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Let’s Play

My prop stash is ever-evolving.  I find new things. I get bored of others. I am inspired by my students… I’d love to see what other teachers use every day!

By Kate Christian

My prop stash is ever-evolving.  I find new things. I get bored of others. I am inspired by my students. Fortunately, I had many things already—from my classroom and borrowed from my daughter. Here’s what’s in my little teacher corner.

I use these every day. This easel from IKEA is beside me in every lesson. I jot notes on it, draw really bad pictures on it, and keep my reward systems on it. Monkey sits on top. The bag is just a gift bag that I found. I use it in Trial lessons to ask about favorite colors. It hangs on the back of the easel, within easy reach.

Here is the star of our show: Monkey, a Folkmanis finger puppet. He loves bananas and sings a song when the students earn one for him. The pay-off? They get to see him eat the bananas at the end of class. Sometimes Monkey is facing backwards and we have to be very quiet so that we can SURPRISE him with bananas. Sometimes, Monkey gets inspired by the students and dresses as a Ninja Turtle, or wants to make cakes. He is invaluable. I’ve had many younger students get very upset if the reward does not feature Monkey. Just today, when a different reward came up in the lesson, one student yelled at me, “No! NO!!  Where is Monkey? Monkey wants bananas!” before bursting into the banana song.

This is so simple that I kicked myself for not thinking of it sooner. I use this star in trial classes to demonstrate that we what we want to name (i.e. a nose/hand/eye) is…surprise!…behind the star.

These calendar headers get used every day. I start classes asking students about their day. Inevitably the talk turns to weather. We compare. We look out my window. These are a great help to new speakers.

Here are my alphabet blocks, flashcards, and sorting bears.

I use sorting bears to teach color, size, patterns, which one belongs, comparative sizes, many/ few, same/ different, and countless other things. I have a balance with clear buckets I can use with them. I’ve even used them to teach the word “surround.”

These IKEA farm animals get pulled out every day for some lesson or other. Also in this cubby are word parts on index cards, photos of vocabulary words for the chants, poms, and a water cycle.

I don’t think I’ve ever taught a trial lesson without Mr. Potato Head. He also comes in handy when foundation classes run short. For beginning students I add eyes. We say, “Eyes.” I add a nose. We say, “Nose.” Then we say “Eyes, nose.” This continues systematically until he is assembled. Then, I have them find their own eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hands, feet—in the same order that we just used with Mr. Potato Head. More advanced students like to direct me to assemble him in alternative ways. Invaluable.

These are the things I use to teach shapes—pattern blocks, pipe cleaners, paper cut-outs, blocks, and found items.

Unifix cubes are great for colors, numbers, and comparing quantities.

These six-inch dolls are useful for teaching clothes and boy/ girl (I’ve since added a boy). They seem to fit into the screen view better than larger dolls.

These matryoshka dolls are a great help for teaching the comparatives big/ bigger/ biggest, small/ smaller/ smallest, young/ younger/ youngest, and old/ older/ oldest.

Doll food! I use these to teach about a bakery, and also as a reward. Students love to choose treats for themselves–or for Monkey.  Sometimes it’s a restaurant with savory options.

Surprisingly, these flower pens get used often. I use them in lessons about plants, colors, and can/ cannot eat. Serendipitously, they are the same colors as the flowers in the same/ different lesson.

There are other things that I pull out for specific lessons, but these are the things that are within arm’s reach at all times. I’d love to see what other teachers use every day!