Smuggling in Props

I am not good at using props. I thought that after I watched Jason, I would figure it out. I have long said I just wasn’t a prop person, but kids love props, especially, as Jason told us, anything that can go on their heads. I think they’re transforming.

So here are the two ways I’m making myself use props this year: first, I am keeping a milk carton on the floor in front of the class with a few that I plan to change out every so often. The kids have grabbed the pig hat to be the cat, and so on.

The other trick is that I smuggle a small prop (fake food, an animal) into the hands of a kid as she enters the room and tell her to try to work it into the story. That means that at least one kid has some weird ideas in the middle of the story.

I’d love to know how other people use props. I know there’s a whole camp that doesn’t use them at all, and I was in that group until I saw the power this summer. They mix things up…one of my goals this year.


5 responses to “Smuggling in Props

  1. I love the milk crate idea. It helps preserve the novelty.

    I read a couple of TPR books this summer, and I have started using stuffed animals for TPR. We had so much fun changing things up this way… I happened to find 30 stuffed animals for $3 and the quality and variety were just right. When I first passed them out, I asked the students which ones they wanted and described them in Spanish (animal, color, size). I sometimes compared them (eg the two snakes or the two bears in tutus). It worked really well.

    I also sometimes use Fluffy, my class scorpion, for reviews: toss Fluffy to a student and ask a question.

    In Ramiro Garcia’s book, he described using a skeleton -one of those big cardboard movable ones) for TPR/CI. He gave it a name and it lived in the closet. I really want one for my class!


  2. I forgot to say that usually my props are the kids. We were doing a Carol G story today in class, and one of the kids was the door. Another was the school building.


  3. I love the idea of using the students as props; I don’t do that near enough. Smuggling in the mystery prop is seriously a good idea. I’ve also got a box of plastic food (toast, tomato, glass of orange juice, fried egg, etc.) in my closet that I inherited that I’ve never touched because they look so creepy, but I think this would be a perfect use for them.

    I have a few props on hand, but there are a two that I always find myself going back to. The first one is a cell phone (old one, no batteries). The kids seriously perk up at it, and I’m using it to call a character’s mother, girlfriend, etc. to extend a scene a bit and get some dialogue in. Also it works for an easy insertion of numbers or alphabet (texting) into a situation. I once had one of my seventh grade kids totally mock me for how old and out of date my cell phone was; that day was gift-wrapped involvement.

    My other major prop is a collection of stools I have. I have a standard height stool and two small metal stepping-stool height ones that I use all the time (found the short stools in a supply closet at school and haven’t looked back). Today I had one person whose special talent was skateboarding up on a short stool trying to compete with a girl who was in her “car” on the taller stool. Last week a person who drew a piano for her talent sat on one short stool and “played” the other short stool as her piano while another student continually jumped over the stool. The short stools are also great for when somebody is supposedly standing on a house/cliff/whatever to create a sense of space.


  4. I’m going to get stools and bring my old cell phone in. Golden!


  5. I love props! I have them all over and use them whenever a new word pops up that they don’t know. For instance when we were talking about someone eating a gigantic pizza the other day I grabbed the pineapple (only a small slice not the whole thing) from my desk and asked if they ate pizza with pineapple. (It’s a cool word in French and they love it immediately, ananas) Fake food has a lot of potential and is usually easy to find. (Nathan, embrace that creepy stuff in your cupboard! Kids will love it!)

    This is the time of year to find great stuff because it is everywhere for Halloween. I don’t know if you have a Goodwill or Value Village around but there are a lot of new and used costumes and props. The other day I saw a large fake microphone and it reminded me of Jason using the umbrella as a microphone to interview a character in a story. If anyone is going to be reading Pirates there are lots of pirate hats and eye patches for reader’s theatre.

    Last year we had a memorable moment when one of my kids (a guy) volunteered to be our villain (Britney Spears!) and he wore a blond wig, pink feather boa etc. Kids were very engaged!

    Nathan, I love your cell phone idea to call someone. I recently acquired a magnet that looks like a phone and rings when you push it so I think I will use that with the ever popular hand gesture phone!

    I also had fun making word bubbles for dialogue in our stories this year. I put two strips of velcro on the wall in front of my room and strips on the back of my bubbles so they can be stuck up (with their “arrows” pointing in one direction or the other according to where the character is standing) at the right moment in the story. So far it is a hit.

    Don’t forget yard sales etc. You never know what you will find and it will be unique and cheap!
    Have fun with it!


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