Best Props For Online Esl Teachers

Best Props for ESL Teachers and How to Use Them

Why Using Props in the ESL Classroom is Important

When young learners begin acquiring their first language, they are essentially like sponges, absorbing everything they see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. Toys, books, games, and activities can help to make the experience more fun, particularly if they are used in a manner that enables young learners to be physically involved in the learning process. Of course, there’s also the show and tell aspect of using these child-centered resources as part of the learning experience.

For ESL students, especially young learners, acquiring a non-native language poses different challenges. As an ESL teacher, you will likely be using props and other teaching aids, not only to make the learning experience more fun and engaging, but also to elicit responses from students to develop their English fluency.

What Makes a Prop Good for ESL Instruction?

In truth, anything can be used as a prop for teaching any subject, if it is used purposefully. As ESL teachers – whether in the classroom or online – we want to get down to business quickly using ready-to-go teaching props and aids. We teach many students and classes throughout the day, so having a core set of props and aids can be a major time and life saver.

Good props for teaching ESL then, are those which can be used across a broad spectrum of classes, students, and contexts. You want to build up an inventory of props that can cover a wide range of ESL age groups, topics, themes, and proficiency levels, because there simply isn’t enough room to fill your home or office with props for every single context.

So, if a prop can be used to…

  • develop vocabulary
  • practice spelling
  • learn phonics and improve pronunciation
  • practice describing items
  • compare and contrast
  • explain cause and effect
  • role-play
  • learn and sing songs

…then it is evidently a meaningful prop.

That said, not all props need to be multi-textual to serve a purpose. Very young learners may be more challenging to keep on point, as they have short attention spans. For these situations, noisemakers and clappers will come in handy.

So, let’s get you set up with the right props for ESL teachers and how you can use them in the classroom.

Recommended Props for ESL Teachers

Hand and Finger Puppets

Puppets For Online Esl

Hand or finger puppets make excellent props for ESL classroom instruction. Use them to captivate your students through conversation, role-play, and other forms of engagement. Because they slip onto your hand or fingers, puppets can magically transform into make-believe characters your students will connect with and grow to love.

In this video, Karen Frazier, co-author of the Let’s Go series, gives us an excellent model of how to use puppets in the ESL classroom to introduce conversation:

As you can see, puppets are great props for ESL instruction. For young ESL learners, you can breathe some life into your puppets – and your lesson – and completely transform the learning experience for your students.

Puppets We Recommend for the ESL Classroom

  • ENTERTAINING PUPPET SET: The Melissa & Doug Barn Buddies Hand Puppets set contains 6 soft hand puppets, including a cow, sheep, horse, duck, chicken, and a pig; an insert in the package serves as a puppet theater.
  • SOFT CUDDLY MATERIAL: Our fuzzy hand-puppet set is made from soft plush material that not only encourages cuddle time but is washable for easy cleanup.
  • SIZED FOR CHILDREN AND ADULTS: This hand-puppets set has been sized to fit children and most adults. Kids learn motor skills, hand-eye coordination, communication skills, self-confidence, and more.
  • GIFT FOR KIDS 2 TO 6: These puppets make an exceptional gift for kids ages 2 to 6. Add the Melissa & Doug Deluxe Puppet Theater to round out the pretend play experience and give kids another engaging option for screen-free fun.
  • “THE GOLD STANDARD IN CHILDHOOD PLAY”: For more than 30 years, Melissa & Doug has created beautifully designed imagination- and creativity-sparking products that NBC News called “the gold standard in early childhood play.”
  • 100% HAPPINESS GUARANTEE: We design every toy to the highest quality standards, and to nurture minds and hearts. If your child is not inspired, give us a call and we'll make it right. Our phone number is on every product!
  • ENTERTAINING HAND PUPPETS FOR KIDS: The Melissa & Doug Safari Buddies Hand Puppets set includes 6 soft and cuddly hand puppets with a safari animal theme (elephant, a tiger, a parrot, a giraffe, a monkey and a zebra).
  • HIGH-QUALITY MATERIALS: Our puppets for kids feature brightly patterned, high-quality fabrics that are washable for easy clean-up. They are sized to fit children and most adults.
  • HELPS DEVELOPS MULTIPLE SKILLS: This puppet set is great for storytelling, motor skill development, practicing vocabulary, expressing emotions, and confidence-building. It’s an excellent option for encouraging hands-on, screen-free play.
  • GIFT FOR AGES 2 AND UP: The Safari Buddies Hand Puppets kit makes an ideal gift for kids ages 2 and up. Add the Melissa & Doug Zoo Friends Hand Puppet set to round out the puppet play experience.
  • “THE GOLD STANDARD IN CHILDHOOD PLAY”: For more than 30 years, Melissa & Doug has created beautifully designed imagination- and creativity-sparking products that NBC News calls “the gold standard in early childhood play.”
  • Two hand puppet sets with four friendly animal puppets in each
  • Farm Friends includes a sheep, cow, pig, and horse
  • Zoo Friends includes a tiger, monkey, elephant, and giraffe
  • Brightly patterned, washable fabrics; sized to fit children and adults
  • Two hand puppet sets with four friendly animal puppets in each
  • Makes a great gift for toddlers and preschoolers, ages 2 and up, for hands-on, screen-free play
  • Two hand puppet sets with four friendly animal puppets in each
  • Farm Friends includes a sheep, cow, pig, and horse
  • Zoo Friends includes a tiger, monkey, elephant, and giraffe
  • Brightly patterned, washable fabrics; sized to fit children and adults
  • Ages 2+; two sets, 9.5" x 14" x 2" each pkg

