Sunday, 6 April 2014

Perfect Props

Struggling with a lack of engagement or motivation can be one of the hardest challenges teachers face on a daily basis. In this post, I hope to show you how just a few props in your teaching toolkit can make even the most reluctant student become a motivated linguist.


While watching BBC3's 'Tough Young Teachers', I saw one of the teachers pull these crowns out of their bag of tricks. The minute pupils see these it catches their attention and they want to know why you have crowns on your desk. 

In terms of incorporating these into your lesson, I usually start wearing one and the pupils have to win it from me. Pupils can win a crown by giving a particularly good answer or explaining a concept well. If I hear excellent French or Spanish, a crown can also be awarded. I usually have 3 or 4 crowns in circulation at once and this allows more pupils to wear one. You could further reward pupils with raffle tickets for every time they wear a crown which results in an end of term draw for a prize of your choice. I've found this to be particularly effective with years 7 and 8 who are eager to answer what I deem to be 'Crown Questions'. 

The crowns can be found over at Yellow Moon at £3.99 for 5. Well worth it!


Got a pupil who has aced their homework while the rest of the class have struggled? By giving them a beret/sombrero, you make them the class expert. Serving as an aide to you, your expert can go around and help to explain any misconceptions. This, in turn, reinforces the experts learning while allowing the other pupils to hear an explanation in a way that may just be a bit more accessible to them.

These can be sourced fairly cheaply from Amazon or fancy dress shops.


I saw a video not too long about about encouraging pupils to talk in class and loved the idea of them using fake microphones to practice. The whole idea of these is to take away some of the embarrassment and fear fear of speaking in public. Sometimes, students just want to hold something while speaking as a sort of comfort blanket and I find these do just the trick!

Again, these aren't a very expensive purchase either coming in at around £3.70 for 4 on sites like e-Bay. 


These have been a great addition to our fast and furious games of 'Slap The Board'. The pupils, especially year 7s, love when the Fly-Swatters are pulled out as they know they are going to get to play the game. Again, these are inexpensive coming in at £1 for 5 from PoundLand etc.
I split the class in to two teams and I have pictures for the vocab we've studied in the lesson on the board. A pupil from each teams stand with their back to the board while another member of the class gives a sentence using an item of the vocab. The two pupils at the front have to turn round and hit the correct picture as quickly as possible. If they lose, they swap with someone else on their team. I try and keep this as fast paced as possible and it allows me to target questions making sure that no-one is sitting back and relaxing.

Cuddly Toys

When I'm looking for specific pupils to answer questions, I throw my toy bull (or frog) to show the class that I only want that person to be speaking. I also ask pupils to say a sentence and then throw it to a random member of the class to translate effectively making a chain of responses round the classroom. 

Medals and Trophies

These can serve as a really inexpensive way of making pupils feel really good about themselves. The medals and trophies can be bought in Asda in the party section and are usually 3 packs for £4. These can be used for a whole manner of good things in your class, whether it be behaviour, classwork, participation, pronunciation or homework. You may prefer to give these out for your 'Linguist of the Week' or even as part of an end of half term reward ceremony!

Challenge Capsules

With Easter fast approaching, now is the perfect time to get your hands on some of these. I've used something similar in the past but I'm going to fill these eggs with generic questions that could be applied to any year group and this acts as differentiation/Stretch and Challenge. Some example questions/targets are 'Re-read your work and check adjectival agreement', 'Can you add a higher level structure to today's work?' or 'Annotate what is good about the work you have completed today.' Again, these are only a £1 from PoundLand.


I find that dice can be a really versatile tool when it comes to the language classroom. I have a bag of around 30 that I pull out for activities or a quick plenary. For example, put 6 sentences on the board, pupils roll the dice and can they then change an aspect of the sentence? Can you name ___ items of vocab you learned in today's lesson? Put six questions on the board, roll the dice and try to answer that question with your partner and so on and so forth.

Have you got a Teacher Prop you can't live without?
Leave a comment below.


  1. These are great. I will be using the crown idea definitely! I also use the fly swats in groups. Get an A3 copy of what's on the board and get them to do the same activity in groups. This way you can provide more or less support to each group, like having the words on or taking them away etc.
    In addition, laminated snakes and ladders boards can be used for many things. Dice are also very handy.

    1. I knew that I had forgotten something so the dice have been added!