A bag of tricks for the traveling YL ESL teacher
Don't leave home without it
By Stefan Chiarantano
It's somewhat of a nuisance to carry around but I don't go to
any of my schools without it. I've now settled on a large, colourful plastic
bag that zips and that can easily be molded to fit into my bicycle hamper. It
raises a few eyebrows wherever I go but what the heck it helps me to do my job.
Perhaps, you have one too. My bag is full of useful props, things, objects that
help me to teach in a creative, magical way and serve to relax and loosen up
the children for learning. It's something akin to a bag of tricks that a
magician uses to awe his audience. I strive to do the same with mine.
Here are the things that make up my bag of tricks. It
- Lots of children's songs CDs. Music is magic to young
learners' ears. I use music as a warm-up to start the class and also to start a
game. The children lap it up. They sway, bounce and move their bodies to the
music they hear.
- Puppets. It allows me to teach target language and introduce
and act out simple dialogue skits. A puppet, I have discovered, actually
introduces another native speaker in the classroom. They're great and the
children warmly respond to them.
- Squishy balls. They're soft and colourful. They are easy to
catch. I use them to promote classroom participation.
- A wig. I wear it to liven up the class. It makes me look
ridiculous but it grabs their attention.
- Flashcards. It's a great way to introduce language. I make my
own. It's cheaper if you do. I use them in games. I also carry with me a set of
ABC flashcards to teach the alphabet and phonics.
- Stuff toy animals. They're cute. I use them to teach
prepositions such as on, in, under, behind, in front of, etc.
- Soft, large, cushy dice. I use them to play games like snakes
- Coloured hollow plastic balls. I use them for teaching
colours and in activities such as the passing activity.
- Paper, pencils, coloured pencils, and erasers. I use them in
drawing/colouring/connect the dot activities. They are a great way to end the
class and to restore peace and calm to a lively and active group of children.
- Magnets. To hang flashcards on the blackboard.
- Tambourines/rattles. I use them to start a game and for drill
activities. They act as a cue.
- Peanuts, two bowls, and two sets of chopsticks. I use them to
play the chopstick game.
My bag also includes tissue, throat lozenges, and a bottle of
I don't ever leave home without my bag of tricks. I'd be lost
without it. It sure makes a difference to the way I teach. Perhaps, if you
haven't one you might just be tempted to start one and take it with you
whenever you go to your schools. © Stefan Chiarantano
Stefan has been teaching English as a foreign language in Asia for the
past several years. He presently teaches English in Japan. He's a Canadian with
an interest in filmmaking and photography.