I’ve always loved all kinds of boxes! I love using and reusing them and teaching my students about how to do the same, using their imagination and creativity! There are great ways to use cardboard boxes in the ESL classroom and here are just a few, to get the idea.
Why Work With Cardboard?
It is SUPREME.
- It is (in most cases) free.
- It appeals to the environmentally-conscious, pro-recycling parts of our human nature.
- It is disposable – toss it back into the recycling bin when you’re done teaching/playing.
Cardboard Box Houses
Why not make this easy cardboard house, with your class,too? You can watch online videos ,follow the simple step-by-step instructions and help your students decorate their houses. With the help of some small dolls,furniture or action figures, have them act out scenes from a course book story or a tale you’ve read them, for role plays with a twist! You can even teach Grammar , ie the prepositions of place, by having the students move the pieces of toy furniture around the rooms or teach/revise vocabulary, ie colours, parts of the house etc
Dioramas to Die for!
Dioramas are perfect for capturing a scene from a story – and cardboard boxes are the ideal material for our class diorama. Simply cut out a rectangle from one of the sides of the box, like a window. Then have your class assist you in recreating a scene from a story or book you’ve read.And don’t forget holiday dioramas: from the first Thanksgiving to a spooky graveyard filled with monsters for Halloween, the possibilities are endless!
Want to practice asking for and giving directions? How about using a miniature landscape instead of an old, boring, flat map or picture ? Use small cardboard boxes of different sizes, like small cereal or cookie boxes. Have your students create a landscape out of each.The students can make the landscape as detailed as they want .Use action figures to move around and ask for directions. In this last school year’s photo, my creative students created a four Seasons landscape and used it while reciting a poem they had written, about the four Seasons!
Set up a Vocabulary Box ,in a corner of the room! Each time a student asks about a word he or she does not understand, go through the following steps:
Write-or have the students write- the word at the top of an index card, the definition (for your older students) or a drawing ( for your younger learners) below that and finally, an example of the word used in a sentence, if you wish.
Put the card in the Vocabulary Box.
At the end of the week/month (or school year) depending on the number of words accumulated, you can open the box and see how many of the words they still remember, how many they’ve forgotten or not used at all since that day in class, by playing fun vocabulary games. The day I took this photo, we played a Treasure Hunt Game, using the words in the box.
Have each of your students write a letter to a classmate or you,the teacher. I always do so, at the beginning and the end of each school year . They get so excited when they receive their reply letters! Then, you can be the postman/woman and deliver them or have another student act as postman/woman. I also use the mailbox for homework assignments or special occasions such as Christmas, where students get the chance to write to Santa. Watch this tutorial to make an alternative mailbox to mine, in the photos.
Dolls, Robots and other crafts
For a fun class role play activity, first have your students create an action figure or any other craft of their choice, out of a cardboard box .When they’re all done, students take turns acting out different role plays, using them! An the end of each school year, you can organise yearly “Art Exhibitions” with all the students’ crafts! Art exhibitions ,offer students a chance to display their work for parents, siblings and classmates.
A cardboard box can easily be turned into a fun puppet theater, for all our class ELT puppet , finger puppet or even shadow theatre plays.
Here are the instructions about how to make your own shadow puppet theatre.
Class Theatre Hats
I create class theatre props and crowns/hats from cardboard, throughout the school year. The last time I did so, was for the needs of our end-of-the-school-year adaptation of “Midsummer Night’s Dream” .
Not only are these hats adorable, but very sturdy. After they are constructed you can let the children decorate them with stickers and/or paint.
Playing with a Dice
I love using Dice Games to practice vocabulary, in my class! I made my first class dice , a couple of years ago and have been using all the activities in this post, since then .
My students love the Dice Games and ask for them, all the time!
This is an awesome guessing activity! The “Mystery Box” is a type of prediction game that you can create with simple items that you have in class.
Find a box, such as a shoe box, or any other kind of container which kids can’t see through, such as a cookie tin. Introduce the empty box or tin and discuss how the mystery box game will be played. Outside of the children’s view, place an item inside the box or tin. Ask the children to predict what is inside. If you want, you can let the children hold the box, to see how heavy it is or if it makes any noise bouncing around the box or tin.
