Proper Prop Usage

Lesson 2: Proper Prop Usage


Learning Objective: Students will demonstrate their understanding of appropriate prop selection by identifying five props that would support the historical and cultural context of their selected production.


Materials Needed:


YouTube clips (see below)



Watch different versions of the song “I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here” from Annie.  (It isn’t necessary to watch the entirety of each clip.  Be sure to show enough so students can see that there are different props being used, even if the clip is set in the same time period [aside from 2014 version.])  Before watching, challenge the students to make a list of as many props as they can identify in each clip.  These lists will be used for the discussion afterwards.

1982 –

1999 –

2014 –


Follow up discussion:

Using the lists the students created, compare and contrast the different versions of the same song.  In the case of the 1982 and 1999 version, they were supposed to take place in the same time period.  Did they succeed? What differences were found between the two older versions?  How was the 2014 version different?



It’s important to use appropriate props for productions.  If something takes place around the time of the Great Depression, like Annie, then you need to be sure the telephones, cleaning supplies, and toys reflect the kind of items they’d have back then.


Teach students the difference between props and set design dressing.

  • Props are essentially anything that an actor touches or uses. A good rule of thumb is that props can usually be moved by one person.  Like a handheld mirror, food, or cleaning supply.
  • Set dressing is anything in the background. For example, the curtains, couches, or rugs.


Props can be used to symbolize an entire production.  Examples of iconic props used in shows: Yorick’s skull in Hamlet, whip in Indiana Jones, glass slipper in Cinderella, the ring in Lord of the Rings, newspaper in Newsies, white mask in Phantom of the Opera

Ask students if they can identify any other iconic props.  How do these props fit with the time period of each individual show?  What does the prop say about the character that uses it?


For example – There is the crutch that Crutchy uses in Newsies.  It is made of simple wood and supports the fact that Crutchy has a small disability. 



Students are to find an iconic prop for the show they’ve selected to research for this unit.  It should reflect the time period of the show and the character that uses the prop.  By the end of class, students will have five props that they could use for their show and be able to justify why they selected that prop.  Pictures or drawings of these props will be posted to their bulletin board.