14 Essential Language Teaching Tools – What’s in my bag?


Around about this time last year I had an idea for a blog post – to share with you my essential language teaching tools when I teach people face-to-face. For whatever reason, this post hasn’t happened until now. But, finally, it’s here! Hooray! Some of my teaching resources are at home in a cupboard and come out when needed, others rarely leave my big black tutoring bag. Today we’re going to look at those essential language teaching tools that never leave my bag.
Looking for some new language teaching tools? Here are my 14 essential language teaching tools that never leave the tutoring bag.

Rory’s Story Cubes

Rory's Story Cubes Essential Language Teaching Tools tutoring Lindsay Does Languages blog
Rory’s Story Cubes are a great resource for any language. Being a tutor of three languages means that the idea of being useful in different languages has always been something I’ve looked for when purchasing new language teaching tools. Hence why I own two boxes of Rory’s Story Cubes! You roll as few or as many dice as you like and make up a story using the images on the dice as inspiration. This is great for pushing intermediate to advanced students. There’s the original orange box, then the ‘actions’ blue box, and an even bigger range, which I don’t own but eye up regularly including
The Bundle (Pack of 3) and even a Multilingual set of Story Cubes Clues.

Jenga

Mini Jenga Tumble Tower Essential Language Teaching Tools tutoring Lindsay Does Languages blog
Ok, so everyone’s favourite tumbling brick tower game is kinda big and heavy, right? Besides, how do you use it for learning languages? I thought long and hard about this before coming to what seems like an obvious solution: buying a mini version and numbering the bricks. Use a permanent marker to number each brick, then create an infinite number of PowerPoint slides or documents listing these numbers and a different question or vocabulary item for each. Children love this, and although they wouldn’t admit it, I’m sure adults would love it too!

Kloo

Kloo French card game Essential Language Teaching Tools tutoring Lindsay Does Languages blog
Another long-term staple, I first heard about Kloo at the Language Show Live about 5 years ago. They’re a very friendly company and have a great product. Kloo works with colour. Each card is coloured and using their clever colour-coding sentence building, you end up with some perfectly logical or wonderfully weird sentences! Regardless, they are all grammatically accurate. What I love about Kloo is the versatility. I have played this with young learners who can just read, and retired learners who need a fun way to learn. Recently, they’ve added the board game aspect, which makes for a fun treat at times with younger students. The board games, which include the card games, are offered as Race to Paris, Race to Madrid, and Race to London.

Related: Sunshine, Flowers and Eggboxes: Language Learning Out and About.

Whiteboard

mini whiteboard Essential Language Teaching Tools tutoring Lindsay Does Languages blog
This should probably be right at the top of the list. A lightweight whiteboard is an absolute necessity for any tutor. You can draw, write, play games….it’s an absolute must-have. Mine is a little worse for wear but I’m reluctant to get rid of it because it came from an old job where I initiated a whiteboard rota for jobs that didn’t get done. I became known as whiteboard girl. They bought me this one all for myself when I left. It’s also magnetic so if you can find a magnetic one, you’re on to a winner! I have some image flashcards with Velcro on the back to add magnets to and make whiteboard games easier. Of course, with the whiteboard, you’re going to want some pens. These are the best ones I’ve found.

Sticky notes

Post-It sticky notes Essential Language Teaching Tools tutoring Lindsay Does Languages blog
I find it really useful to keep some Sticky notes
in my bag for when particular words are proving difficult for students. I ask them to write it down on a sticky note and make it pretty then go and stick it somewhere they’ll see it everyday. When I go back the next week, students do tend to have remembered. Yay!

Boggle Flash

Boggle Flash Essential Language Teaching Tools tutoring Lindsay Does Languages blog
I used to have a really funky Boggle with a build-in timer but, alas, it broke. It was kind of like this one. Its popularity inspired me to upgrade to Boggle Flash. It works digitally in English, but we adapt for other languages by placing the letter blocks in a row and seeing how many correct rows of words beginning with each letter we can get before it times out.

Boule & Bill

Boule et Bill Essential Language Teaching Tools tutoring Lindsay Does Languages blog
When I was younger, I did two French exchanges at school. One of my French exchange hosts gave me this book when I left. I thought nothing of it until one day maaaaany years later when I was after a bande dessinée for my French students. I found this on my shelf and it’s never left my bag since. Using comics is a great way to teach some language, especially when it’s French you’re teaching and you’ve then got the cultural aspect too. I often use my Boule et Bill book as a 10 minute activity to finish lessons. This one looks fun too.

Related: Why French Is Easy by Benny Lewis Review

Pink squishy

pink squishy bean bag toy Essential Language Teaching Tools tutoring Lindsay Does Languages blog
Affectionately called Pink Squishy by many students across the years, this random pink…squishy…thing is great for younger students and small groups as a lightweight object to throw or pass between students when playing various vocabulary games. I couldn’t find an exact version of Pink Squishy, but these bean bags would do the same job, or even a Stitch from Lilo and Stitch!

Colour ball

light-up colour ball flashing Essential Language Teaching Tools tutoring Lindsay Does Languages blog
When it’s not possible to get up and stand in a bigger space, this light-up ball is a great sensory thing to pass between students for vocabulary games.

