pt-Real objects make your online lessons engaging


Do you have an empty water bottle, a dog's squeaking toy or a sales flyer around your house? These are all items that could be used as teaching tools in an online classroom. Teachers already use these objects in their classrooms!

Initially, many teachers are concerned about the initial cost of buying props and realia teaching tools. It is common to say, "I don't think I have anything around the house that I could use with children!" Many ESITY teacher veterans would say differently.

Let's brainstorm.

What did you have for dinner last night? Did anything come from the box or package?

Ahhh, just a frozen pizza. Grab the scissors and cut the pizza picture out of the box. Ta-da! Now you can use it to teach words like:

  • eat
  • spicy
  • vegetable
  • dinner
  • lunch
  • hungry
  • And of course, pizza!

Maybe you belong to a family type who has a kitchen without boxes and packages.

Grab some bananas. Now you can teach the sentences like: "I have a banana. It's yellow. Mike eats bananas. Do you like bananas? "Congratulations! You have just acquired some grammar skills: pronouns, singulars nouns, plurals, verbs, and punctuation. Bravo!

See the point? Almost anything can be used to complement learning goals in an online classroom. We use these additional tools, often called props, to improve the classroom experience in meeting the learning objectives.

Additional tools also make the online classroom engaging, dynamic and fun! You know you should always use at least 3 real objects during classes with children, but it also improves the quality of online classes for adults and even businesses. And the materials come in all shapes and forms. Here are some of my favorite species that I like using in the class:

1. Puppets or stuffed animals

Welcoming a child with a funny giraffe puppet can be less intimidating than meeting a foreign teacher for the first time. This technique can help the students feel good when they see something child-like. If you do not have a puppet, stuffed animals can be used in the same way. The use of puppets and stuffed animals can help build relationships, but can also be used to model conversations or target questions and answers.

For example, I always use a squirrel puppet for kindergarten children. I introduce the puppet and explain that the puppet only talks in the target language (i.e. English) and if the child uses his/her mother language, the squirrel hops in and is eager to know what we are talking about - so the child has to use the target language. It works and helps a lot to make the student switch and practice more.

2. Real objects

Many times the most interesting props for students are simply the real things from your home. It's amazing to see what common things like apples or shoes are similar or different halfway around the world! Pull your passport when teaching about travel! You can discuss its purpose or compare the color of the package with them. Students often choose real-life examples from their households to show you too, and you are already building a relationship!

3. Flashcards or 2D printouts

Flashcards can be used to introduce, enhance or expand concepts such as letters, numbers, colors, shapes and more! You can also print or cut out pictures of almost everything that supports your particular lesson. It doesn't end with a pizza box! Food flyers and furniture ads are full of free visuals that support your teaching. 

4. Virtual props

Using virtual props offered by the virtual classroom is not just hilarious and highly engaging, but also helps the student get into the mood and understand what you mean. You can use them selectively to fit your theme or a specific word, or randomly just to get the student's attention.

If you are having a class about animals, awesome! Put on a virtual animal mask and ask the student to tell you the animal's name. Is it Christmas time? Use a Christmas background with a wonderful Christmas tree. Acting out a conversation in a kitchen? Use kitchen background and put on a virtual chef hat while having the conversation. The virtual world is limitless!

5 Digital tools

Can't get all the pictures you need for a class from spam in your real post inbox? Pull out your phone or tablet to show a picture of everything you can imagine. Do you teach a family unit? Show your student some pictures of your last family meeting. Ideas are endless! 

Complementary tools meet so many needs of both sides in the classroom. They can make it easier for teachers to teach online content, or they can make it easier for the student to remember the concept. Everyone wins!

Okay, teachers, this challenge is set and it's time to switch your place on props! What unlikely items can you classify? Were you able to turn garbage into priceless props?

Become a teacher today!