The 5 best free props for teaching English online that students love

Teaching holding up props for teaching english online.

Looking to level-up your online classroom but don’t want to buy extravagant props? 

No doubt, some props are expensive. So we understand if you don’t want to spend money before you make money.

But you’ll definitely still need props to teach English online. They not only help engage young learners, but they also help them remember vocabulary. 

The good news: you don’t have to spend a lot of money on props.  

If you’re ready to get creative, we have some ideas and free resources for ESL teaching that don't cost a thing. 

Learn how to build a prop basket full of fun, engaging and easy to use props for your online classroom!

Let's explore more about online teaching props and then we'll get into the 5 bonus free props: 

  1. What are online teaching props? 
  2. Types of free props. 
    1. DIY teaching props
    2. Printable teaching props
    3. Digital teaching props
  3. Tips for making DIY props and free props for online teaching. 
  4. Bonus: 5 free props you already have at home and how to use them.

Teaching holding up props for teaching english online.

What are online teaching props?

Online teaching props are an essential component of any online English teacher’s classes

You may have seen online teachers using 2D props like cutouts or printed things from the internet. Some teachers also have flashcards, fancy puppets or plush toys, elaborate whiteboards, or toys purchased online.

Want to know the best part?

Props bring your lessons to life and make your lessons more fun and engaging

You and your students are learning online, so there can be many distractions, which means that you need to get creative with your on-screen visuals to keep learners engaged.

While props have many uses, there are a few things that props are not:

  1. Props shouldn’t be “filler” activities to make the time go by.
  2. Props shouldn’t be a replacement for your teaching.
  3. Props shouldn’t just be used for the sake of using them.

Sometimes less is more with props. They don’t need to be elaborate either. 

You’ll see that with teaching English online props, there are so many options. Plus, they’re lots of free ones!

Teaching holding up props for teaching english online.

Types of free props.

Some online teaching companies offer their own printable props while others don’t. 

Either way, it’s best to create your own props to make your lessons more unique. 

There are a few types of free props that you can easily create or find on your own.

DIY props for online teaching

DIY props are great because you can make them yourself with a few items you already have at home. 

You can get creative with how you use it and what it can be used for by making it yourself. 

Here are a few ideas for items you can use as props at home:

  • Socks (grab an old sock and turn it into your imaginary character or sock puppet!)
  • Homemade facial accessories (cutout out a mustache, glasses, big nose, etc. and put it on a popsicle stick to hold up to your face)
  • Small boxes (turn your shoe boxes or kleenex boxes into 3D shapes or houses)
  • Old children’s toys (turn your child’s toys into magical creations!)

Printable teaching props

The internet is a great way to find printable teaching props. 

You can search for anything you need for your classroom. It’s best to use free stock images because you won’t have to worry about copyright issues. 

There are lots of websites like Unsplash, where you can find high-quality free stock images. There’s also Picmonkey that offers stock images and photo editing so you can customize your props.

You could also print out your own flashcards or draw them yourself if you want.

Digital online teaching props

Do you have an iPad or phone that you can use during class? Try using Google Slides to make slides with digital props.  

Find an image or video that you would like to use in class and show your students by either holding it up or sending them a link to it. This way, you won’t need to print anything and save some trees in the process! 

Another great resource is Manycam that allows you to create overlays and use live graphics on your webcam. Fun backgrounds and visuals will bring an extra flair to your lessons.

Props for teaching english online.

Tips for making DIY and free props for online teaching

Use what you already have.

You can use what you already have lying around the house to make your DIY props. 

Think about reusing and repurposing things that you might normally throw away.  

You know that old shoebox that is collecting dust? Use it as a prop for a lesson about shapes, prepositions. Or turn it into a house or an apartment building by decorating it. 

Use your imagination and ordinary objects will come to life!

Use Pinterest as a guide.

Pinterest is a great resource for finding easy DIY projects. 

All you need to do is type in what type of prop you are looking for and attach “DIY” to your search and lots of potential creations will appear!

On Pinterest, you can create your own boards to save your ideas for a later date. 

Think outside the box.

Sometimes we just need to get a little creative. 

When using objects or things already found in your house, get creative with how you might be able to use these for several situations. 

Remember: the more multi-purposeful a prop is, the more likely you are to use it many times in your classroom.

Try to make props that will help instruct your student to do certain things. 

For example, try using an arrow made out of straws to help your student interact on the screen. Or make a microphone out of toilet paper roll and tin foil to help them learn when it’s their turn to speak.

Bonus: 5 free props already found in your home & how to use them!

1. Containers

Containers make for great props and they are entirely free!

You can use plastic containers and jars to teach lots of math concepts like volume, vertices, edges and shapes.

You can also use them for teaching prepositions and adjectives. The sky's the limit!

2. Paper

Using paper and laminating it will allow you to create your own DIY whiteboard in your classroom.

Save money on dry erase whiteboards and get creative with what you already have! 

There are so many concepts that we teach daily like “This/these” or “he/she/it v.s. I/we/you/they + verb” and having these on laminated pieces of paper means that you can use them many times as opposed to rewriting them on your single whiteboard.

3. Clothing

Grab your own clothing when teaching about seasons, weather or clothing. 

Model “putting on” and “wearing” by showing your students with real items from your house! 

You will be surprised how quickly they will want to show you their clothing and reinforce the vocabulary they are learning authentically.

4. Money

Money is a great prop to teach currencies, counting, comparisons, and so much more! 

All kids love to see different types of money and it can also serve as an excellent reward system for when they are doing well!

5. Food

Have you ever made a salad in class when talking about healthy eating or sequencing? Try it! 

Fruits and vegetables also serve as great vocabulary props for colors, size and identification.

While this type of prop might not last very long, it can be a lot of fun for your students. 

Just don’t eat the props while you are using them! 

Teacher drawing on props for teaching english online.

Get creative and start using your new props!

There’s no need to spend tons of money on props when you can make them yourself or use what you’ve got at home.

We hope you have learned some ways to get creative and use free props in your online classes. 

And if you’re still having trouble navigating life as an online ESL teacher you can always try out our online teaching course for more help. 

Try out your DIY skills and build a small prop basket full of creative free props for teaching English online that your students will love!