Stuffed Animals

Stuffed Toy Animal For Online Esl

Stuffed animals are a favorite with young ESL learners, and like puppets, they can be used in various learning contexts. Indeed, you can use puppets and stuffed toys interchangeably. The main difference between them is that stuffed toys are a little more challenging to bring to life, as you can’t move their parts with your hand like you would with a puppet. Still, there are so many different types of stuffed toys, that you’re more than likely to find a specific toy you’re looking for. You can set them on a table or shelf, or hold them in your hands while teaching. Most of all, stuffed animals are soft, cute, and cuddly, and kids love them.

Use stuffed toys during warm-up activities, storytelling, or even creating an imaginary zoo, farm, or aquarium.

Stuffed Animals We Recommend for the ESL Classroom

  • Soft plush fabric ; Huggable and super cute ; Comes with its own story
  • This plush stuffed animal is securely sewn from high quality polyester and acrylic fabrics and filled with white polypropylene plush filling ; An ultra light face shaped rigid foam resides in the head of this stuffed animal to give it a consistent and realistic appearance
  • Recommended for ages 3+ ; No phthalates, lead, BPA, or heavy metals ; We have our products and components tested in accredited labs for compliance with CPSIA and ASTM F963-11 safety standards ; Please hand wash with light soap and cold water and let air dry
  • Size and weight ; Product measures 17 x 7.5 x 8.5 in inches ; 43.2 x 19.05 x 21.74 in centimeters ; Product weighs approximately 0.7 pounds or 0.4 kilograms
  • Manufacturer warranty ; 90 day manufacturer warranty for all manufacturer's defects
  • Measures 9" Tall
  • Super-soft plush and huggable body
  • Endearing facial expression and body position
  • Melissa & Doug
  • CUDDLY BUNNY RABBIT STUFFED ANIMAL: The Melissa & Doug Burrow Bunny Rabbit Stuffed Animal features long floppy ears with extra-soft plush fur and realistic-looking features
  • HANDCRAFTED WITH CARE: This plush bunny stuffed animal toy has been crafted with superior materials. The soft polyester fabric makes it both huggable and durable
  • MULTIPLE PLAYTIME OPPORTUNITIES: This Melissa & Doug stuffed rabbit toy provides children with many entertainment options. Kids can snuggle with their fuzzy bunny during story time, engage in play, and even read a story to their furry friend
  • GIFT FOR AGES 3 AND UP: This stuffed animal makes a delightful and cuddly gift for kids 3 years and up. Add the Melissa & Doug Tiger Stuffed Animal to round out the hands-on play experience and give kids another engaging option for screen-free fun
  • “THE GOLD STANDARD IN CHILDHOOD PLAY”: For more than 30 years, Melissa & Doug has created beautifully designed imagination- and creativity-sparking products that NBC News called “the gold standard in early childhood play

Play Food

Play Food For Online Esl

Food is a popular topic with ESL students, and play food is a great way to get students talking about food. Use play food to describe food groups, colors, shapes, and tastes. You can also use play food to talk about more complex topics like healthy vs unhealthy food, popular food around the world, or meals of the day.

