16 Props for Teaching English Online

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 teaching props, the teacher creates a fun environment and encourages students to learn.

This props list is suitable for all online teachers from ESL companies like VIPKid, Qkids, Dada, Palfish, Gogokid and SayABC. 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!

This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my disclaimer.

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, for instance 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 say the same.

Other teachers have often found success by choosing to purchase a single larger puppet either.

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 pictures of the alphabet so I’m less reliant on props these days. However, flashcards are a great way to start out.

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 the student how to write letters.

The whiteboard is the classic teacher essential.

Oftentimes 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 own whiteboard.

Reminder: Sticky Notes

If a student is having trouble memorizing vocabulary you may want to find some record cards or sticky notes. This is a perfect place to take a note of the information.

It is also possible for you to write a list of words that you will get the students to review later. Sticky notes are great as they can be easily disposed of later.

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 make a lot of your props and there are some great ideas on Pinterest.

It has every idea from making a sock puppet to farm animal cut-outs. At the very least, I recommend cutting out some emojis to display different emotions. This is a very easy reward system.

Put them on a stick lollipop sticks, as shown in the picture below. If you sign up for a company with TPR teaching, we will provide you additional props 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 dice from an old board game.

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 as they like to talk 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.

You can download it on iOS here or on Google Playstore here.


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!

Also check out our online teacher essentials. Do you have everything on the list?

Props for online ESL teachers

Useful Links

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I am an online English teacher from Ireland with a writing addiction. My talents include being more productive than 98% of Grammarly users and teaching online before it even became trendy. This blog aims to help educate you on the existing possibilities of becoming an online teacher.

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