Nuts & Bolts: 5 of My Must-Have Teacher Items

Sometimes it's those little things that help make our jobs easier and more organized.  Today I will share with you five of my favorite items that somehow help me stay organized, efficient, or effective.

The past couple years I have been using these custom self-inking stamps that I made at VistaPrint.  They are quicker than peeling stickers.  I use the J'aime stamp on high quiz grades, and the "Please see me" stamp on unsatisfactory quiz grades.  My policy is that any student can do corrections on a quiz and retake it (if the initial grade was low enough to warrant retaking) to earn back some of the lost credit.  Using the stamp frees me from having to hand write notes.  I know that the color red is somewhat controversial in the grading world, but I personally find that it sticks out and gets their attention, which is the point of the message.

The weekly planner pad is not what I use to plan my lessons in (that goes in my plan book binder, which is also a must-have for me, but felt it too obvious to include on this list), but rather to plan out what tasks I will accomplish each day.  It helps me stay organized and manage my time more efficiently (and not get bogged down trying to accomplish too much in one day!).  I will even write minute tasks like "respond to so-and-so's email," which are the types of things I forget if I don't write down.  The pretty floral one I use is made by Rifle Paper Co., but there are plenty of basic ones available online as well.

The absentee board is so helpful in efficiently providing missed work to students who are absent.  For each day, I fill in the homework (if any), the classwork handed out (if any), and other information, such as upcoming quizzes.  The sheets they need are lined up in front of the board.  Students need to be trained and reminded throughout the year on how to use the board (sometimes they forget to read the sheet to see specifically what they missed on each day), but overall, I find it far more efficient than individually culling work for each student.  Every teacher has their own system on how to manage missed work, and this is the one that I use.

This crazy looking green ball elicits lots of participation from students.  When I first introduce a topic and look for volunteers to model the language, far more hands go up when the green ball comes out.  Students love the opportunity to catch and hold it because it feels so strange.

Out With the Old, In With the New

My camera is a very important part of my teaching.  Capturing high quality photos in my classroom creates memories that I can share with the students at the end of the year, and allows me to communicate with parents and community members about what is going on in our classroom.  Awhile back I blogged about taking photographs in your classroom.

What are YOUR must-have teacher items?

The iPad Diaries: Volume 1

This year I was awarded a grant from the Saratoga Foundation for Innovative Learning for a set of 10 iPads to be shared among the department.   Needless to say, I have been very excited about using them, as have my students.  This past Thursday was the first day we used them, and everyone had a blast.  First, we used the Jot! whiteboard app (free) to practice verbs.  The prior two days we had read my SpongeBob story to introduce verb forms, and students had to complete cloze sentence with the correct word with sentences from the story.  Using the whiteboard app saves time over passing out the actual whiteboards, and it also saves ink (markers are expensive!).  Students worked in groups of three and passed the iPad back and forth, taking turns writing.  They can also save their "jots" for later use, which I plan to have them do in the future.

Next was Kahoot!  Kahoot! was a hit.  I read about Kahoot! on many of the language teacher blogs I read.  It's basically a multiple choice quiz, only so much more fun.  Students get points based on how quickly and accurately they answer questions, as dramatic music plays in the background.  My favorite part is that it shows how many students chose each possible answer.  I know whether to move on without explaining, and I know which things I need to reinforce more in future lessons.  This is not just a "day before the test" review, in my opinion.  I found it valuable for new material as well.  My questions were mostly cloze questions with verbs or pronouns missing (with picture prompts).  The leaderboard which shows the top 5 groups (and their often comical nicknames) gets everyone excited.  You have to try this to see how much fun it is!

The following day, we used the Jot app again for my Roll the Dice game.  In this game, students only need one whiteboard per group anyways, so it was great to save the time and ink, and the students were very happy to use the iPads again.  If you haven't read my article on the dice game, basically students roll two dice (one for pronoun, one for verb) and form a sentence based on the photos that corresponds to what they rolled.  What I did this time around to make it more communicative was give students an additional point who put an ending on the sentence (like the one below).  The ending of the sentence didn't have to be perfect, but I was looking for an effort to show the verb in context, beyond just "il regarde".  Because I have teacher's helpers for this activity, I have lots of time to interact with the students and make conversation with them about what they wrote or offer some assistance.

This is just the beginning of an exciting journey with this valuable technology.  The iPads won't be a daily fixture - for one thing, they are being shared among the department, and for another, I like to mix up the high tech and low tech!  But rest assured, we will be doing lots of exciting projects and activities with them for the remainder of this year and in subsequent years.  I'm looking forward to swapping ideas with my department and continuing to gather ideas from the many wonderful blogs I read.

To see more photos of the iPads in action, check out this post over on my classroom blog.

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