Children love to play. Who can deny it? So why not use this universal feature to provide and promote English language learning as well? If you do, you can hardly go wrong. Which child will say, “Teacher, I don’t want to play”? Sure, eventually it is possible, but so is a force five tornado in South America or an “Armageddon level earthquake in Tibet. Don’t hold your breath while you wait.”

Toys of all kinds and types are available all over the world. Why not use this to your advantage to motivate your young students? After all, even your not so young students could benefit from it; especially those students who are “young at heart”, for those of you who might be teaching adult students. Let’s take a look at some “realia” or “toys” that are commonly available and could be called in game. (pun intended)

o Soft toys and dolls –

A perennial student favorite even my more mature adult students forgo an “A.”, whenever I bring out the likes of Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse, Tigger, Bunny, Puppy, Teddy or others from my stuffed menagerie. You can simulate conversations, use them to illustrate prepositions of place and position, as turning devices or to “replace” students in a game or activity. They too (the stuffed animals) don’t mind being tossed around.

o Soft rubber or swollen ball –

How a class could function without at least one of these is beyond me. A student can “select” another in a practice, TPR or group activity simply by throwing the ball at someone else. This way the teacher will not “play favorites” during the activity. A ball can be used as a relay to signal the next student in a sequence or match. If it’s dropped or mishandled, no problem, it only bounces a couple of times before returning to the game. Clean, huh?

o Cars, trucks and other vehicles –

Students can “drive” to places in a neighborhood, from one part of the room to the other or from one location to another on a game board. The small ones can serve as placeholders in a board game, while the larger ones can be used as props in dialogue, role-playing and conversation. Don’t forget to use them for practical grammar and verbs activities as well. And oh yeah, girls like them as well as boys. Adults? Well, I have to look carefully at my vehicle props or the adult learners will “steal” them!

o Board games –

You really only need a small selection of board games if you have even an ounce of imagination. Two or three will work just fine. Some of the all-time favorites are those like “Scrabble”, “Monopoly”, “Checkers” and “Chess” which both use the same alternating colored squares board. Use bulletin boards to “create” your games as well. Don’t forget a deck or two of playing cards either. No, not for poker, but for simpler and faster games like “War”, “Fish” or “21” (numbers, not Blackjack!)

Note that:

I am not an advocate of using handguns or firearms simulations of any kind in the classroom, not even water pistols. My learning environments don’t normally enter bats, strokes, or aggressive behaviors that promote realia of any kind. It’s true that you can get aggressive behavior from some of the toys I’ve mentioned, but it’s easily squashed or knocked down without too much trouble. I only explain to the students what is allowed and what is not. This is obviously not an exhaustive list. I’m sure you’ll find many of your favorites available locally to use in your class. In fact, if you have any unusual or unique realia that you use, I’d love to hear about them.

Drop me a line at: lynchlarrym@gmail..

And good luck.

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