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Classroom Essentials


For a new feature in Teacher Magazine, we are soliciting input from teachers on tools they consider "classroom essentials." Do you have a favorite teaching tool? What item would you not be able to teach without?

Share your ideas here.


My favorite teaching tool? My pockets! I cannot teach without them. They hold essentials like my pen or a place to deposit confiscated notes (I don't read them) and the spot to keep a throat lozenge. Pockets are wonderful because they are always with me and I don't lose whatever it is I need to hold. I don't know about the rest of you but I put stuff down while I'm teaching such as a paper or the remote or a marker and wonder where it went! I've got plenty of cool tools like the document camera and the interactive white board but, honestly, I taught without them before and, when the power is out, I teach without them now. But pockets? They are life savers and frequently when I ask the students where I left my brain, the answer is: in your pockets! Next to my pockets, my favorite teaching tool is my brain.

PASSION! Passion is the tool I will not do without. If I "lose" it along the way, then I need to stop, rewind, and find it. Otherwise, I mind as well stay home.

The one tool that I cannot teach without is my timer. Sometimes I get so excited about a lesson that I could go on for at least another 30 minutes. My timer keeps me in check and helps me to know when I have 10 minutes to bring my lesson to a close.

Tools can be physical and emotional as mentioned already...but I absolutely do not get through a math lesson without my mini white boards and expo markers so the kids can practice "mental math" without having to find a pencil and paper. And I agree with the passion, can't teach without passion.

There are two categories of tools: tangible and intangible....the most important intangible is patience........for obvious reasons, I think....the tangible is 3x5 notecards that I use to have kids respond to a opening question first thing in class, solicit response from them throughout the class and to evaluate the class at the end of the period........

Dr. Harry Wong; The First Days of School: I have read it every July for the last five years. After 17 years of teaching it still takes me back to the basics and what my new students will be expecting of me. Good Stuff!! I have a signed copy of the book if anybody wants to give me a reasonable bid!

My favourite teaching tool (or may be an approach) is to keep my students connected with the real life facts and issues by using self-made mini-posters with the key words like: Inclusive society, International Tolerance Day. Recently they were amused by the phrase "to winterize your home", etc. This way of connectedness helps them to be part of a community

No matter what age preschool thru highschool I use my round plastic 6-8 slices sorting boxes filled with stuff... conductors-non-conductors
magnetic-non-magnetic igneous-metaporphic-sedimentary sink-float animal-non-animal fruit- vegie physical changes-chemical changes the list goes on and on. I also use them one for each table of 4-6 to put out supplies for a lab makes set up a lot easier.

HUMOR!!!! The ability to laugh at myself and be goofy with my students during the chaos of the modern high school environment is what helps me keep my sanity. I could never survive without it!

Dennise Peccorini
Math Teacher, SpEd
Redlands High School, CA

HUMOR!!!! The ability to laugh at myself and be goofy with my students during the chaos of the modern high school environment is what helps me keep my sanity. I could never survive without it!

Dennise Peccorini
Math Teacher, SpEd
Redlands High School, CA

Looking at the tangible and the intangible, I would have to say: journals and compassion. I have the students write in their journals every day, in response to my read-aloud book or other prompts. I read their responses and write back each time. The journals are private and I do not censor language or content. These are a way for me to keep in touch with the inner lives of my students in a private manner, and also a means for assessing their writing and analytical abilities. They are also a means to exercise compassion, if a student is having a rough time and writes about it. They do know that if I sense they are about to do harm to themselves, or someone or something else, I will have to intervene. I have been invited to do so on occasion. Compassion must be an every-day part of my teaching, because the kids I work with have all sorts of difficulties in their lives that impact their behavior and performance. If a student is sleepy, it could be because he spent the night on someone's couch because he just got kicked out of his house. Am I going to chastise him for sleeping? No.

List of meaningful "thoughts for the day". I put a new one on the board each day. Even the custodians come by to check them out. They provide inspiration for life as well as for conversation and writing. Many of these thoughts come from literature. Students contribute most of them, and the list grows.

