Out the front of my classroom I keep a box full of props, that I can reach and grab quickly. Over the years I’ve added some very valuable items (and replaced a few broken ones). The items in the box are great for lesson breaks, regaining attention, getting students moving, adding humour, refocusing students, or for organising. The items in the box (or plastic tub as you can see from the photos) that I use the most are:
Squishy, colourful, textured bouncy balls: Great in discussions, I throw the ball to anyone who wants to answer, they throw it back to me. The level of participation always jumps when I pull out the ball.
Wands / Pointers: Great for using with IWBs and boards, or as a talking stick. If it is to be given to the students ‘Who can come up and point to…’ I will get more volunteers for the task if it involves a wand etc!
Fly Swats: Stage Three love smacking the spelling list with the fly swats. As I have 3, it is a race. With younger classes their great for tapping sight words either on cards on the floor or on word walls. During news the speaker can use them like a pointer for questions. Basically I can use the fly swats as another wand.
Optical Illusions, Maths Challenge, Trivia card packs: Great to entertain and challenge the students who have already moved to the floor while others are still coming, usually hurries up a few too. Great as a lesson break or to fill in a minute or two.
Hollywood clapper, microphone: Great for drama, acting, readers theatre, role play
Puppets/ Stuffed animals: Used as characters who ‘teach’ with me, or for reward ‘Who gets to hold/sit with…’ or as a talking object in discussions or circle time. Or as my special ‘spy’ who will see who is listening and get some reward (table point, sticker, privilege etc)
Fancy glasses: Worn by me during oral reading, when reading a book to the class. Can be worn by students who are reading aloud, or during silent reading time as a reward.
A container of ‘manipulatives’: Stress balls, squishy balls, smooth pebbles, squishy finger puppets, wooden massage toys – anything textural that the students can hold or feel while listening. Great for any ADHD students, or anyone fidgeting or getting distracted. Sometimes I am targeting one student and giving out a manupulative, but give the whole container out (about eight) to other students (especially those who are listening well!) and after 5 minutes you pass your object to someone else. There are strict rules about these, you must hold it in one hand and still be listening (maintaining eye contact, not speaking etc) or you will lose your object.
With many objects you need to use them gradually, building up the repertoire of items and getting students used to how you as the teacher, or they will be using them. It’s amazing how one small object or toy, can completely change the dynamics of a lesson and re-energise the students.
With older students I have a tub on their desk groups too, with 2 stress balls, some of their books, novels they are reading, a pack for the leader (stickers etc) post it notes and mini notebooks. You have to really teach students how to treat these tubs, and the limits of using things, and constantly repeat, model and praise for correct use. Some people think that older students will treat belongings better but in my experience you need to constantly remind them and expect high expectations for things in the classroom to be treated with the utmost respect.