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Lesley Ito's WE CAN!Teaching Tips
Lesley Ito Lesley Ito
Originally from Florida, Lesley Ito has been involved with ELT in Japan for 18 years. She is the owner of BIG BOW English Lab in Nagoya, the author of the WE CAN! Teacher's Guides and has made numerous teacher training presentations all over Japan, from Hokkaido to Kyushu. She has also written numerous articles on teaching young learners and is active in teaching organizations in Japan. Currently she is the Program Director of JALT Junior and the Program Chair of the TC SIG.
Fun with the WE CAN!
【No.9】Add simple props to your lessons to motivate your students.
I recently had a wonderful opportunity to attend a conference on “brain compatible learning”. It sounds like a complicated subject, but it is actually just finding ways to make the classroom experience work with, rather than against, the way humans actually learn things. For children, this means creating activities that aren’t so terribly different from the way they play. Children always use props when they play, for example, a stick becomes a magic wand or a tennis racket becomes a guitar. Use this to your advantage and add simple props to your lessons to motivate your students. Most of the props I use can be found in the typical classroom or home.
We Can! flashcards and poster are also wonderful props that make the learning experience all the more enjoyable.
Here are some examples of activities using props that I’ve used in my own classroom and also in presentations I’ve made recently.
Puppets are wonderful props to use in the classroom. If you want to do pair work and have an odd number of children, it can be intimidating for one child to talk with the teacher, so have them talk to a puppet instead. Also, shy children tend to lose their shyness once you put a puppet in their hand and ask them to make the puppet talk. Once the students have practiced the Let’s Shake Hands activity Level 1 Unit 3 Family p. 21, give them puppets and ask them to have the puppets greet each other. (If you would like to win some Kai and Eva puppets, send us your favorite classroom tested We Can! activity at
Props can also be a great way to encourage students to practice a chant over and over. I use a toy stethoscope and an old cell phone when I teach the “Five Little Monkeys Chant” Level 1 Unit 3 Family pages 22 ? 23. The students naturally become more excited when the props can help them act out the part of the mother calling the doctor or the doctor scolding the monkeys with, “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!” I rotate the two props around the class, so each student gets a chance to be the mother and the doctor. In a class of six students, this is an easy (and sneaky!) way to get the students to enjoy doing the chant six times!
Another fun activity for Starter Unit 7 parties and Goodies, p. 16 ? 17, uses the Starter Parties and Goodies poster and flashcards, a large bag and 13 board magnets. Put the poster on the board and quickly review the vocabulary. Secretly put half of the flashcards in the bag, ask a student to come to the front of the class and give them the bag. Pass out the 13 board magnets to student volunteers. (If you have a small class, some students can have more than one magnet.)
Have the students with the magnets take turns asking the student holding the bag, “Can I have (vocabulary word from the poster)?” The student looks in the bag after each question. If they have that flashcard in the bag, they will answer, “Yes, you can. Here you are,” and hand that flashcard to the student. If they don’t, they will answer, “No, I’m sorry, you can’t.” Either way, the student asking the question will go up to the poster and put their magnet over the word they asked about. Continue until all the party items have been asked about.
Spending a little time before class to gather up some simple props can really make the difference between an ordinary class and a magical one!
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