USING TOYS AS A SPEAKING STIMULUS IN ELT
Getting students talking
While I was writing the ‘show and tell’ post about the 3D animals, it reminded me of an even simpler activity. Using toys as a speaking stimulus in English language-teaching is something you can do with early-years students who are not so IT-competent. Students really love working with material that they’ve prepared or developed themselves. And even more so if that involves their favourite toys!
This is an activity that maybe works best just after Christmas, when the children usually have new toys, but it could be especially useful if you’re doing online classes, as students are in their own homes and have easy access to their own things.
‘Show and Tell’ with toys
Students bring in a toy (you have to be strict about it being only one thing – the biggest problem that the students have is that they find it difficult to choose just one). Then they tell the rest of the class about it. To help them, you can use simple sentence stems. You can model it by bringing in your favourite toy and talking about it or, better still, you can get your puppet to show one of his/her/its favourite toys. It sounds a bit strange when I write it, but it’s true. If you treat your puppets as if they are real, then your students will do too. They’ll ‘buy into’ what they’re doing. I mean, everyone knows that monkeys don’t talk or live in a basket (or need a passport!). But when these things are presented properly, the idea is just too irresistible for your students not to believe!
This is my favourite toy.
It’s + colour.
It’s + adjective.
If the students are struggling to complete the sentence stems, you can always help them by asking simple questions that give those answers. For example, ‘What is it?’, ‘What colour is X?’
Once everyone has taken their turn, you can take this further by asking the students to ‘group’ the toys. Or you could introduce the concept of ‘sets’. On its own the word is difficult to define, but if you have a group of dolls, cars, balls or teddies sitting on a table, it’s easy to demonstrate.
If there are several toys of the same type (and there usually are), get the children to put them into groups and count them. For example, ‘How many teddies are there?’ and then counting together. You could also group them by size (especially if there aren’t many the same). How many dolls / blue toys / soft toys / hard toys big toys / little toys (etc) are there? The choice of vocabulary will obviously depend on the toys themselves.
Another good way of using toys as a speaking stimulus is to get the children to look at what their toys have in common. So then they could regroup the toys, according to similarities. For example, all the toys that have a tail, or wheels, or big ears, etc.
They could also make a poster of the toys. Students draw a picture of a toy and then label it (they’d probably have to be around six years old to do this, though it depends on the child). If they’re too young for that, they could cut out pictures and make a collage.
And of course you can also download and print off flashcards of toys to revise toy vocabulary.