So, go ahead and use play food to engage your students in fun, interactive activities. Make a picnic. Have lunch. Cook dinner. Order a meal. Dig in!

Play Food We Recommend for the ESL Classroom

  • 122 Pieces. From fruits and vegetables, Pretend food Meat, Fish, Eggs, Milk, Juice, Drinks, Sandwichs, Pizza, Burger, French fries to Play food Bakery, Bread, Cake, Donuts, Cookies, Ice cream, this play set provides all of the basic food groups for little ones to prepare and serve. Boasting 122 pieces, your children will feel like they have their own little food store at home to entertain them for hours on end.
  • Durable Construction. Unlike similar products by competitors, each piece is expertly crafted using BPA-free plastic – not cardboard that will smash and waste easily. In addition to not having to worry about the toys breaking, the material is also easy to clean if needed.
  • Role-Playing Fun. Boys and girls love to imitate their parents. With this set, they can pretend to go shopping, cook up a meal and serve you breakfast, lunch or dinner. Let their imaginations run wild with this vast variety of foods to choose from.
  • Realistic Food. Bold colors and realistic designs make playtime much more fun. With bottles and cans, as well as condiments and spices, let your son or daughter whip you up something special as they get creative in the kitchen or set up a picnic for the whole family to enjoy, just like home!
  • Great Accessory. This set makes a great addition to play shopping carts and kitchens, enhancing creative time with endless hours of fun. Boys and girls will love doing everything they watch you do as they learn what each item is, enhance their reading skills and let their imaginations run wild.
  • 35 items pretend play food set for toddlers: 26 different kinds of play fruit and vegetables (can be separated into 61 small pieces), a toy grocery basket, 2 cutting boards, 2 kitchen knives, and 4 dinner plates.
  • Fake Cooking food: Made of high-end environmentally friendly ABS plastic with rounded edges to provide maximum safety for your child. Bright and bright colors can not only attract the baby's attention, but also improve color perception.
  • Easy To Store: With the cute and durable storage basket, it can be easily stored after kid cook play. Can also be used to pretend to be a shopping basket and teach early numbers, patterns, and color recognition.
  • Realistic Design: Match pieces together with Velcro , which can be cut and played repeatedly. For children, fruits and vegetables are easy to cut.The "slicing" noise accompanying the cutting can bring endless fun to the children
  • Learning tool: Gourmet games can also promote cognitive development and help develop children's creativity, thinking skills. suitable for pretend play, play kitchen, Christmas gift, birthday present for ages 3+ girls & boys.
  • 115 pieces, including fruit, vegetables, snacks, pizza, waffles and more
  • Endless combinations
  • No assembly required


Balls For Online Esl

Which child doesn’t love to hit, kick, throw, or catch a ball? We can’t think of one. If you’ve never used balls for props in the ESL classroom, you’ll soon realize how much fun they can inject. Use a ball to assign student turns during any activity. There are no limits to the kind of activities you can do in the ESL classroom with a ball.

Here’s an example of Jenny White using a ball to effectively engage her students in a vocabulary game:

What’s amazing about using a ball while teaching is that you can get your students on their feet and physically active during the activity. That not only improves their concentration and participation, but also adds elements of competitiveness, teamwork, and coordination between thoughts and actions.

If you teach ESL online, you can use a ball for talking about sports, colors, and shapes.

Your ESL students will have a ball learning English – seriously!

