For most teachers teaching young children, props are an essential part of the process and can aid not just learning but also increase enjoyment. Which means it can be scary to think that while you’re on the road you may not have access to your favorite props. We’ve compiled a list below of a few props some of our teachers carry with them and how they manage with the extra luggage! (based on suggestions and advice from actual traveling VIPKID teachers!)
Finger puppets: these are the kind of props that will never go out of fashion and are always a sure winner in the classroom. Not only are they very light and small but they can be bunched together and packaged very easily. If worst comes to worst and you’re still struggling to pack them somewhere, you can always just wear them until you find space later. This may seem very peculiar at the airport but I am sure security personnel have more important things to look out for than finger puppets — bombs, drugs, illegal money, Justin Bieber music (I’m not kidding. Ask China).
Flashcards: again another engaging and attractive prop that is very transportable and does not require much storage or effort. One tip given by our teachers is to laminate your flash cards to protect them on your journeys. We had a humorous note from one of our teachers who put her bag down to take pictures of a glorious sunset. Only to turn around and find that a local stray dog had decided to use her bag as a bathroom – thank goodness just a number 1. That still didn’t save her flash cards though!
Plastic magnet letters: if you still remember 4th-grade science class pretty much most things in a room will be magnetic in some way. Magnetic letters can be a life saver because you can literally stick them anywhere and still explain what you need to in the lesson. You can also add some extra learning into the class by sticking them to things kids may not have seen before. For example, let’s say you’re currently traveling in London (UK) a place where some of your students may not have visited. You could take pictures of you sticking them to a red London bus or an infamous black taxi and show the pictures to your students.
Whiteboard and markers: some of you may be thinking of those huge whiteboards you see in traditional classrooms but, no, we mean the baby versions of those. Small rectangular shaped versions that are super easy to transport around and durable against the elements (maybe not dog pee!) These are perfect for trying to illustrate something to your students that you were finding difficult to explain. We all know how arduous it can be to learn new things, so providing your class with a visual will only aid the process. It also gives you a chance to show off your art skills!
Teddy bear: at first glance, you may think you read that wrong, but nope! We really mean a teddy bear! This cute little prop can serve many purposes; beginning with the most obvious which is a friendly, welcoming and familiar visual for your students to have. The teddy can also be made to be an extra student in the class, thus giving teachers a way to explain a physical concept without needing to be physically present.
Let’s also not forget the fact that in most cases, children are just excited to see other people’s possessions and belongings – especially their toys. How easily we forget that they only came into this world not long ago and many things are new and exciting. So the prospect of seeing a toy from their new foreign teacher is an exhilarating experience! Think about how different something as simple as a teddy can be for somebody who lives on the other side of the world to you. In some parts of the world “the teddy”, which is mainly an American and European construct, is an animal or even a person.
(P.s totally random fact but did you know the teddy was named after the 26th President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt? Feel free to use that in a quiz or competition with your students!)
Benefits of using props in an ESL classroom
Using props is not just to add a visual element to your lesson, they, in fact, have many benefits that, when used rightly, can help ESL teachers achieve both teaching and learning objectives.
Here are a few benefits of using props:
- They are a great way to bridge the communication gap – ESL students do not always understand the English language, which makes it difficult for the teacher to communicate with them. This communication gap can be bridged by using props that can visually convey your message to the students. These can particularly be helpful to identify simple objects and build basic vocabulary.
- They add an element of fun to the lesson – Teaching students in a language they do not understand can be quite boring for the students. That is why as a teacher you need to think of creative ways to add an element of fun to your lessons so your students can pay more attention, which will encourage more learning. Props can help you make your lessons interesting.
- Props can make your lessons interactive – You can use props to play warm-up games or do other learning activities. For example, you can make two teams in your class and give each of them a prop and ask them to come up with a short play using it. This will not only make them think creatively it will also encourage participation and interaction among students.
Remember, for props to be effective it is extremely important that they are relevant to your lesson. Otherwise, you will not only waste your time, but your students also will not be able to achieve their learning objectives.