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.
Rory’s Story Cubes
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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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!