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The Mystery Box

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 7 months ago

The Mystery Box


Paul Carrington


GRADE LEVEL: ES 1-3, Youchien
SKILLS: Listening, speaking
TIME: 20 minutes
MATERIALS: Flashcards, fruit (or other props), mystery box




1. To teach basic vocabulary (fruit) to lower grade students in fun, hands-on way.

2. To provide a reliable stand by activity for last minute lesson planning.




1. Before the lesson, you have to make the Mystery Box. Use a large cardboard box open on one side. On the opposite (bottom) side, cut two holes side by side. Make sure they are large enough to put your hands through, but make it a snug fit so it’s difficult to see through the holes into the box. You can decorate the box to give it a more colourful appeal.


2. The lesson kicks off with a simple say-and-repeat introduction to new vocabulary. I did this lesson with fruits, using about 5 flashcards (banana, apple, mikan/orange, pear, pineapple) but it’s adaptable. Just make sure the vocabulary corresponds to physical props you can use in the Mystery Box (for instance, if you are teaching vehicles, you will need model cars and so on; if you teach animals, you will need cuddly toys). I used real pieces of fruit, but this is something of a waste as you have to throw the food away afterwards.


3. Once the children are comfortable with the new vocabulary, bring out the mystery box. You’re teaching young kids, so you should be able to liven it up by goofing around and introducing the box in a mock-magic-show style. Place the box on a table in front of the children so the open side faces them and the contents are easily visible. This way you can stand behind the box and place your hands through the holes without being able to see inside yourself.


4. Demonstrate by placing one of the pieces of fruit (or other props) in the box, and sliding your hands through the holes so you can touch but not see it. Now pretend you don’t know what the object is and feel it until you can guess what it is.


5. Next get the kids to take it in turns to have a go. This way they can practice new vocabulary in a fun way. Make sure they don’t cheat by peeking through the hand holes to see inside, and make sure all the other students keep quiet and don’t shout out the name of the prop.




  • Unless you have more than one box, only one student can have a go at a time, so if the group is too large there won’t be time for everyone to try. This therefore works best with 15-25 students.
  • This activity only deals with very simple English (i.e.: basic vocabulary), so it’s ideal for younger students. It was especially effective at Yochien where the kids have very limited English abilities.
  • The Mystery Box is not an activity of my own invention. It was introduced by one of the elementary teachers I work with, but I’ve successfully used it elsewhere.

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