Don’t waste your students’ time

The goal is not to buy an object for every single vocabulary word and concept. It is  to get the kiddos talking more naturally in conversation around the subject you are teaching.

The Basics:

BEFORE GOING FURTHER LET’S DO 2 PICTURES WORTH OF DEFINITIONS TO MAKE SURE WE ARE ON THE SAME PAGE.

A prop is an object that is used to symbolically represent a concept. 

The object is for a CONCEPT, not a WORD.

For example:

Doll = cloths, verbs related to movement, family members, gender

baby child concrete floor cute
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A question mark drawn on a chalkboard = curiosity, intonation, confusion

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
  • Some prop are 3-D, some are 2-D. They are both still called props.
  • Props can be used for many different concepts
  • Don’t get stuck on the literal comparison between object and concept.
  • Props are there to support your teaching, not to take place of your teaching. 
  • Props are meaningless and neutral until you give them meaning.

The following paragraph has been taken from a previous post. You can read more about how to set up your classroom based on your teaching style here. 

Based on your teaching style, you will use props differently to be most effective.

If you know your teaching style, you can jump to right after these grey boxes.

  • Visual/Spatial teachersuse a lot of visual props. 3-D and 2-D. Allow the children to see what you are teaching. Hold up props and write in different colors allowing the student to know the content by sight. Mind maps are really helpful in teaching students new words and concepts.

  • Logical/Mathematical teachers– have symbols that will represent concepts that you can refer back to often

  • Verbal/Linguistic teachers– will need heading words to help categorize the content. Using the chalkboard will be important for you. Perhaps even have a chalkboard and a whiteboard, being able to separate out vocabulary, root words and so forth

  • Musical/Rhythmic teachers – use your props to reference songs that the students may know. For example, show the days of the week and sing the song for the days of the week. A good morning song versus a good night song holding a moon and a sun

  • Bodily/Kinesthetic teacher– use the props and put them in different areas of the camera view. Perhaps a mammal on the left and a fish on the right. Point to each keeping the categories separate. Use the space in your classroom to your benefit.

  • Naturalist teacher – Use the space in your classroom to set up a mock scenario such as a store or mock vet etc. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. For example. Use all of your animal props and tape them to your wall according to the type of animal. Use your money and go buy a pet a jungle animal and farm animal.  Then quickly pull them off, and tape up your house and barn. Have the child put the animal in the correct place.

  • Interpersonal teacher- you will not need a lot of props to teach unless the student does. Use your chalkboard and minimal props to design conversational building activities. For example, use the screen to ask questions and then paraphrase each other’s comments. The set up of your classroom will be more geared toward having space as headers or 1 or 2 props as the main theme to build teamwork in answering questions. It may be important to have a 2-D image that says “Your turn, my turn” and another 2 images that say “Teacher” and “student”. Holding these props up will cue the student to know it is their turn to talk or yours. 

  • Intrapersonal teacher- It will be important for this type of teacher to recognize that many students are not deep thinkers. They have to learn to think deeply. A good way to have them reflect back is to have a prop that is a question mark. This will cue the student to realize you are giving them extra time to think. Using a lot of props will also help the student cue into that you are allowing them to reflect back on their own situation. For example, hold up a dog picture and you can say, “do you like big dogs or small dogs?” “Do you have a dog?” And this will build more of a thinking activity rather than the labeling vocabulary activities. You can also utilize the chatbox as a prop. Have them write to you, and you write back. Practicing spelling and grammar. 

To learn more about Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, and discover which type of teacher you are, you can read more here.


KNOW WHY YOU ARE USING A PROP

There’s a good way to use props: To entertain and catch the students attention when they wander.

There’s a better way to use props: To keep them laughing and engaged by watching you more intently and labeling vocabulary related to the props.

And there’s the best way to use props: Keep them engaged by understanding what you are saying so you can have a conversation.  This is even possible in levels 1 and 2 of language learning. It IS possible to have several looped conversations when they know extremely little amount of English. IF you use your props the BEST way. Read below a conversation I had with a  6 year old girl in level 1 English with less than a year of English language learning.

Don’t waste your students’ time by using props unwisely. Props can be used for entertainment, but they are better used to expand and teach a conversation in a more meaningful way

There are two types of props (they can be 2-D or 3-D)

  1. Contextual supportive props
  2. Symbolic educational props

 

Contextual supportive props

Most props can be considered contextual props. These are props that you can use 1 prop for 1 word.

Pretend cake = cake.  Baby doll = baby.

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These are props that can have a contextual representation. For example:

Calculator: math, numbers, add, subtract, multiply, dividie

Birthday cake: Birthdays, cake, candles, how old are you?

Money: Dollars, coins, money, buy

Emoticon magnets: Emotions, feeling, happy, sad, angry, worried, etc.

Sea animals: The names of the animals, ocean, mammals versus fish

Again, props are not to only be used as one prop = one word. They represent concepts.