Dice

dice Essential Language Teaching Tools tutoring Lindsay Does Languages blog
I’ve always got some dice in my pencil case! They can be used for basic maths activities when learning numbers, deciding whose turn it is first, and various other games.

Related: How to Make the Most of Your Customisable Gameboard for Teaching Languages

Finger puppets

finger puppets Essential Language Teaching Tools tutoring Lindsay Does Languages blog
Sometimes younger language learners can be quite shy when it comes to speaking. However, pop a finger puppet on their finger and all of a sudden they’re not speaking, the puppet is! Not only are animal and family finger puppets handy as a tool when learning that vocabulary, they can be used continually through the learning process to bring younger learners out of their shell. You can buy both together here.

Hedbanz

IMG_8648
Originally, Hedbanz was in the cupboard and came out on occasion for a fun game with students. However, the bands are so lightweight that they’ve made their way in permanently.

Related: The Global Education Toolkit Review

Timers

sand timer electric buzzer Essential Language Teaching Tools tutoring Lindsay Does Languages blog
I have two timers in my tutoring bag: a 2 minute sand timer and an electric one taken out of the Countdown boardgame. Because who doesn’t love the Countdown music? Handy for lots of games…and for speeding up slower writers!

Reward stickers

reward stickers Essential Language Teaching Tools tutoring Lindsay Does Languages blog
Never underestimate the power of a sticker. Children up to a certain age, and beyond although they won’t admit it, LOVE stickers as a reward. Very handy to have ready. You can even get language specific ones such as these Spanish ones and these French ones.

There you have it. A little peek into my tutoring bag. I hope whether or not you’re a tutor yourself, a parent, or a student, you’ve found something useful and new from this post.

Do you want to teach online?

If you’re new to online teaching or have been giving it a go but are ready to take it further and perhaps even make it your full-time income, you’re going to love your free 3 Month to Skype Tutor Checklist I’ve created just for you.

Click the image below to download it now and you’ve already done step one. Woop!

What are your essential language teaching tools? Share in the comments!

Legal chit chat: This post contains affiliate links to products mentioned. As always, I only recommend things I like, use, or would use. Affiliate links mean that you can support Lindsay Does Languages if you choose to purchase the items mentioned via the links in this blog because we get a tiny percentage of profit from that. Merci!

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About Lindsay Williams

Why hello there! I'm Lindsay and I do Languages. I blog, vlog and teach all things language. I blog about languages right here at Lindsay Does Languages, and about travel over at Mundo Trundle. If you're looking for language learning inspiration then stay a while. You might find just what you're looking for. :)
  • The tool chest of a true-blue language teacher. Some of your tools make me a bit jealous, I must admit. 🙂

    • Thanks, Sis! There’s some pretty nifty stuff there, right? 😉

  • Erik Zidowecki

    Love the collection, Lindsay! The whiteboard is a really great idea. My family has had a whiteboard in the front hall for years to use for keeping messages, and I have a little whiteboard like yours on my fridge that I picked up at a dollar store.

    I am just a little curious as to why you don’t carry FlashSticks, just the basic sticky notes.

    • Thanks, Erik! I loooove my whiteboard!

      I don’t carry FlashSticks because they don’t always have the word I need on the spot. The blank ones also make it easy for students to customise themselves, making it more personal, which is always nice. 🙂

  • Jorge De Las Casas

    You must be an excellent teacher with all that arsenal  .
    When I was in first grade my english teachers were complete douchebags. Those morons used to shout at me everytime I didn’t understand what they said and they would even force me to wear donkey ears.
    Teachers should be patient passionate about sharing their knowledge. There are too many people discouraging potential language learners in schools! I’m glad you’re not one of them

    • Thank you very much for your kind words. 🙂
      I’m sorry to hear you had such bad experiences at school with your English teachers. Donkey ears?! That’s awful! Your English is great though so I’m glad you found a way to learn that worked for you 😉

  • TheBookLady

    A lot of those are great. I’m currently helping teach an Arabic class. Always looking for more tools for that!

  • Cara Leopold

    What an arsenal! I always made sure I had a juggling ball in my handbag – the ultimate tool for ice -breaking activities : learning names and then revising any type of sequence (alphabet, numbers, days…) in groups on the first day of a one or two week intensive course. A great idea I got off a fellow teacher when I first started doing these types if classes. I also used to have a real version of the game “Taboo” but I think I may have lent it to someone and never got it back! Handy because it contains a timer and a squeaker. Another favourite of mine is writing down vocab learned during a lesson onto a bit of paper (or the good old sticky notes you mentioned), popping it into a bag and then whipping it out in the following session for some revision.

    • Ahh yes! Taboo! I do have Taboo in my cupboard (upcoming blog post!). I don’t carry it around all the time though because it’s best really for English only and as I teach three languages, stuff like Rory’s Story Cubes are a better staple for the bag. 😉

  • Cécile Biscotte

    This is absolutely WONDERFUL !! I ‘m applying for my PGCE and doing private lesson as French teacher and it is SO inspiring ! Thank you Lindsay ! =)