Teaching children can be a tough business. We must deal with tears, boredom, frustration, behavioral issues and the odd tantrum, and that’s before we’ve even started the class. With all of the things that can go wrong, it’s useful to have a survival kit in case a class needs rescuing.
When a lesson veers away from the textbook, the following items are, for eikaiwa style lessons, very helpful.
1) A set of alphabet cards.
Phonics cards with a letter sound on one side and an illustrative picture on the other are the classroom equivalent of a Swiss army knife. Straight alphabet review? Quick memory games? Heavy team-on-team action? These cards can do it all.
Commercially produced ones will do the job but if you get a laminator you can make them to your own specifications, and this is always to be recommended.
2) A fluffy toy.
You may laugh, but like Horace’s ideal poet a fluffy toy will serve to both instruct and entertain. Whether employed as a silly voiced puppet to introduce question and answer routines or a novelty ball to be hurled around the room in “how are you today?” games, it will do sterling service.
Put aside your pride: the influence of a robust classroom kangaroo should never be underestimated.
3) Dice and a few magnetic counters.
The dice can be used to practice numerals and, in combination with the tokens, deployed for simple question and answer races on a hastily scribbled whiteboard Formula 1 circuit. The advantage of making your circuit Formula 1 is that if one team stretches out to an unbeatable lead you can artfully introduce a squall or temporary engine malfunction and allow the others to catch up.
4) An electronic timer.
As a callow youth there was a period when I did not always take one of these into the classroom. This may well be the reason I no longer have any hair.
Timed word card races, timed reading, timed activities generally; I don’t know where a kids’ teacher would be without them.
5) A set of paired picture cards.
Mine are of classroom objects – desk, eraser, pen, pencil, map, etc – and they are used for memory games, “Go Fish”, and to practice or review question and answer routines.
The children know these cards and if for some reason they are finding new vocabulary difficult it can be useful to return to words they are familiar with to restore confidence and (hopefully) enjoyment.
Again, this is one for the laminator. I use a total of 36 cards, in 18 pairs, which makes a manageable number for classes of two to six kids.
6) A commercially produced game or two.
Orchard Toys and GALT Games have some excellent classroom games, and it is good to keep a couple in easy reach for use when there is time to spare at the end of the class or when someone (usually me) is having a meltdown and the atmosphere needs to be changed quickly.
“Shopping List”, “Animal Pairs”, “Pass the Word”, “The Ladybug Game”, “Tell the Time” are all well produced and fun for kids of most ages.
7) Assorted extras.
Other handy but perhaps more peripheral items include a picture dictionary suitable for rough use, magnetized ‘items in the home’ cutouts for “Where’s the telephone?” type games on the whiteboard, and card sets for telling the time, the numbers 1-20, and the colors.
Some people may be able to get along without one, but the classroom would be a far more stressful environment to navigate if I didn’t have my kids’ lesson survival kit.
What items do you keep in yours?