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Classroom Essentials

August 18, 2014

What tools and resources do you have that you would be devastated to not have in your language classroom? A reader asked me this question a few days ago, and I figured I'd share my answer with all of you. If you read all the way to the end, you'll find out how you can win some of my favorite things :)

  1. High frequency word posters. My classroom was always plastered with these, and my students' fluency--interpretive and productive--improved exponentially when I began using them. My husband was watching a webinar about Evernote the other day, and the company representative said that the concept behind Evernote was that the highest and best use of your brain power is to solve problems, not memorize information. I love this! By posting high frequency words around my room that students can and do access at any time during the class period, they are not wasting their brain power with rote memorization of hard-to-internalize structures like "therefore", "but", and "also"; they are able to focus on the real content--of interpreting and communicating messages! Because the words are so high frequency, the students reference them constantly, resulting in the acquisition of those structures within the first semester of Spanish sans exertion of brain power. I love it!!
  2. Individual whiteboards. Oh my, I use these for everything. They are a must-have tool for TPRS®/TCI teachers. They allow students to provide suggestions for stories and other forms of feedback in a non-chaotic manner, they serve as mediums for presentations, they are great for note-taking, they allow students to produce output in a non-threatening manner, they provide the teacher with valuable insights during formative assessments...I could go on forever. A class set of whiteboards + dry erase markers + erasers (I buy mega-packs of washcloths from Walmart and cut them into quarters) is definitely on my must-have list.
  3. A projector. Does this really need explanation? If your school hasn't bought one for you, you need to take it upon yourself to get one. Start a GoFundMe account and send it out to your friends. And your administrators....because come on. You need a projector.
  4. A document camera. If you've never had one, this may seem frivolous. Once you've gone there, it is so hard to go back. Document cameras are particularly useful in TPRS®/CI classrooms where so much of the content is student-generated. You need a way to share students' work with their classmates! Whether you've just finished a round of Write, Draw, Pass or are discussing where everyone went over the weekend, this is the easiest way to engage the entire class in one students' work. It will also make it waaaaay easier for you to review worksheets, fill in notes, or exist as a teacher in general. My favorite cheap-o document camera is the iPevo Point 2 View camera. It's not fancy and doesn't have any mind-blowing functions like my old Promethean Actiview did, but it's cheap and gets the job done.
Shakira came to my sixth grade class...obviously!

A classroom library. Mine has never been anything to write home about, but it was filled with readers from TPRS Publishing, children's books that I bought used on eBay, and storybooks created by my students. Crystal Barragan and Mike Peto have much more impressive classroom libraries and information posts on how to create them.

A costume bin. Oh, if you could only see my costume's filled with ridiculous articles of clothing, accessories, masks, hats, wigs, and more. I can't imagine storytelling without it!

So...there you have it. My must-haves. Now...the fun part. I am going to give away a class set of 30 whiteboards and a document camera--not to the same person. If you'd like to enter to win one of these items, you must leave a comment with your name and the top three things that you can't imagine teaching without. Entries must be received by August 31 at midnight, Alaska Standard Time, and I will announce the winner September 1 assuming I am not giving birth :) I'll then contact the winner via email to get mailing address information so that I can send along the goodies to you!

Can't wait to hear from you!

AND...a side note...Teachers Pay Teachers is throwing a back-to-school boost sale on Wednesday, August 20, and all the products in my store will be 20 percent off. Click here to see a categorized list of the lesson plans and activities that will be on sale!

Okay...get commenting!

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