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October 19, 2009 Classroom Tools: Super Helpful Management Gadgets By Justin Lim
Grades 9–12

     

    If you're anything like me, you love perusing the isles at the 99 cent store. Yes, I love a good bargain, but the main reason for this is that I'm always looking for gadgets that can help me to manage my class. I think that we can all agree that often, the simplest devices can make a world of difference when it comes to classroom management.

     

     

    If you're anything like me, you love perusing the isles at the 99 cent store. Yes, I love a good bargain, but the main reason for this is that I'm always looking for gadgets that can help me to manage my class. I think that we can all agree that often, the simplest devices can make a world of difference when it comes to classroom management.

     

    Here are a few items that have made it to the top of my list:

    1. Timers - I know for a fact that this little guy is at the top of many lists. Timers are useful for letting students know that when you say that they have five minutes, you really mean that they have five minutes. I've actually noticed that the mere sound of setting the timer (the buttons beep one mine) gets students to work with a little more urgency.

    Personally, I prefer timers with digit buttons so that I can type in the countdown. I mention this because most timers just have up and down arrows that are used to set the time. The latter are much easier to find, but they're not teacher friendly because they take too long to program.

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    2. High Stool - It didn't take me long to realize that during independent activities, my students worked much better if I was standing up and looking over the class (or walking around). During my first year teaching, I had a few boys in particular who would take mental breaks at every opportunity. That year, I basically never sat down.

    Currently, in my Read 180 class, the instructional model calls for me to break up students into three groups, two of which are expected to work on their own. Sitting on a high stool while I work with my small group allows me to easily monitor all students, but more importantly, it maintains the tone of the class. Students don't fall into that "cruising" mode that they often get into when a teacher sits down.

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    3. Laser Pointer and Air-mouse - If you've read my previous post about scanning texts and projecting them on the board, then you're likely convinced of the usefulness of these two devices. The Air-mouse allows me to move around the room while I switch whatever is being projected on the board. I often switch back and forth between Powerpoint for lectures and Adobe for texts.

    The laser pointer is extremely valuable as well, as it allows me to quickly direct my students to a particular section of a projection. When dealing with projected texts, this is crucial because it is often difficult to verbally communicate exact line references.

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    4. Electrical Tape - Electrical tape saves me time because it's a quick and easy way to divide my whiteboard into sections that are semi-permanent. This is important because it allows me maximize the amount of information that I can pass to students before the bell rings. My whiteboard is sectioned off so that students can easily figure out the opening activity, daily objective, homework, agenda, and important dates. The fact that the tape does not erase makes it easy for me to update all of the information every day.

    5. Small Whiteboard - I'm a passionate teacher. This means that when I get going, I really get going. As a result, last year I added a small wall-mounted whiteboard to the back of my class to write notes to myself. I use it mostly for reminders like: remind students to turn in photo-release forms, tutoring room change, picture day. I used to go through housekeeping items at the beginning of the period, but I prefer to front load lessons and give announcements during transitions.

    A second use that I have for the whiteboard is to write down whatever vocabulary words I've most recently taught. I do this to prompt myself to use the words in context while I teach, which helps my students to internalize the terms.

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    6. Tennis Balls - Apparently there was a study that was done that determined that door slams were the most frequent cause of classroom distractions (other than other students). My guess would have been chairs on tile. I use old tennis balls to keep the noise down when students get out from their seats. For most classes, this shouldn't be that big of a deal, but if you do anything that requires students to move into groups or move around the class, this will definitely help to keep things orderly.

    The more I learn about teaching the more I realize that there is so much more out there for me to learn. Teaching is something that can never be completely perfected, and for this reason, we're always trying out new ideas and considering how to increase our skill set. I hope that some of these small, but useful tips have proved to be helpful. Lastly, as always, if anybody out there has some other ideas please share!

    Warm Regards,

    Justin Lim

    Rosemead High School
    El Monte Union High School District

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