There are loads of different methods in which you can improve your TEFL class. Over the years, I have found ones that work for me and ones that don’t – all it takes is a little trial and error.
As educators, we know and understand the importance of keeping the classroom interesting and exciting for our students. Otherwise, what happens? Students lose interest, get bored and stop paying attention to what you are trying to teach them.
So, how does one keep their students captivated? One way is through the use of props in the classroom. Props, you ask? Yes, I consider them tiny little helpers that aid me in getting through the academic day. They help brighten the classroom and invite some creativity into it, while engaging students in my chosen English lesson of the day.
In this article, I’ll identify what my go-to props are and how/why I use them in my classroom.
Most people probably wouldn’t think music belongs in the classroom, nonetheless, an English language classroom, however, music has an incredible effect on people and their learning abilities, their mood, their comfortability. As we know as TEFL teachers, making our students feel comfortable is one of our main priorities. Why? Because an uncomfortable student will not learn nearly as much as one who feels comfy in the room.
Music has a way of soothing people and by doing so can help enhance their moods and make them feel comfortable. I love to start a class with some light music playing in order to enhance a light, soothing mood.
Next, playing English music will familiarize your students with the language! By putting on music with English speaking lyrics, your students will begin to sub-consciously hear and become familiar with some English words. I’ve had students come up and ask me the meaning of some words that they’ve heard repeatedly in a song. It’s always a joyful moment for a teacher when their student shows interest and curiosity in what they’re learning.
I’ve also created listening activities with music. I’ll hand out some word-gap sheets to students and play the songs, then they have to fill in the missing song lyrics. They love this!! By the end of this activity, we have most of the students in hysterical laughter and dancing almost always breaks out.
2. Colored dry erase markers (and a whiteboard)
After a few years now of teaching in classrooms with a whiteboard, it’s easy to take them for granted and not called them a “prop”. However, in many classrooms around the world, a whiteboard can be much harder to come by. Many classrooms don’t have one, making it your job to get extra creative with the teaching process. That is, unless you want to spend some of your own salary to purchase one for your room (which, I admit, I have done).
Continuing on the idea of whiteboards, I have found that, students, especially young ones, love getting to use their own individual whiteboard during class. They suddenly become ultra-engaged and ready to learn when they are given the use of a prop. It makes them feel important and responsible, which leads to better attention in the classroom. In fact, it makes them feel like the teacher!
With the use of individual whiteboards, you’re able to play certain types of games with your students. For example: You can play Pictionary by describing an image with words and your students drawing what they think each word is on their board. Through this game, you’re enhancing their listening skills and keeping them attentive! Double-win!
Now, the use of different colored dry erase markers, in addition to the whiteboard, are some of the most crucial TEFL props I have ever come by. I use this prop during every single class I teach. Period. End of story.
I am able to show so many different grammar points using this technique: various endings to verbs, many verb tenses, different pronouns, the list goes on and on. And it doesn’t stop at just grammar lessons. Think about teaching a vocabulary lesson. Using color categorization, you are able to group together words that reside in the same umbrella family.
For example: say we have the following words written on the board:
It would be very easy to show which words belong in the same category with the use of colored markers. It becomes clear to your students through a very simple, yet effective, method.
Furthermore, colors are fun and enliven the class, so definitely use them if ya got them!
3. Newspaper/magazine clippings
Clippings of current news articles and pictures of pop-culture things and celebrities are great TEFL props, too. With these, you are able to show your class the images and have them describe them back to you. Kind-of like the opposite of Pictionary.
This is an excellent practice-speaking tool. It, not only encourages them to think about vocabulary, but they must speak out loud. In fact, make it a game: The person who speaks the loudest and most confidently wins! The more your students put themselves out there, the better they will get! A lot about learning a language is just having the confidence to speak it, so this activity could really help with that.
Last but certainly not least, I love, love, love the use of maps in my classroom!
Since I have been teaching refugees over the past year, my students come from all over the world; I have students from Afghanistan, Burma, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The use of maps brings my whole class together as one! We get to point out where we are all from and show each other where it is on the map. We can look at the different mountain ranges, deserts, rivers and oceans in each of our respective countries. We do all of this together, therefore, learning new vocabulary while doing it.
There’s so much vocabulary that can be taught through a map. I urge all the TEFL teachers out there to incorporate at least 1-2 into their own classroom. Maybe one of the country you are currently teaching in and one world map. (Plus, they make great classroom decorations, too!)S
So there you have it…my thoughts on what some of the best TEFL teaching props are. Really, just getting creative in the classroom is what it’s all about. Your students will appreciate it and you’ll feel good about it, too!
I’m sure all you TEFL teachers have some brilliant ideas as well, huh? I’m always looking for new ideas, so I would love to hear yours so please leave a comment below!