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

  • 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
  • Makes a great gift for toddlers and preschoolers, ages 2 and up, for hands-on, screen-free play
  • 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
  • Tell stories, make connections, and build dexterity and vocabulary with this set of 4 PAW Patrol hand puppets (Rubble, Skye, Chase, Marshall)
  • Each puppet has a Pup Pack pocket on back to hold a mission/story-starter card
  • Soft plush heads, washable fabric; sized to fit children and most adults
  • PAW Patrol is always ready to help, inspiring preschoolers with a blend of teamwork, adventure, and humor as they develop social, emotional, and developmental skills through play
  • Makes a great gift for preschoolers, ages 3 to 5, for hands-on, screen-free play
  • 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.”

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

  • 8 inches size, Perfect gift for boy or girl, birthday gift
  • High quality materials make for a soft and fluffy touch. Long tan and beige fur
  • Adorable beige and tan stuffed dog is lovingly crafted and meticulously designed to provide its recipient with years of hugs and cuddles.
  • Made with child safe materials and meets or exceeds all U.S. safety standards. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
  • Surface washable
  • Prextex 10'' Plush Dinosaurs Assortment for Hours of Dino Fun!
  • Includes: 4 Plush Dinosaurs Each Dinosaur Measures 10 Inches Long
  • Easy Clean: These Dinosaurs Are High Quality And Made Of Washable Material , Designed with Realistic Detail.
  • Great Gift Idea: These Plush Dinosaurs Will Make The Perfect Christmas Gift for your Little Dino Lover!
  • Playful Colors: These dinosaurs are Made of Beautiful Colored Fabric For Hours Of Play For Your Little One
  • 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

  • Cutting Toy Set: 42 items play food set comes apart in 87pcs, great assortment with vibrant colors. Excellent fake food with realistic looking for kid play, let your kids enjoy real cutting experience!
  • Kitchen Playset: kids will love the crab, egg, banana, corn, pizza and how they "peel" or "shell" like the real thing.improve kids recognition of various fruits and veggies, Fun cooking toys to spark learning by playing!
  • Durable Storage basket: the cutest little grocery shopping cart provides you with a simple way to neatly store them in place or take them with you on the go.It makes a great reward or incentive to kids, Awesome for classroom, birthdays or any occasio
  • Safe for Children: This Velcro Plastic Food Accessories for toddlers is made using durable ABS plastic without relying on any BPA or harsh materials. Perfect for ages 3+ year girl & boy little hands to catch!
  • Unique Gift Idea: improve child's imagination, hand-eye coordination, fine motor skill and counting ability! suitable for pretend play, daycare supplies, Christmas gift, Anniversaries, New Year's, Thanksgiving present .
  • 2-IN-1 PLAY STRUCTURE: The Melissa & Doug Wooden Snacks & Sweets Food Cart includes 40-plus play food pieces, from salty pretzels to sweet popsicles and condiments to cones. Flip the awning and menu to "Hot Dogs" or "Ice Cream".
  • DURABLE CONSTRUCTION: Our food cart with play food is made from high-quality materials. The durable wooden construction is easy to assemble and designed to last.
  • MULTIPLE CONVENIENT FEATURES: Our ice cream and hot dog play cart features pull-out drawers, working bell, sliding see-through doors, reversible awning, and a double-sided, write-on menu lets kids set prices.
  • GREAT GIFT FOR AGES 3 TO 7: The Melissa & Doug Wooden Snacks & Sweets Food Cart makes a great gift for kids ages 3 to 7 years old. Add the Melissa & Doug Sweet Toppings Dessert Play Food Set to round out the pretend 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.”
  • 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.


