english primary teacher

Article: using a mystery box

(By:Robin Tim Day)
Resultado de imagen de mystery english box
An ESL game (all ages. for small or large groups)Get a cardboard box and write the words Mystery Box and English Box on sides in big letters. Pop anything you like in it, pins, pen, clothes peg, pencil, eraser, iron nail, ribbon, paper clip, toy, ruler, string, rock, leather, cloth, ring, bottle cap, bottle, can, etc. (mostly junk). I keep this in the class at all times.

I use this prop in class to teach vocabulary and small questions and answers.

1. What? What is it? What is this? It is a… This is a ….

2. Material? What material? (iron, plastic, copper, metal, wood, stone, ceramic, etc.)

3. Use? Used? How to use it? What is it for? What can it do? How can I use it? (Use different questioning forms.)

4. Color? What color is it? Tell me the color. Tell me its color. Does it have a color? (Be sure to teach gold, silver and no color (invisible, colorless). Many teachers don’t do this.)

5. Number? What is the number? How many? How many are there?

Start your question with the simplest form: What? How? Use? Color? Number? Material? Then gradually lengthen your sentences with class ability. You will soon be using full expressions. This starts as a teacher-centered activity (teacher is demonstrator) but I change that in some ways:

a. I pass objects to the closest kid and say the name, and she/he passes it on saying the name. Do this with all the objects and they make their way around the room, preferably in a circle, and back to the Mystery Box.

b. Just empty the contents on the floor/central desk and each kid has to name something and put it back in the box. Have doubles and triples of some things as it helps slower learners.

c. When fast kids are finished their book work, they can be allowed to play the Mystery Box as a reward. Caution: this can sometimes distract other kids.

d. Occasionally pick a capable child and ask them to take the role of teacher. Praise them when done and ask the class to clap. They will.

Children like this game and especially the mystery of reaching into the box and extracting something unseen for all the class. They get bored if the teacher does not add new objects periodically.

I have had a few things stolen from the mystery box so it is best to use old things with little value. Using picture flash cards is a very similar format but children respond a bit better to real 3-D objects they can handle (kinesthetic learning). I bring in some very strange things occasionally. I have a pendant of a small hippo tooth, and another of my wisdom tooth and another of jade, etc. Kids are excited by things like that, exotic things from nature or other countries!

Children like the following variations:

1. On the second day bring in a handkerchief to mask a student or wrap toilet tissue around the eyes. Then an object is placed in their hands to identify. Kids really enjoy the mystery of the unseen object.

2. Sometimes teacher pulls out things in the mystery box and gives the wrong name. The children groan or laugh and correct the teacher. They know you are being a ham or comedian and they really like the joking. Teacher can act really stupid sometimes and the kids pick up a lot of language when you protest (always using English).

3. A variation on this game/lesson is to set up a black sheet or cardboard wall and have young kids use a fishing stick to fish in the Mystery Pond. Somebody must sit in the pond unseen and attach things to the hook. Kids shout out the name of the object as it is pulled from the pond. This game is for young kids and they love it. This is a good activity at a festival or open house.

Copyright Robin Tim Day


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Update: With the younger ones, you can introduce the box with this song and video by Super simple songs:


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