 

Every time I teach about people or families or relatives, I always use peg dolls. They are moveable which I like, they are small enough that several can be in camera view at a time, and they are big enough to see without squinting.

Here is a conversation of how I may use my peg dolls props that go beyond a prop for the word. The girl I had this conversation with was 6 years old. She had less than 1 year of English language learning.

56312942_1382879821852329_3819170943503171584_n

Me: This is a house

Student: This is a house

Me: This is Annie (Show the girl peg doll). Hi Annie!

Student: Giggles as this is her name.

Me: Annie is in the house. (*Put Annie in the house)

Me: Is Mom in the house? (*moves the mom Peg doll in and out of the house over and over while saying yes? no?)

Student: Yes.

Me: Mom is in the house. Your turn.

Student: Mom is in the house.

Me: Good! Yes!

Me: Is Dad in the house? (*Move Dad peg doll in and out of the house)

Student: Yes.

Me: Well done! Dad is in the house. Your turn.

Student: Dad is in the house.

Me: This is a grandma. Is grandma in the house?

Student: No.

Me: Grandma is not in the house. Your turn.

Student: Grandma is not in the house

Me: This is a grandpa. Is grandpa in the house?

Student: No. Grandpa is not in the house

(learns the phrase from repeat patterns in this conversation aided by the visual representation of the props).

56739237_275608546704347_1830108388281810944_n-1.jpg

Me: Do you have a brother?

Student: Yes

Me: Is brother in the house?

Student: No

Me: Does brother sleep in the house?

Student: No. Brother no same house.

Me: My brother doesn’t sleep in my house. Your turn.

Student: My brother doesn’t sleep in my house.

Me: This is a cousin.

Me: I do not have a brother (*show the not sign) Your turn.

Student: I do not have a brother.

56168067_341739849796050_4843424264533049344_n.jpg

Cliff notes of the conversation:

Q: Why did I choose to not put the grandpa and grandma in the “not” section? 

A: I wanted to separate the concepts that the student did not have a brother versus she had grandparents, but they were not in the house.

Q: Why are there not two or more houses? 

A: Though it may make it clearer, I did not feel it entirely necessary. By saying not in the house, it didn’t matter where else they were other than in the house. Also… I just don’t want to have that many props. I want to make use of what I already have.

Q: Why did you not have the student repeat “This is a cousin?” 

A: I did not want to get into the concept of a cousin. I wanted to define what is and is not a brother first. 

Q: Why did you not have the student repeat after grandpa? 

A: The use of pause in a conversation is very important. By doing this, I allow the student to show me what they already know and have picked up from patterns in the conversation.

Q: Why did you have the student repeat after brother if they already learned the pattern?

A: I had just taught the student English for the words to not have a brother. This is different than in the house and not in the house. I wanted to highlight the concept by giving the exact phrase. 

Symbolic educational props

These props are for abstract concepts. For example, the question mark above.  I am a Visual, kinesthetic, musical teacher. These are my strengths for teaching as they are also my strengths for learning. Here are the symbolic props that I use:

 

Can you think of words and concepts you can use for each prop?

Not equal sign: Not, isn’t, don’t, different, not equal, opposite, incorrect, wrong

Similar: almost, close to, similar, about

The question mark in the speech bubble: thinking, unsure, why, curious, dreaming, “what’s on your mind”, I don’t know, hmmm, I don’t know

Emojis:

100%: perfect, excellent,  that’s right, (you got it right for pronunciation), accurate, 100, correct, right

Thumbs up: Any praiseworthy words, yes, (turn it upside down- no), thumb, finger

Heart emoji face: Love, really like, favorite, I want

Equal sign: The same, equal, exact, parallel, Vertical (turn it over- horizontal), green, qu sound when teaching the sound blend

Clock: Time, morning, afternoon, night, what time, when, numbers, big hand, little hand, circle

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Props have three purposes:

  1. To clarify a concept either contextually in conversation, or in teaching vocabulary

  2. To expand interaction and to allow a person to visually see the conversation

  3. To help differentiate words, meanings and concepts (for example the conversation above showing a person, not in the house versus not having a brother in the family). 

 

JUST TO SAY IT ONE MORE TIME:

There’s a good way to use props: To entertain and catch the students attention when they wander.

There’s a better way to use props: To keep them laughing and engaged by watching you more intently and labeling vocabulary related to the props.

And there’s the best way to use props: Keep them engaged by understanding what you are saying so you can have a conversation.  This is even possible in levels 1 and 2 of language learning. It IS possible to have several looped conversations when they know extremely little amount of English. IF you use your props the BEST way. Read below a conversation I had with a  6 year old girl in level 1 English with less than a year of English language learning.
The goal is not to buy an object for every single vocabulary word and concept. It is  to get the kiddos talking more naturally in conversation around the subject you are teaching. Don’t waste your students’ time by using props unwisely. Props can be used for entertainment, but they are better used to expand and teach a conversation in a more meaningful way

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