Number one for English language teachers

Imaginative materials: teaching with simple props: bags

Level: Starter/beginner, Elementary, Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper intermediate, Advanced Type: Teaching notes

Teachers and learners carry books and equipment to their lessons in a variety of smart or scruffy bags. Here are some ways you could make use of these unassuming objects in class.


  1. What's in the bag?

    Write "The teacher's bag" on the board. Tell the learners that you have brought 10 unusual things to class today and every item can be spelt from the letters you put on the board. (You don't have to reveal if they are real things, toys or pictures!) Let groups work together and make a list, compare as a class, then reveal, one by one, the original items from your bag (e.g. a hat, a cat, a rat, a car, cheese, earth, a heart, a beach, beer, tears).

  2. Different bags

    Bring in 3 different bags (e.g. plastic carrier bag, rucksack, elegant lady's handbag). Explain that the bags each have appropriate contents; maybe show some lipstick from the handbag as an example. Teams must work on listing as many possible items as they can for each bag. At the end reveal the true contents and give points for each correctly guessed item.

  3. Whose bag?

    Tell a story about walking to work today and finding a bag full of mysterious things by the roadside. Reveal 5 or 6 evocative objects one by one (e.g. travel tickets, a dried rose, a map with a bank circled, a scribbled name and phone number, broken glasses, a knife etc). Encourage discussion and speculation, then ask groups to work out the true story: why were these things abandoned at the roadside? When ready, students could first tell each other their stories, then perhaps write them up.

  4. In the bag

    Ask students to pair up and choose five interesting things from each of their own bags (you could set up the activity the day before by specifically asking students to bring in special things). In their pairs they should explain to each other why the items are important or interesting to them. Once finished the pairs should agree to temporarily swap one item with the other person. Pairs now meet up with other pairs and explain the items, but this time talking about the swapped item as if it was their own. The other pair must guess which item doesn’t belong to each speaker.

  5. Bag grammar

    Here’s a useful revision lesson. Ask your class to find out how many grammar points from this term’s course they can demonstrate or mime using only your bag as a prop. As an example you could show an idea or two yourself, e.g. (going to) “I’m going to throw it at the door.” (too + adj.) “This bag is too heavy to lift.” First get small groups to look back through their coursebook and spot possible grammar points, then they should prepare two or three of their best ideas to show the class. You can give feedback and discuss the sentences. See if you can elicit further examples for each grammar point.  

 

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