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

  • 🏈 𝗦𝗢𝗙𝗧 𝗔𝗡𝗗 𝗗𝗨𝗥𝗔𝗕𝗟𝗘 - The toddler balls are made out of foam to ensure the safety for the children while playing and to give them an easy introduction into training their grip strength as well as dexterity
  • ⚽ 𝗕𝗔𝗕𝗜𝗘𝗦 𝗙𝗜𝗥𝗦𝗧 𝗚𝗢𝗔𝗟 - Playfully introduce your kids into sports and enjoy endless hours of fun with the whole family. Either indoor or outdoor the rugged exterior provides durability
  • ⚾ 𝗢𝗣𝗧𝗜𝗠𝗔𝗟 𝗦𝗜𝗭𝗘 𝗙𝗢𝗥 𝗦𝗠𝗔𝗟𝗟 𝗛𝗔𝗡𝗗𝗦 - The 3.5" diameter of the toddler ball are ideal for small children hands to grab and play with the various soft balls for toddlers
  • 🏀 𝗔𝗟𝗟 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗧𝗢𝗬𝗦 𝗜𝗡 𝗢𝗡𝗘 𝗕𝗔𝗚 - Minimize clutter in childrens bedroom by organizing the balls for babies in the included carry bag
  • 🎾 𝗦𝗖𝗢𝗣𝗘 𝗢𝗙 𝗗𝗘𝗟𝗜𝗩𝗘𝗥𝗬 - You'll receive 1 Soccer Ball, 1 Basketball, 1 Baseball, 1 Tennisball and 1 Football neatly organized in a cute carry bag
  • IT'S TIME TO POP, DROP, AND ROLL: Watch kids' eyes fill with wonder while tracking the 5 colorful balls as they pop up in the air, roll down the ramps, then through the clear tubes and back up again
  • MUSIC AND SILLY SOUND EFFECTS: We all know kids love to bring the noise. Silly sound effects and bouncy music bring a fun sensory experience as the balls cycle through this toddler and baby toy
  • GO AHEAD, PUSH THE BUTTON: You know you want to. Big, easy push button activation means that little hands can practice their motor skills and try to get the fun rollin' all by themselves
  • FUN GIFT FOR KIDS 9 MONTHS AND UP: Looking for a 1st birthday toy or holiday gift for babies and toddlers. Aren't you glad this popped up. Keep little ones busy with poppity poppin' fun again and again
  • EASY-PEASY FRUSTRATION-FREE SHIPPING: Ships in simple recyclable packaging that’s easy to open and frustration free, so your busy little bee can get to the play right away
  • Lively air-powered, ball-poppin’ toy features fun, upbeat music and comes complete with five balls
  • Ages 9 months and up
  • Includes ball popper base, output tube rack, tray, lower trough and five balls
  • Requires 4 “D” batteries (not included)
  • Fun for Toddlers & Children - Our ball pit balls are made with your children in mind. Each ball pit ball is made with non-PVC plastic & is phthalate, BPA and lead free.
  • High Quality & Durable - Each ball pit ball will withstand over 90 pounds of weight, so your child can play without fear of crushing the balls. Child-Sized - Click N' Play's value pack of 200 ball pit balls is an assortment of 6 bright & attractive colors: blue, red, pink, green, orange and yellow. Each ball measures 2. 3 inches in diameter - the perfect size for a toddler or child's hand.
  • Endless Ideas for Fun – Children will love that they can play with these balls in so many different ways. Try them in a ball pit, play tent, crawl tunnel, playhouse, playpen, bounce house, swimming pool, kiddie pool or bathtub.
  • Strong and Reusable Mesh Bag – Our bag comes with a zipper and is great for storing the balls when they are not in use. Looking for even more fun with a bigger pack? Use this ASIN: B079GD4CL9 for our 1000 piece ball pit 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

  • 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
  • Dry erase board provides a smooth writing surface and doubles as a magnetic bulletin board
  • Performs best under light use
  • 17 inches x 23 inches. Surface type painted steel
  • Available with a white frame
  • Board can be hung in either portrait or landscape orientation
  • Mounting hardware, dry erase marker and magnet accessories included. It has a sturdy wooden frame
  • Highly durable magnetic dry erase board for writing on with dry erase markers in meetings, presentations, and more
  • Smooth surface wipes clean easily; never stains or ghosts
  • Classic silver aluminum frame can match any decoration; ABS plastic rounded corners are drop-proof
  • Easy installation with the included mounting accessories, vertical or horizontal installation
  • Contains 1 whiteboard marker, 2 magnets, 1 pen tray
  • Dimensions: 36 x 24 inches; weighs 3.53 pounds

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

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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