Props are one of those things that are unique and critical to teaching English online, particularly if your student is aged 4-8. It not only makes class more engaging and enjoyable, it actually makes it more fun for you the teacher.
It’s true, props are not as essential with older, more advanced and mature students where you’re lessons will be about outer space, behavioral adaptations of animals or travel. But for young learners, it’s essential. For older learners, props are more important if they’re used as a learning tool so keep reading to learn what props are best for older students.
If you’ve been curious about what the ideal props are for your online classroom or perspective online classroom this guide will have you covered. After 2 years of teaching online part time with VIPKID, here are my must have props for online teachers.
1 – A White Board for Demonstration
“When you do a good job, I will give [inset thing you will draw].
Some idea could be to draw pieces of a house, balloons, stars, a face. You get the idea.
It’s helpful as a reward system but it’s also useful because you can actually write and draw on it yourself. This is helpful with older students and you’re attempting to demonstrate something.
I personally use a small whiteboard because I live abroad and move every 6 month roughly so buying a white board again and again is too much of a hassle. But if you’re going to be setting up a room in your house or a section of your apartment to double as your online classroom, you can’t go wrong with a dry erase whiteboard.
Check out my go to whiteboard here.
2 – Markers to write with
Well this goes without saying you’ll need markers to actually write on the white board, but it’s a good idea to have a few different colors to make your writing and drawings a bit more dynamic. Also use a market as a pointing stick to demonstrate “circle” and “write” and what not.
Again, TPR is the name of the game and you have to get creative with your props.
I like the Quartet Dry Erase marker set because you get A LOT of different colors. Also, make sure you get dry erase and not permanent.
3 – A stuffed animal
Another, at-a-minimum item would be to use a stuffed animal as a prop. I use this fat little stuffed dog that all the kids love. Remember you’re teaching both boys and girls so get an animal that is flexible for both (ie boys are not going to be to excited to see your my little pony stuffed animal).
The way I use the stuffed animal for the most part is comic relief in the class. When a student performs well and completes a lesson objective with ease, I’ll give them a “high 5” using the stuffed animal.
It’s a small thing, but the students really enjoy these little details.
From a practical standpoint, you can also use the stuffed animal to demonstrate a conversation. This is particularly helpful when trying to model a conversation with a young learner. Often times, students will simply repeat anything you say. This is fine as they’re using the language but over time students need to begin question recognition and modeling the conversation by using a stuffed animal really helps with this small task.
So in practice you would ask the stuffed animal it’s name and would then answer your own question in a funny voice, pretending to be the animal talking.
4 – A Small American Flag
A Canadian flag or UK flag is fine too if you’re from those countries. The ideal flag should be small, you don’t want to get a flag that would fit on a flag pool. Just something small and hand held.
The way you can use the flag would be to introduce yourself. You could also use it in any lesson where you’re talking about cultural differences or perhaps even a lesson on different colors.
A flag is just one of those thing you can always leverage in various ways in a variety of lessons.
Where to buy? Small ones for lawns and celebrations are found in any big box store like Walmart.
5 – Two Small Plain Color Sketch Books
Want to demonstrate that you want the student to read? Using a book that you open up and say “read” makes what you want them to do way more clear and specific. Even if you have a student who understands basic sentence structures, it’s still nice to model the actions you want to take because that’s part of your job as an online teacher.
I currently have two small, sketch books. I can use these books to demonstrate “this is a book” and “these are books” – aka the difference between using this and that and these and those.
Books can also be used to demonstrate a reading, writing and to also teach “I have.”
So with a student I would play a quick game like, “I have a book! What do you have?” Student answers with their own object. “I have a flag!” Student giggles and answers with their own random object.
I use a sketch book specifically too because they have a plain cover which can be used to demonstrate things like title and author of a book without having something that’s not age appropriate on the book cover. They are also small and easy to take with me when on the go and having to teach from a hotel for example.
Take a look at the sketch books, I like to use in my classroom. They’re not that expensive but it’s one of those things I’ve found difficult to find at most stores.
6 – Plush sports balls
You can use it to match the lesson because you will have lessons that use sport concepts. They can also be used to demonstrate verbs like “kick the soccer ball.” Also in some lessons it will be sports themed and the slide will entail blending a word. It will show a person holding a basketball for example and the basket will be the 2nd half of the word.
You can use the stuffed ball in a playful manner when the student blends the word correctly.
Here is the set that I currently use.
7 – A toy microphone
I have an actual H2N microphone I use for my online work. For you that would be overkill. Instead, get a toy microphone then. It’s helpful to use when singing songs with the student (it’s fine if you can’t sing!) or if you want to be playful and model that it’s time for them to speak.
It’s a small thing, but a toy microphone adds a level of depth, preparedness and fun to your lessons.
8 – Anything cool and unique around your house
I want YOU to think of something creative around your house that you can use based on it’s size, color or functionality. Maybe you can use your coffee cup to demonstrate “drink” or perhaps you could use a doll to demonstrate body parts or a small clock to demonstrate time.
Part of being an online teacher is coming up with your own teaching style, props and classroom
9 – Flash Cards (at least A,B, C and D)
Flash cards help model and demonstrate letter sounds. You could also use them in combination with your white board. On your white board you could write _ab and put the flash card over the blank sport to help the student pronounce “cab” using the flash card for C as an example.
When you have all these props you’ll start having fun with coming up creative ways to use them together.
Flash cards are just one of those things that always come in handy. I’ve found that having the letters a,b,c and d to be the most helpful as young learners who are just starting out always begin with these letter. But it’s still a good idea to have a set of flash cards that contain every letter.
10 – A tablet
One of the most fun and flexible tools for any online classroom is your very own tablet. With a tablet you can not only use it for practical purposes in your everyday life like watching YouTube videos, surfing the web, taking note and reading – it’s easily the best tools for an online classroom. Particularly if you tend to have older students who are conversational in English.
With a tablet you can draw pictures, you can use it to come up with fun and creative reward systems, you can show pictures to demonstrate concrete things (like locations, animals and body parts).
It also helps to make your classroom fun and dynamic. Allowing you to be a step above your average teacher who is neglecting the importance of props.
For older students, it will come in really handy if you want to demonstrate something a bit more complex like survival adaptations or elements of outer space you want to get more into depth about.
So if you don’t currently own a tablet, I’ve been very happy with my Samsung Tab A that doubles as my personal notebook and reading device.