Certain resources are invaluable in the schoolroom. They are often the ones that manage to combine high educational value with usability. They are fun, versatile and popular with students. The following list highlights the resources that I found particularly useful during my time as a governess.
1. Dress up box
Who doesn't love a dress up box? Dressing up fosters imaginative play, story telling and understanding of character. It is a great way for children to explore and further their knowledge of the world. Playing with different characters helps children to extend their vocabulary range as it a creates a need for language that the child might not otherwise have an occasion to use. It can also be a good way for children to explore emotions and develop empathy.
Dressing up is creative and the fewer purpose-made costumes the box contains, the better. It is far more fun to have a mix of old and unusual clothing with a few props so the children can really use their imagination to make costumes for their characters.
All you need for a dress up box is a large cardboard box and a few old or unwanted clothes and pieces of material. Op shops are an excellent source of dress ups and the staff are usually willing to do you a great deal once they know the reason for your odd selection.
There are many activities you could do with a dress up box, here are just a few suggestions.
- Free play dress up. Children should have plenty of time for imaginative play. Dress up boxes are a great way to encourage this kind of informal learning.
- Reenacting stories. Students often need to read the same text many times and acting out a story is an effective way to help the student remember the sequence and dialogue of a story and to internalise narrative forms whilst having fun.
- Performing a play.
- Exploring a particular character. This could be from a book they are reading or a character linked to their topic.
- As a creative writing prompt. For example, 'Character Challenge' whereby the student dresses up as character of their choice and invents back story. They are then interviewed by the governess or another student to build a character profile.
2. Recycle/ Reuse/ Re purpose box
These boxes, filled with plastic bottles, packaging, yogurt tubs, kitchen roll tubes and old bits of hose are great when it comes to craft projects.
3. Shadow Puppet box
Shadow puppets capture the imagination of both children and adults. A shadow puppet box can be easily made from a cardboard box and some thin construction paper. It doesn't have to be anything flash (as clearly demonstrated in the above picture).
The puppets are made from card and wooden sticks and can be added to over time so that the children have a selection to choose from in free play time. Note that you may need a lamp to back-light the puppets.
Students can use shadow puppets to retell stories, invent alternative fairy tales and much more. The above photo is from a video one of the students made of an (epic) invented fairly tale during a free time activity.
4. Feely box
Feely boxes are basically a closed box with a hand hole. The student sticks their hand in the box and tries to figure out what is inside through touch alone. It's useful for introducing topics to younger children but also very good for communication games, vocabulary activities, exploring textures and practicing shape identification in mathematics.
5. Salt dough equipment
The procedure for making salt dough is so simple that older children can quickly be left to make it themselves.
Salt dough is great for literacy projects (e.g. making characters to reinact a story or writing instructions for making salt dough); art and craft; dioramas; science (e.g. making volcanos) festivals (making Christmas decorations, Easter eggs or a nativity scene).
Salt Dough Recipe
1 cup salt
2 cups of flour
a bowl, cups, a measuring jug for the water, aprons, newspaper (if doing it inside).
Mix the salt and flour and then gradually add the water while mixing until it has a dough-like consistency. You can double or half the amounts as needed, just always add twice as much flour as salt.
Once the students have made their salt dough project you can either bake it on a very low heat for a few hours or leave it to air dry outside (watch out for birds).
Over to you
What are your most useful resources, share your ideas in the comments below or send your top five to email@example.com.