Balls We Recommend for the ESL Classroom

  • NON-TOXIC & CHILD SAFE - Made with Phthalate Free; BPA Free; Lead Free & non-PVC Plastic
  • Each ball measures 2.2 inches in diameter, a perfect size for small child's hand. Bright colors keep little ones captivated. Play rolling around, color-counting, & shape games.
  • Great for filling any ball pit, tent, playhouse, kiddie pool, playpen and bounce house
  • Crush-Proof & Air-Filled Plastic Balls that will survive any toddler rampage! Easy to keep clean and look fresh for everyday fun.
  • NO-MESS STORAGE BAG… comes with a sturdy mesh bag that holds everything together to free-up the living space; means no more balls underfoot anywhere in the house
  • Pack of 4 Sports Balls with 1 Pump: 1 each of 5'' Soccer Ball, 5'' Basketball, 5'' Playground Ball, and 6.5'' Football. Small size for small hands. 1 unit of air pump is included in the package for handy and fast inflation.
  • Ball weight of each is 120 grams. Balls are soft to catch and easy to grip, perfect for age group of 3 to 5 yrs. Ball are inflatable and delivered deflated, presented in a color box and ideal as a gift for little kids.
  • Balls are made from durable PVC. They are NOT foam balls and come without foam layer/padding.
  • Lab tested, conforms to the toys safety requirements, durable and safe.
  • Easy inflation and deflation. Insert the needle into the air hole for inflation; Insert the needle only without the barrel of the pump for deflation. No additional plug needed to close the air hole.
  • Pack of 200 pcs Crush Proof Balls. Made with Phthalate Free; BPA Free; Lead Free & non-PVC Plastic
  • Each Ball will withstand over 90 pounds of weight. Guaranteed Crush Proof, Phthalate Free & manufactured with non-Recycled Plastic Material
  • Each ball measures 2.3 inches in diameter, a perfect size for small child's hand. 6 bright & attractive colors: Blue, red, pink, green, orange and yellow
  • Great for filling any ball pit, tent, playhouse, kiddie pool, playpen and bounce house
  • Strong and reusable mesh bag for re-storing the balls when not in use. Looking for a smaller pack? Use this ASIN: B00PYLJGQ4 for our 100 piece ball pack

Flash Cards

Flash Cards For Online Esl

Every ESL teacher should be equipped with flash cards for all occasions. Whether teaching in the classroom or online, flash cards are nifty because you can use them in so many contexts to enhance the learning experience. Use them for activities and games, drilling vocabulary, pronunciation, conversation, and role-plays. Though most stock flash cards are geared towards young learners, you’ll find a wide variety of flash cards that cover more complex concepts such as nouns and prepositions, and themes such as emotions.

Flash cards are also easy to pack and carry, they make an excellent teaching aid for traveling ESL teachers. So, if you’re planning a family vacation but plan to teach ESL online during your travels, flash cards will fit neatly into your suitcase.

Here are some ideas for using flash cards for teaching primary children, by Carol Read of Macmillan Spain:

Flash Cards We Recommend for the ESL Classroom

  • ✔ FOUR FLASH CARDS SETS – These 4 sets will teach your 3-5 year old Math, Language and Basic Skills.
  • ✔ MATH, BASIC SKILLS AND LANGUAGE – The numbers set will teach your child math. The Colors & Shapes will teach your child basic skills and the First Words and Alphabets will teach them language
  • ✔ RINGS INCLUDED – This set of flash cards includes a ring for every set to keep it neat and organized and for easy sorting
  • ✔ LARGE FONTS with REALISTIC ART – These flash cards are the perfect hand-held size with large, clear and bold fonts so it easy to see even from afar. The realistic art makes it exciting and practical for teaching your child.
  • ✔ TEACH AND REVIEW – It is ideal for teaching, reviewing and practicing sight words, in the classroom as a whole or each child individually or in groups, at their level.

Dry Erase Boards

Dry Erase Board For Esl

There isn’t much we could say about dry erase boards that ESL teachers don’t already know. Dry Erase boards are an English teacher’s biggest asset in the classroom. But what many ESL teachers may not realize is that smaller dry erase boards (primarily designed for children) are compact enough to hold in your hands, making them useful teaching aids for demonstrating grammar, vocabulary, assessments, or keeping scores during a class activity.

