Props are one of those things that are unique and critical to teaching online, particularly if your student is a young learner. It not only makes class more engaging and enjoyable, it actually makes it more fun for you the teacher.
Props are not as essential adult learners, but visuals do help make lessons more effective. When considering leveraging props for your online class, think about all the different ways you can use them to help convey information. Try to develop a small collection of props that are applicable for different types of class.
Our team of writers and our founder have years of teaching online, abroad and in the classroom. Here are the props we found most helpful for the online environment.
White Board for demonstration
I would be totally lost without my white board. A white board, particularly a small hand held white board is helpful for younger learners and it can double as a reward system. Some idea could be to draw pieces of a house, balloons, stars, a face. You get the idea.
Having a whiteboard also allows you to model language concepts like prepositions and to use as a fun element in your class. You can also obviously draw and illustrate concepts on it.
Last, 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.
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.
You can use a whiteboard as a background element in your class or as a teaching prop.
Flash Cards – Essential teaching prop
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.
A stuffed animal – Your online sidekick
Having a stuffed animal is surprisingly helpful for young learners. Functionally, your stuffed animal will become your online sidekick. It’s of great use for your online teacher introduction video.
You can use this prop in a variety of ways. It can be used as a sort of reward system for young learners, be used to demonstrate a conversation sequence you’re teaching or it could be used for body parts.
From a practical standpoint, you can also use the stuffed animal to demonstrate a conversation or to demonstrate animal body parts like ears, tail or fur. Here is my specific animal prop:
There are numerous options you can get when it comes to a stuffed animal. This is a personal choice but pick an animals that fits you.
American Flag – Great for personal branding, colors and geography
Get a flag of the country you’re from. The ideal flag should be small as you’ll be using it in front of a laptop, not something that will wave in the wind on a flagpole.
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.
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.
Consider getting two small, sketch books or children’s books even. You can then 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.
Plush sports balls
Another fun and helpful item would be to have small, stuffed sports balls like a soccer ball, basketball or baseball.
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.
Toy microphone – Indicates singing and speaking
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.
Tablet – For mobile app teaching
One of the most fun and flexible tools for any online classroom is your very own tablet. Particularly if you’re going to be teaching on an app like Palfish or Cambly. While you could use your phone, it’s much more fun and convenient to use a 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).
A tablet can also be used as an extra light source as they all come with built in flashlights and with a tablet you can download and manage your classes with ease via your companies app.
If you don’t currently own a tablet, I’ve been very happy with my Samsung Tab A that doubles as my backup device to log into class, a flash light, reading device and something I use to manage my classes and schedule via an app.
Four our complete list checkout our list of tablets for online teaching.
Everyday items – Get creative
Last it to simply use everyday items around your house as you see fit. I use my coffee mug to model “I drink” for example. I use random items like a jar that has a pink cover to illustrate the color pink, an umbrella to model the letter “u” and my camera to model “I have” and so forth.
Online teaching is fun. While a few things are essential like a whiteboard, stuffed animal and a flash card. The rest is up to you to help meet the lesson objectives. While not a prop per se, we do suggest getting a chair appropriate for online teaching. Something comfortable, but not too big.