In our ongoing Sticky Ball Series, Teacher’s House looks at all aspects of toys and props in the classroom, including but not limited to: when to use props, what props to get, and how to use them. This article offers suggestions on how to keep props interesting and engaging.
Teachers everywhere are ready to throw out their sticky balls, seeing it as a extension of the “dancing monkey” or “edutainment” stereotypes. Don’t act in haste, however! Even the sticky ball can be infinitely interesting by keeping a few simple guidelines in mind.
Don’t overuse it. Students are less likely to “get sick” of something than a teacher, but a teacher certainly can tire of doing the same activity over and over. When you get bored of something, your attitude will be sensed by your students–and then they’ll get bored too.
Use it in different ways. Consider this a corollary to the above rule. Each item above has a few different ways it can be used–and so can the sticky ball or any other prop. The action and the result can be both be different! By doing different things with the same prop, student’s will already be familiar with the item but excited to use it in a new way. This particularly important with younger students who can sometimes be “scared” or “confused” by seeing something for the first time.
Practice makes perfect. Even though I just told you to not use the same item too often and to use it in different ways, it’s important to still give students the chance to understand the intended use of the prop. The first time doing any activity has a 75% chance of being a disaster. You’ll learn from it though, and the kids will too. The next time is only 50% likely to be a disaster. At some point between the second and tenth time doing an activity, the kids will become pros.
Teach responsibility. Kids are still learning how to be responsible for things and take care of them! Use every opportunity to remind them of how to treat things that don’t belong to them. Make sure they know they shouldn’t pull on the suction cups too hard, rip them, or throw things behind a tall, heavy cabinet.
Take care of it yourself. If the kids accidentally “lose” the prop, look for it after class behind other furniture. If the prop can be “dried out” like a marker, make sure the lids are fully on after class. Organize your toy and prop storage space so that you can find what you want, when you want it. If it’s a shared space and props, make sure someone is responsible for its regular maintenance.
Have a spare on hand. Even with all the care in the world, it’s always good to have a backup. Things get broken! Accidents happen! Time wears down everything! A spare can also mean “teams” with more students participating at the same time. Extras also ensure that 2 teachers won’t fight over the only toy that will work for the activity they had in mind. Sharing is caring!
Remembering these basic guidelines for use with any props can help keep them fresh exciting to yourself and to your students!
Here at Teacher’s House, we aren’t afraid to dive into the controversies nor are we afraid of challenging the “golden gooses” of ESL teaching. We also want to help teachers create engaging classes and be the best teachers we can be. For more prop and toy articles, check out the other parts of the sticky ball series.