Sunday, July 31, 2011

Why language teachers should teach with props

  • Props generate interest!  Students and passersby will wonder what's going on in your classroom if they see, for example, a picnic scene set up on the floor.  Grabbing the interest of your students is an important key to motivating them to want to learn.
  • Props allow you to use less English.  Those of you who are world language teachers know that it is important to use as much of the language being taught as possible in the classroom.  If you can point to a plastic apple, you can say, "This is an apple.  It's red.  It's a fruit." in another language, and students will be able to understand without an English translation.
  • Props reach students with different learning styles.  You can appeal to many of the senses with props.  In my opinion, students will remember what was taught more easily if you engage more of their senses in your lesson.
Props can be used in many ways in a world language classroom.  I use them frequently to introduce new vocabulary (for example, I use plastic food to introduce food vocabulary).  Often I use the same props to review this vocabulary by playing review games with them, or by asking students to participate in other activities which require them to handle the props.  I also use them in skits that I act out with my classroom mannequin.  I often ask my students to act out skits using props as well.  In the photos below, my French III students (juniors & seniors) are acting out a story that we'd just finished reading (Les cowboys from Le Petit Nicolas).

Students were able to demonstrate their understanding of this story in this way without reverting to English.  You may be wondering where I got all these.  Well, it took a long time for me to collect them all.  Many were bought at toy stores, garage sales and Halloween stores over the years.

I think I started using props as a young teacher instinctively, because I knew that my students would need to see an object and think of the word in French immediately without thinking of the English word first if they were to really master the language.  I understood this to be true as a result of my amazing experience of learning French in France, in a university program where no language other than French was used (this is called immersion, for those of you who aren't language teachers). 

What do you think?  I invite you to leave a comment and let me know :).

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