Would you ever think an egg timer, a toothbrush, Post-it® Notes and a photograph have something in common that can inspire your English lessons? It’s true! Believe it or not, these ordinary household items can all be used to teach English to your students. That’s because, even the simplest objects can be used as tools to help students improve their English.

Teaching English with simple objects

Your students may not expect to be faced with an egg timer or a toothbrush in class, but these everyday items can form the basis for effective lessons. We recommend you start by sharing simple objects that English learners can see and hold. Students should know what they are or what to do with them, even if they don’t necessarily know what they are called in English. As well as learning the word for the object, common items can be used for other classroom exercises. Here are some examples…

  1. Take an egg timer. You could, of course, use it to time a speaking exercise. But wouldn’t it be more fun for your English students to describe the shape or sound it makes? Or, perhaps you could use the timer to practise numbers with your students, or to give them time-related puzzles and quizzes.
  2. With Post-it® Notes, you could construct a board of photographs of your items and ask your students to add Post-it® Notes with the correct English words to it. Another popular teaching exercise is to write a letter on each Post-it® Note and ask your students to reorder them to form the correct word.
  3. As simple household objects are typically used for practical purposes, they generally belong in a particular room in the house. This could be the basis for another teaching session about being in the home and other items you would find there. Let’s take the toothbrush, for example. It belongs in the bathroom, right? So how about encouraging your students to describe what their bathroom at home looks like, what other objects they might find in there and how brushing their teeth fits into their morning routine. Next time they brush their teeth, they might just think about their new English vocabulary.
  4. Another item that most people have at home is a photograph. Ask your students to bring their favourite photograph into the next lesson. Your class can then all find out more about each other’s family, friends, hobbies and holidays. Imagine one of your students describing how they spent time in a different country and the new experiences they had. Encourage students to ask questions such as “who”, “where”, “what” and “when” to practise their English speaking skills. A photo could also stimulate role plays and collaborative working activities. Perhaps your students could split into groups to draw a picture based on one of the stories they’ve heard and find common links and interests. Anything that helps your learners to visualise and use English vocabulary in context will help them improve.

Using common household objects to teach English in your classroom is a great way to break up the familiar routine of a lesson. Share your own creative ideas to include in the classroom in the comments below.

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