These pieces of equipment might not be able to save me in a fire, earthquake or zombie apocalypse but they certainly make my life as a teacher a whole lot easier.
Okay, yes, you’re probably all thinking this is an absolute given. PGCE Trainee Luke, however, had no common sense. He spent the first week of his placement watch-less, constantly asking staff for the time and never knowing when to bring kids in from focus groups outside. Nowadays, present day Luke, hereto referred to as me/I, comes equipped with a trusty casio watch each and every day.
It’s not just handy for me to keep track of time in regards to moving on to the next part of the lesson. I time my children when they’re handing out the books. They race because they love the competition but it’s also fantastic at speeding them up so I can utilise teaching time to the maximum!
Additionally, I time transitions from carpet to tables and vice versa. We reflect on the time it took them to follow the instruction and if it is an unreasonable length of time they sit at break time and discuss how they could improve this for the length of time they wasted. It sounds harsh but every class has a ‘faffer’ or two who like to dawdle and stall unnecessarily. On the whole, this strategy is a preventative rather than reactive matter.
Cost: £8.74 from Amazon
I place index markers in my pupil’s books in order to identify next step comments that they need to complete. Fine, they could just search for them themselves, but we all know how precious time is during the school day and I’d rather they focus their time on making progress than going on a treasure hunt for my next step comments.
It is a great visual reminder that the children have tasks to complete in their books and allows me to keep track of who is addressing their comments when I give them time. If not, I will investigate whether it is a matter of laziness or a case of needing further direction in regards to a learning objective. It’s also hilarious to see their satisfied faces when they remove the tab from their page.
Our school policy only asks for an in depth mark once a week for maths and English, including next step comments so I don’t get through index markers at an alarming rate. Although, I must admit, I put index markers in for when my children need to underline their date and title. “You waste my time, I waste yours!” is my usual adage when they moan about this.
Cost: £1 for a pack of 500 from Tesco
I loved velcro as a primary school pupil because I couldn’t tie my laces very successfully and this wonderful material eradicated the embarrassment of struggling to change for PE. I now love velcro as a primary school teacher for an even more practical reason.
Let’s all be honest, display boards never look pretty when they’ve been assaulted by staple guns and the remains of dried blu tac. After putting up with these eye sores for my first half term, I chose to place five patches of hook velcro on each of my working walls. At the start of a new English or maths unit, I print off key vocabulary and definitions, laminate them and then attach the loop velcro to them.
My children seem to enjoy manipulating the working wall depending on the vocabulary that they offer up in each lesson. If they are unsure about the lesson’s vocabulary, they are generally better at checking the wall before asking an adult than before the use of velcro vocab.
As mentioned earlier, the use of velcro also reduces the amount of damage that occurs to the display backing throughout the term. Win, win.
Cost: Kindly provided by the school!
I’m fortunate enough to have a small enough number of pupils and a large enough amount of classroom space that I have a decent-sized reading corner and pockets of clear carpet space. On the whole, I’m more than happy for my children to complete their work in these areas using lap trays to support their books. I perch on the edge of desks, curl up in the reading corner and wander round with a clipboard in order to complete plans and mark work. It’s whatever takes my fancy at that given moment. Why can’t the children have some degree of choice themselves?
Of course, it’s important to monitor the behaviour and workload/quality dependent on where each child is sitting. If I’m not satisfied, I will ask the child to return to their desk. However, I genuinely feel a more focused atmosphere when the children are settled in the area of the classroom they prefer to learn in most. Some of my children’s best writing has happened when they were sitting cross-legged in the reading corner. Although I hope part of this was due to my teaching, I also believe it is partly thanks to a relaxed writer in their ideal habitat.
The lap trays are not only a good way of allowing the children to complete work away from their tables, but I’ve also attached a variety of resources to these lap trays in order to enable them as a learning resource as well. Currently I only have literacy resources blu-tacked on the front, though I’m sure some maths resources would be equally as well-received by my lap-tray wielding children.
It’s arguable that the use of lap trays doesn’t promote the highest quality handwriting/presentation in every single learning situation. I explain to my children that if the handwriting quality slips below a certain standard I will not allow them to use the lap trays and this generally seems to produce satisfactory results. Additionally, sometimes presentation and handwriting can be sloppy even when children are at their desks, even when you’ve reminded them for the dozenth time about correct posture and pencil grip! As an NQT, I am personally more concerned about my children’s engagement and attainment with the objective at hand rather than whether they can ‘choose which shape of a letter to use when given choices’.
Cost: 2 for £8 from Thing-Me-Bobs in Newmarket. Or 1 for £4.99 at B&M Bargains.
Pegs are great for hanging pretty much anything from a string line over your classroom, but i also found them simple to manipulate in order to determine learning partners and carpet spaces.
Check out my Periphery Pupils blog post for a more in-depth explanation as to how these are used. They’re so much easier than creating a new seating plan each week, which is personally how often I like my children to have a new learning partner.
Cost: £1.60 for a pack of 60 from Tesco
So…what’s in your school survival kit?
Do you have any pieces of equipment that are essential to your survival?
Let me know so I can add them to my own collection!