I love my digital projector. I teach in an inner-city school located in an extremely poor neighborhood. With my digital projector I can provide virtual experiences for my students and take them places they would never get to see. While reading a recent story about whales I took them to Alaska and showed them icebergs, plankton, squid, pack-ice, ice breaker ships, whale migration and Inuit people. A quick internet search will provide photos to help in increasing background knowledge for almost any concept. I couldn't go to the library and check out photo images every time I know my students won't understand something. The internet and my digital projector saves me time and energy.
Many generous teachers have created PowerPoint presentations and have shared them trough internet postings. I can download presentations for every story in our reading series as well as every science and social studies concept we study.

Hand motions! I love to get excited and demonstrate my excitement by using hand motions, dramatic motions, or laughing with my whole body. Students get excited when you love and show what you love...

The most important tool for me is love for children. The I do not have it I will not be able to carry on with my lessonS

I have been using computers extensively for about six years in my first grade classroom to the extent that I have purchased five with my own funds. They are a great learning tool if the software is selected carefully. I think they work because there is right and left brain integration in their use. Lately, I have been using a document camera with a laptop and a projector. The results have been terrific. I think it works because it decreases the discrepancy between the students' listening and visual skills. I almost purchased an interactive whiteboard, but after three years of reading about them, I decided that the document camera is the way to go.

I have 28 years experience and the most innovative and useful tangible tool has been my interactive whiteboard. While there are many prepared lesson avaliable the most valuable are the ones I have created to teach every subject. This year my team, 5 second grade teachers, have worked together to put the new reading lessons into interactive whiteboard lessons. When I saw everthing I was to teach everyday with this series it seemed impossible. The interactive whiteboard was the answer. The children can come to the board and write with a stylus, with their finger, or move objects or words around on the board. The children love working on the whiteboard and are very attentive during a lesson. The 52" screen can also be used to project a DVD through a computer, or a video thorugh a VCR connection. It is a fantastic addition to my classroom.

As a reading specialist, it is important to me to keep abreast of the latest in children's literature while still embracing the classics. Books are my most important resource. The internet is a close second. As expresed by others, the love of teaching, learning, and of course, reading are essential tools.

Love for teaching and a passion for learning.

I think the most important and vital tool is that of Positive Thinking about the school, children and education. The task is daunting, but with positive approach we can help transform the students into the most responsive and creative individuals.

I couldn’t survive without my thumb-drive (USB storage device). I wear it around my neck like a life preserver! From sharing strategies and resources with colleagues to backing up files, I use it more than chalk! It’s a veritable workhorse, albeit an incredibly small one.

I present my self as actor some time I was making tunes of the poems, some time making stories and some time telling jokes to the students of class 5 to 8 grades to facilitate them to learn easly.
Believe me students are learning well with enjoyment and they are happy with me all the time.
I used music as a teaching tool

I use a SmartBoard in my CTE Business classes. The SmartBoard is a very visual tool and engages students attention and participation. I use it every day. I also post the GLE on the SmartBoard with my lesson plan outline.

I could not teach without: sticky notes, books, colleagues who are willing to have thoughtful conversations, good books, eager students, thoughtful and provocative discussions, reluctant students, laughter, flash drive, great books, color coded notecards and folders and file tabs and file crates, and more books.

The best tangible tool in my writing classes is a set of green felt-tip markers. My students use them for revising one another's writing. The green stands out on any manuscript or typed work and makes the editing marks and revision suggestions very easy to see. Kids also use the green markers to code their note cards for a research paper: on each card, they write the number/letter from their outline where the information on that card fits. They're indispensable!

My greatest intangible tool is my voice. I use different voices--silly, soft, raspy--to illustrate the part of a sentence I want to emphasize. I say "ding!!" every time we encounter a linking verb. The kids have learned to call them "ding" verbs! Of course I use my "I mean it" voice to squelch inappropriate behaviors too. But mostly I use a great variety of fun voices to bring otherwise boring grammar lessons to life.

You need a lesson plan, with a "Plan B" atttached.

