Most teachers who use any form of storytelling in their classrooms will tell you that props can make a huge difference in the level of fun and engagement of their lessons! Whether you are StoryAsking with actors, or using Reader’s Theater following a chapter of a Fluency Matters comprehension-based reader, or even just trying to grab the students’ attention with a “hook,” even one good prop can really help the “audience” buy in to the activity taking place. In addition, student actors may be more likely to give it their all if they have some fun props or costume items to work with!

Now that summer is upon us, it is time to relax. However, we all know that a good teacher never TRULY stops thinking about the classroom. So, here is your summer homework assignment: Everywhere you go, you are looking for props! Here are 5 ideas for outfitting your classroom with some fun props next fall!

1. Weddings and grad parties

Photo booths and selfie stations are all the rage. You know that as a teacher you have no shame when it comes to asking for things for your classroom! Ask the host of the party if they’d like to donate all the photo props to your classroom after the event! Too shy to ask? Google “free photo booth printables” and make some yourself!

2. Garage sales and thrift shops

Sometimes people are selling really unique stuff that deserves the finest new home…your classroom! If you see something super unusual, just grab it! Especially if it is cheap! Clothing, feather boas, jewelry, sunglasses, hats, and toys are all potential gold in the classroom. Bonus points if you find them in the free box!

You may spend a bit more at a thrift shop, but there is good stuff here! Many shops even have special discount days on certain types of items or for certain people. Ask if there is a teacher discount. Senior Citizen discount? I’m sure your mom or grandma would love to accompany you to the thrift store! And don’t forget the BEST day of the year to shop for props! November 1st, be sure to check out the Halloween stores, craft stores, and Target for amazing discounts on super cool stuff!

3. Your kids’ closets

Now that my kids are both teens, they have no interest in most of their old toys and games. In my classroom I now have green talking Hulk hands, old Halloween masks, plastic foods, puppets, small musical instruments, toy phones and you name it, I have it! No kids of your own? One year I actually held a contest among my students. I asked for a specific list of props and the class that “scavenged” the most items on my list and donated them one a movie day.

4. Realia from the target culture

Traveling this summer? Pick up some fun and interesting items that could be used as props in your classroom! A fan from Spain, a scarf from Paris SG, a bola ‘e trapo from Colombia, a bag of chapulines from Mexico, whatever! Think INTERESTING but not stereotypical. What would spark students’ desire to know more without promoting harmful stereotypes? Often the most fun realia are the little things you just find. These items need not cost much money!  

5. Make them on the fly!

Some of my most memorable props have been things I made up in the moment. We’ve used fruits as weapons, cardboard boxes as vehicles, and tablecloths as dresses. Often, when students are involved in creating a prop, they buy in even more! Some of my favorite props are faces of celebrities printed out on cardstock, holes poked for eyes, and a popsicle stick attached to hold up as a mask. Cindy Hitz (who recently became a grandma! Congratulations Grandma Cindy!) even recommends that teachers use imaginary props!

My personal recommendation is to always have at least ONE prop or costume item each time you act something out. Sometimes one item is just perfect. Don’t go overboard on it. Using props sparingly can really keep the novelty alive. What is YOUR favorite classroom prop? What is your most UNUSUAL prop? Where is your favorite place to find classroom props? Let us know!

Kristy Placido is the editor of the CI Peek blog. She is the author of several readers for Spanish learners and presents workshops for teachers on teaching with comprehensible input. She has been using comprehensible input and acquisition-based approaches in her own classroom since 1998. Check out her blog at kplacido.com and follow her on twitter and facebook!


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