Fidget Spinner in ELT: from Toys to Teacher’s Gadgets

This is a brief article written in 2018 when spinners were common in many schools around the country.

Nowadays, it is really common to find our students using spinners during class. It might be stressful for the teacher and school authorities to the point of banning them. However, there are options, for teachers to transform trendy toys in a powerful tool to teach and make a positive balance posible. In order to help and support teachers, I would like to share with the ELT community my personal experience using spinners to teach.

In some of my recent classes, young adults and kids have been using them a lot. At first, I asked them to stop using the spinners but later, after receiving one as a present I began to use it during my office work time. Suddenly, while thinking and spinning I came up with an idea.

I interrupted some of my colleagues and asked them to answer an opened question during the spinner motion time  forcing them to speak. And, even when they seemed to have no more words, I asked more follow up questions as hints. As soon as the spinner stopped, they immediately challenged me with questions. That gave  me more confidence and I took the idea as possible.

From that moment on, I planned to introduce the fidget spinner as a teaching tool for communicative activities. The following are some useful ways to use the fidget spinner during class. These represent only the first steps towards the use of them in my teaching practices.


The spinner rotation time works as a timer which engages students since they are allowed to use it. Some of the benefits  are  that it challenges students to accomplish a communicative task within a certain amount of time while they play. Surprisingly, they focus more on the task than on the spinner.

Short breaks

The spinner might be set as a short break at different points of the session. Some of the benefits deal with the fact that students feel they can combine their likes with the class, they also perceive that the teacher is not rejecting the spinner, as a result, the teacher understands that the spinner is also good for him or her. In other words, the students feel more confident towards the teacher who thinks and feels as they do and not as a dictator that prohibits certain things with apparently no reason.

Mini-talks Challenges

These challenges also take the spinner as a timer. Students are asked to give a mini talk based on a given topic or on one of their own. The speech should not exceed the spinner’s rotation time and the students are allowed to use their own spinners while presenting their speech. Among the benefits of this usage the students are supposed to be more concise to transmit their message in less time. It also encourages them to include the new language.

In conclusion, taking advantage of fidget spinners in ELT can be considered a good classroom tool with different positive possibilities in order to keep students focused on communicative tasks. Besides, using the spinners will balance the class atmosphere switching then from toys to teacher’s gadgets and vice versa.

by Diego Navarro Petit
EFL teacher
Licencia Creative Commons

Fidget Spinner in ELT: from Toys to Teacher’s Gadgets por Diego Navarro Petit se distribuye bajo una Licencia Creative Commons Atribución 4.0 Internacional

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