Give the children one clue as to what is inside the box. For instance, if you have a teddy bear inside, you can say, “It’s soft.” After the first clue is given, ask the children to guess what might be inside. Repeat the process by giving a second clue, such as, “It’s brown” and then ask the children to guess again.
They have to guess, by using different modals such as “it must be..”, ” it can’t be..”, “it may be..” etc
All the students who guess right, are given special stickers! If only one student guesses right , she/he is given the item in the mystery box, to take home , as a present.
After showing the kids how to play the game, I ask the children to bring their own mystery boxes from home, the next day, with an item inside the box for their classmates to guess what it is.
Our etwinning “CUbeS”
Last school year, we used boxes in our etwinning European project, with huge success!
What the four partners ( Greece, UK, France and Poland) decided to do was that, students produced a presentation or “Culture and Smiles in a Box” on their partner country in groups, both in class and on twinspace Forums. To be able to do this, students gathered information about their own country and life and mailed it to their partner schools, in Cubes-boxes .Their partners, were responsible for producing the presentation on their partner country’s cultural assets on twinspace Forums .
My students felt able to be creative with their audience in the partner schools in mind and dare to share and compare.They also used their imagination and creativity as well as their artistic skills, in order to fill their CUbeS with content.
The Activity Box -for early finishers
For my early finishers, especially when writing tests, I use a special box!
A box, filled with activities and items of my choice, such as books, magazines, board games, toys, postcards, etc The box also contains small sets of task cards.
The box can be placed on an easily accessible shelf in the classroom or on the teacher’s desk.When students’ regular classwork/test is complete, they can take one item at a time, either to their seat so as not to distract other students who are working, and get a quiet moment to relax. They use the materials in the box to practice their English, too. And instead of being just “busy,” students are engaged in creative, complex tasks.Kinesthetic learners, spatial learners, and logical learners ,all love exploring the different possibilities for the box materials as they try to spend their time ,the fun way!
Even better? The prep and management on the teacher’s part is minimal!
The story telling box
Using a magic box when we do story telling with our very young learners, is so much fun! I ,personally, love it!
A good example of how to do so, can be found in this Blog post, written by my friend Margarita Kosior.
Margarita ,is an amazing educator from Thessaloniki! I truly admire her work with storytelling !
I am so grateful that she accepted my invitation, to share one of her stories, in my Blog, a couple of years ago! Actually, she has been my inspiration to try similar activities with my junior classes and I wholeheartedly thank her, for that!
The routine, is opening the Magic Box which hides different treasures every time, usually flashcards or realia which appear later in the story.
In case of “Henry Hippo”, she created head bands with the four protagonists in advance and she placed them in the Magic Box. With the use of a magic star and on the sound of the magic words, the Magic Box opens.
Every time the group shout: “Magic Box, open!”, one headband/item is taken out.
I have used the ‘Identity Box’ activity since I was introduced to it, at Pilgrims ,by my amazing “Teaching Difficult Learners” course teacher trainers Mike Shreeve and Phil Dexter , two years ago. It is a way to introduce my students to each other (and to me!). I assign it as homework, on the first day and give students 2-3 days to complete it. Alternatively, students could do the project in school and bring in old newspapers and magazines ,in order to decorate their boxes.
Pictures (personal, magazine, etc)
Shoe Box (or box of any kind)
On the outside of the box, all students decorate with images of how they feel others see them OR how they see themselves.
On the inside of the box, older students, decorate with images of how they feel on the inside, what best describes their identity.
Sharing the boxes on the last day of the first week of school is a fun way to conclude this exciting week.
I have also included an optional “All about me on a Box” writing activity extension.
*For those of you interested in reading about the original idea ,which actually doesn’t have anything to do with children, please, have a look here.
When it comes to fun ESL activities, why not think outside the box, or rather in this case inside it?
Why not capitalize on our innate fascination with boxes and the opportunities they hold?