Get a magnetic dry erase board and use it with magnetic letters and numbers!


Dry Erase Boards We Recommend for the ESL Classroom

  • Overall size: 36" x 24" ( frame included); Writing surface size: 34" x 22"
  • Smooth & durable magnetic writing surface, easily drywipe with all dry-erase markers
  • Silver finished aluminium frame, ABS corner with screw-fixing in corners
  • Easy installation with fixing kits, can be mounted vertically or horizontally
  • Include fixing kits, pentray
  • Magnetic dry-erase board for sharing ideas and getting organized; ideal for home, school, or office
  • Durable painted-steel dry-erase surface erases easily and resists staining and ghosting
  • Doubles as a magnetic bulletin board for added versatility; white aluminum frame
  • Use vertically or horizontally; dry-erase marker and magnets included
  • Measures 36 by 0.4 by 24 inches; backed by an Amazon Basics 1-year limited warranty
  • Magnetic dry erase surface is highly durable, erases easily, resists staining, ghosting and duals as a bulletin board
  • Dry erase marker with eraser and Pin-It cork magnet are included. Contoured marker cap design prevents marker from rolling off any flat surface or tray. Pin-It cork magnet enables repositionable push pin use anywhere on the board
  • Customize your board with U Brands Gruv snap-in frame accessories (sold separately). Accessories and marker clip can be snapped into any side of the frame
  • Works with all dry erase markers. Try U Brands dry erase markers for ultimate board performance
  • U-Mount hassle free mounting system, double sided Velcro mounting strips are included to mount on almost any flat surface

Magnetic Letters and Numbers

Magnetic Letters Numbers For Online Esl

Magnetic letters and numbers are extremely useful for teaching ESL to young learners, and go well with a magnetic dry erase board. They can be used in numerous ways, especially for learning the alphabet, counting numbers, spelling, and math. You can also use them to practice phonics.

You can also use scrabble letters in place of magnetic ones, though scrabble letters would be better suited for the classroom than online instruction.

