventions made after the telegraph, phonograph, and light bulb that build upon Thomas Edison's research? Write students' ideas on the board.
  5. Have students work individually or with a partner to research one of the inventions listed on the board. Provide books or age-appropriate research websites for students to use in learning about their selected invention. Encourage them to be creative in choosing a format for recording and sharing their information. They may want to create a podcast, video, blog post, skit, or poster.
  6. Give students time to share their findings with the class. Were the same scientists involved in creating multiple students' inventions? What countries did most inventions come from? Is there any evidence of collaboration? How did each invention build upon prior inventions?
  7. Encourage students to discuss and debate which invention has had the biggest impact on our modern life. Why do students think so many technology inventions have been made in recent years? What inventions might be created in the next ten years?

Extension Activity:

Show some of the inspiring Quotables from Thomas Edison. Remind students that Edison started researching and inventing when he was quite young. What would students like to invent? How would they improve on a something that already exists? Have them use physical or digital tools to design a prototype of their own invention. If you have a class blog, have students take photographs (or screenshots) of their inventions and embed them in a blog post which describes their invention's use and purpose.