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When teaching English online to young learners you may need to invest in some props to enhance their learning experience.
There is nothing worse than students not paying attention or having absolutely no interest in the class.
By using props for teaching English online, the teacher creates a fun environment and encourages students to learn.
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We will talk about each one, the benefits of using them in class, and situations when the prop may be useful.
You are not obliged to buy any of these props for teaching online, however. These are just tried-and-tested, useful props that teachers have successfully implemented in the classroom. Take some ideas and inspiration before deciding how you want to teach!
If you are looking for more office props, please check my blog post: Equipment Needed for Online Teaching.
Everyday Essential: Finger Puppets
These funny animals are a great way of telling a story and igniting the child’s imagination. These puppets can be worn on your fingers making them portable and lightweight.
You can get a variety of characters and are wonderful toys for kids. If you don’t want to get the finger puppets you could invest in just one puppet to be your helper when you’re teaching English.
The puppets are also a good way of making the child feel at ease and making them laugh.
You can use these puppets to demonstrate a conversation; you could ask the puppet how he is, and the puppet could respond with I am fine. Then ask the student the same question and encourage the student to repeat what was said by the puppet.
Some teachers prefer to purchase a single large puppet, but the finger puppets work well too.
Parts of the Face: Mr Potato Head
Mr Potato Head is a kids favourite and online teachers are often seen using this.
Mr. Potato Head is good for teaching the parts of the face. It can also be used as a reward system meaning that each time the student gets an answer correct, you could add a piece onto Mr. Potato Head.
With Mr. Potato head’s universal appeal it is easy to get children laughing. Put Mr. Potato Head together in your online ESL class!
Reward Option: Stickers
Sometimes teachers switch reward systems by giving the student stickers. You can have multiple kinds of stickers from Hello Kitty to Frozen.
Every time the student gets an answer correct you can put a sticker beside their name. You can easily get 500+ stickers on Amazon for £6.
This is a more suitable option for regular students when you can keep a personalized reward system for them.
Cultural Awareness: Flags
When you were explaining to the Chinese student where you are living, it’s a good idea to show them a flag.
Students may recognize the flag quicker than the English word. You can also have a Chinese flag or a flag from wherever the students are from.
This is also a good way to talk about cultural differences and compare them during lessons.
Pictures Galore: Flashcards
Flashcards can be used to show the student phonics or topics such as animals and sports.
It’s probably most important to have the letters a, b, c and d as these are the first letters the student learns.
Students will eventually start to blend sounds together, and it may be useful to have the other letters of the alphabet.
I have a poster of the alphabet that I can point to. I can also use Manycam, which shows flashcards in digital form on the screen.
You can also set aside some flashcards to review at the end of the lesson.
Teacher Classic: Whiteboard
A whiteboard is useful if you want to explain additional ideas. You can get a small whiteboard and non permanent markers.
The whiteboard can also be useful for rewards, drawing charades, blending sounds, or showing students how to write letters.
The whiteboard is the classic teacher essential.
Often the teachers have a virtual whiteboard on their online teaching platform. Some teachers like to use this, whereas other teachers find it more flexible to use their whiteboard.
Reminder: Sticky Notes
If a student has trouble memorizing vocabulary, you may want to find some record cards or sticky notes. This is a perfect place to take note of the information.
It is also possible for you to write a list of words to get the students to review later. Sticky notes are great as they can be easily disposed of thereon.
Sing With Me: Microphone
The microphone is definitely an essential for the online ESL classroom.
If the student stops speaking in the class or becomes frustrated, holding a microphone to the camera is a good way to get them to speak again.
This is also particularly helpful when you were explaining what a song is or if you have to play audio, chant, or song. The student knows that they should read aloud or sing-along.
A microphone can be a good way to induce conversation and song, ironing out even the most unruly of students.
Paper Laminations: Cut-outs
Teaching English online doesn’t have to be expensive. You can print out your own pictures and add them to lollypop sticks.
I recommend cutting out some pictures, such as emojis to display different emotions. You can present these to the student when you are asking how they are.
Print out the pictures and glue them to the lollypop sticks! After teaching for some time, you will collect many different pictures to show your students.
If you sign up for a TPR Teaching, we will provide you additional pictures to download and print out.
This will save you time and effort when preparing your classes and are suitable for teaching all young learners.
Game Time: Dice
Some online teaching platforms will have virtual board games but no virtual dice. You should have some dice readily available in case the need arises.
You can find some plush cushion dice or just use the die from an old board game.
You could also download a dice app on your mobile and use that in class either.
Easy Background: Maps
I’ve had to show countries from around the world so many times in lessons. It’s really useful to have some kind of globe or map that you can point to, to show the students a location.
You could buy a poster with a map, which can also be your teaching background or a small globe to hold up to the webcam.
I am very quick using my mobile phone so I like to pull up Google Maps and show them the exact place we are talking about. If you find this too difficult I highly suggest purchasing a poster map or globe.
Free Time: Storybook
Having a storybook close by might be a good prop to have when you have extra class time. Students sometimes show their storybooks in class too.
It is useful to have a storybook close by talking about them and the characters. If you finish your class early, you can even ask them to read their own storybook, or you could read a passage from your own storybook.
Fast-Paced Activities: Timer
Students love competitions and races. The student may be reluctant to speak about a particular topic but if you introduce a timer the student is more encouraged to speak.
It is a good idea to write down what the student says during this period of time and correct their errors at the end when the timer has stopped. Don’t interrupt students as it discourages them to speak.
Teach the Time: Clock
Students love discussing the time and comparing timezones. You may want to consider purchasing a clock for young learners.
This is good for teaching time-related activities and exercises. It is also much easier than drawing out a clock multiple times on a page!
Young Kids Must: Stuffed Animals
A stuffed animal can be good at making the students feel at ease. The student enjoys speaking to the stuffed animal or taking their own stuffed animals out to play too.
Stuffed animals are very useful for shy children who may feel intimidated by the online classroom environment.
A stuffed animal can also act like a puppet and potential show how to say something.
Phone App: App Spin
This is a free app you can download on your smartphone to encourage the student to speak in class. You could create a wheel for the seven key questions – who, where, when, why, how, what, and how much.
If you want the student to answer or to ask a question you could spin the wheel and the student has to ask a question using whatever word the wheel lands on.
You can create wheels for a variety of topics such as afternoon activities, yes or no, and so forth.
My Secret Super Power…
I rarely use props in the classroom! In fact, I use something much better in my opinion.
Currently, I use Manycam for teaching ESL online.
Having an additional application running in the background can cause your laptop to slow down. This is why I set it to 25 fps and 720 p (which looks the same as my HD webcam), and it works like a charm for all my classes!
That concludes our props list! These ESL teaching props will help you take charge of your lessons and are perfect for children or young learners.
The parents and children will appreciate the effort and commitment. You will be well on the way to becoming their favorite!
Any other classroom prop suggestions? Let me know in the comments section below!
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Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.