Magnetic Letter and Number Sets We Recommend for the ESL Classroom

  • ABC Alphabet Magnets Set: This 253 PCS magnetic alphabet letters and numbers set contains 52 uppercase letters,156 lowercase letters, 20 numbers, 14 math symbols, 5 cartoon refrigerator magnets, 1 double-sided magnetic writing board, 3 marker, 1 eraser and 1 sturdy storage box, teach literally thousands of words to your little genius.
  • Durable & Safety Materials: This magnetic alphabet learning toys is made of durable Eco-Friendly EVA foam with a full-cover magnet on the back that can be attached to our magnetic drawing boards or even refrigerators. Durable and soft material won't be falling off or tearing apart. Perfect size for little's finger.
  • Great for teaching letters, numbers, words, colors! Created by parents and teachers, this set contains everything needed to build vocabulary, spelling, reading recognition, math counting, shape recognition, sentence building. This is ultimate learning gift for kids. Surprise kids with a gift that truly adds value to their imagination.
  • Multiple Use: This educational toy magnets can be attached to the refrigerator, dry erase magnetic boards,easel, dishwasher, our magnetic drawing board or anywhere with magnetic capabilities
  • 100% Happiness Service: We design every toy to the highest quality standards, and to nurture minds and hearts. Please contact us if any questions and we’ll make it right.
  • 78 PCS OF MAGNETIC PLASTIC LETTERS & NUMBERS: Magnetic alphabet set includes 26 uppercase letters(A-Z), 26 lowercase letters(a-z), 20 Numbers(2 set of 1-10) and 6 mathematics symbols(all letters numbers sizes about 1in - 1.2in). Refrigerator magnets set have 5 different colors(green, blue, orange, red, yellow). All comes in a sturdy plastic canister featuring snap shut cover with handle for easy storage!
  • KIDS FIRST LEARNING STEPS:Learn the ABC,123 numbers & math symbols using educational magnetic letters. Strong and durable alphabet magnets are perfect learning tools for child. Practice skills with fridge magnets for kids - letter and number recognition, basic word building, phonics, grammar, spelling and math.Helps your child to increase their confidence and inspires their creativity.
  • SAFE MATERIALS:All magnetic letters and numbers alphabet magnets are constructed of non-toxic plastic and environmentally friendly material which is up to safety standard .Each letter size is about 1-1.2 inches with a full-cover magnet on the back. Lightweight and small size with smooth edges and curves, perfect magnets for toddlers' small hands to grasp. Easy to stick the magnets on any metal surface like fridge.They can be washable and completely safe for both your child and the environment!
  • FUN LEARNING :The set will enhance kid’s cognitive ability, building fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.Develop visual perception, help them recognize letters and numbers along with math symbols. Classrooms need these letters, numbers, symbols & abc magnets to assist with your young readers to advance from single letter recognition to writing complete sentences. Easy clean and travel take.
  • GREAT GIFT IDEA FOR KIDS: Awesome teaching tools for kids ages over 3 years old. Combine magnet alphabets into vocabulary words and sentence building.Perfect magnet toys for teaching a group of students. Note: small parts, not for children under 3 yrs.
  • LARGER MAGNETIC LETTERS & NUMBERS - Better fit for small hands – (30%) thicker and easier for youngsters with smaller hands to grasp and control. Rest assured that learning and playing will now be safer rather than the choking hazards of smaller magnets. Easy-to-grip foam design makes our foam magnets taller and wider for safety and comfortable handling.
  • STRONG, DURABLE & COLORFUL ALPHABET MAGNETS – Soft rounded foam magnetic letters stick to the fridge or any other magnetic surface. These larger magnets also hold foam magnetic alphabet letters in place without sliding or tilting on vertical surfaces because of the full magnetic backing on each letter. Useful with magnetic boards and easels.
  • 123 PEICES OF MAGNETIC FOAM LETTERS & NUMBERS -More letters and numbers. Each set includes 78 lowercase letters (three full sets A-Z), 26 uppercase letters (one full A-Z) and 19 Numbers and Symbols. All comes in a sturdy plastic canister featuring snap shut cover with handle!
  • PERFECT LEARNING TOOL WEATHER HOMESCHOOLED OR EARLY EDUCATION–Ideal for all educators interested in early childhood education. Classrooms need these letters, numbers & symbols to assist with your young readers to advance from single letter recognition to writing complete sentences. EDUKID TOYS brings you toys with a great educational value.
  • EDUCATIONAL TOYS FOR TODDLERS ARE CERTIFIED SAFE – Non-toxic magnets for kids, lab tested, and certified fully compliant with the U.S. Child Safety Protection Act standards. YOUR SATISFACTION IS GUARANTEED - If for any reason you’re not satisfied with this educational and fun foam letters & numbers set, EDUKID TOYS will refund you – no questions asked.

Hand Clappers

Hand Clappers For Online Esl

Though hand clappers are not so useful for instruction, they can be useful ESL teaching aids during activities, or simply to keep young learners attentive and focused. You can even use them to celebrate student birthdays during class.

If you teach online, you probably just need one hand clapper, but since they usually come in inexpensive packs, you may as well have an assortment of hand clappers on hand, and use them to practice language skills such as identifying colors.

Other options to hand clappers are maracas and squeaky rubber chickens.

These noisy props for teaching ESL can be more useful than you might think. Let’s make some noise!

Hand Clappers and Noise Makers We Recommend for the ESL Classroom

Wrapping Up

We’ve given you some pretty awesome examples of props you can use in the ESL classroom, and there are undoubtedly more teaching aids than we could possibly cover here. Indeed, many online ESL teachers use green screening as a teaching aid, which is great because you can easily share images, animations, and do other neat stuff on-screen.

Our focus in this post was to reach the wider audience of ESL teachers, both those who teach in the classroom as well those who teach online. And our most important message is this:

You can use almost anything as a prop or teaching aid as an ESL teacher, as long as you use it in ways that are meaningful to learning and the learning experience.

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