I could not get through each day at my middle school without the complete believe in and my poster at the front of the room that says "Fair means you get what you need, not everyone gets the same." My students understand it in our heterogeneous/ inclusive classroom, and it makes everyone feel they are being treated fairly. To the middle student FAIR is everything. This way I feel I can treat each child the most appropriate way possible.
At first I introduce the idea using the sports metaphor. They all agree that some are naturally better baseball players or better soccer players- this translates readily into school skills such as reading and writing. They understand that we all must try for and look for progress- not just "being the best." Since my students have been in totally inclusive classroom since 1st grade, they understand that we all have different needs.

I have been using this great new software called TOPS. It's a lesson planner with a calendar. It's also has a unit planner and has a database of 4,000 leveled books. I love that I can attach websites and document to my lessons and easily duplicate and modify those lessons.

The part of TOPS I use most of TOPS is the students section, where I take notes on each student and can group them and assess them on the standards.

Now that I am using this software, I can't imagine teaching without it.

More info about TOPS can be found at http://www.edcelerate.com/

I believe that my classroom essentials are patience and FUN. Having patience let me give the students wait time. It is also important to teach the students patience as well. It helps them learn that not everybody learns at the same speed. Then there's FUN. Without fun I would be very stressed. The fun is for both the students and myself.

Sticky pads, timers, a GOOD writing pen, and a cup of water. We need so little if we are really teachers.
However, a good, supportive principal is something (that if you ever have to do without) you realize you must have.
If your principal is not there for you, it doesn't matter how many supplies you have.

My favorite teaching tool? Individual White Boards for each student - I buy a 4X8 ft. sheet of tile board at Low's Home Improvement for around $12 and they cut it into 32 12X12 inch boards. I use half sheets of paper towels (the school's kind works fine) and expo markers (these are expensive, but I ask parents to buy some, and our PSTO reimburses me for the others. Especially in math, students are ALL engaged and I can assess as we go.

A heavy dose of humor laced with finding the best in my student's intentions.

And I'd have to agree with the other teachers who mentioned the individual whiteboards with Expo markers. I'd love to have electronic technology, but that hasn't happened yet in my building. So good old fashion technology does the trick right now. My kids love these board and it gives me the ability to immediately assess what they know, don't know and how quickly they are able to use their knowledge.

My electronic copy board is my favorite teaching tool. I can use it as a computer, a white board, a smart board, and a copier that produces 20 copies in black and white or in color per minute. I can scan and store every lesson. It has two pages just in case more space is needed. I just press a button and an additional page appears. If I should need to return to the previous page, then I press a button and back it goes. All erasable markers work, and the students love color. The best thing about the board is that its capabilities to store and save helps students who have been absent catch up with prior notes and previous lessons. In addition, its diversity is great for students with different learning styles. It is mobile, but can also be mounted, and it can also be used with any computer with one simple cord. It is absolutely a must for any classroom.

I could not teach without having individual whiteboards for the students to show me quick answers. I have them each in a gallon baggie along with a white board marker and a washcloth for erasing. You can purchase these whiteboards OR take the cheap way out and have a lumberyard cut them for you from a cheap large sheet. They do it FREE here in Missouri! I give the children a question or ask them to spell a word, they do it, cover it with the cloth, and then all together show me their answers. They love it, and it's an easy way to review and not waste paper!
When it's time to quit, we all recite my teacher-created poem for the marker, "Put on the lid, Make it pop, So the ink will not stop." It works for first grade!

Another inexpensive substitute for individual white-boards are plastic sleeves ("sheet-protectors"). You can fill them with blank paper, graphic organizers, word lists, sentence starters, etc. They work with dry-erase and wet-erase markers and are less noisy and less expensive!

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Recent Comments

  • Karen/Reading Specialist: Another inexpensive substitute for individual white-boards are plastic sleeves ("sheet-protectors"). read more
  • Deanna Whitford, 1st grade teacher: I could not teach without having individual whiteboards for the read more
  • Kathy Hays, English and Sociology Teacher 9-12: My electronic copy board is my favorite teaching tool. I read more
  • Marsha Ratzel--6th grade math and science: A heavy dose of humor laced with finding the best read more
  • Dianne Williams/8th Grade Math/Science: My favorite teaching tool? Individual White Boards for each student read more




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