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February 20, 2013 Document Cameras — Organize for Effectiveness By Shari Edwards
Grades 1–2, 3–5

    I use my document camera many times a day. It’s one of my preferred teaching tools, and a favorite of my students, also.

    As wonderful as it is to have this equipment in my classroom, the management of the area has caused me a few headaches in the last two years. One dilemma is that the space tends to get cluttered very quickly. I also find myself frequently needing something, mid-lesson, that is stored on the other side of the room. It’s hard to predict when a specific tool will be needed to help my students work through a problem or respond to a piece of literature.students using document camera to show work


    Reflecting on the daily hassles I experienced in this space pushed me to rethink how it was organized (or not).

    I decided this space definitely needed a makeover!




    Questions I asked myself as I began this project:

    • What do I find myself jumping up to get in the middle of a lesson?
    • What items do we create or use in that space will need to be available again?
    • How could these things be stored for easy access?
    • What do I have that could be used for storage?
    • What do I still need?
    • How should the containers and supplies be organized for greatest convenience for retrieval and storage?

    After working through these questions, doing a little shopping, and spending some time putting it all together, I finally have a workable area that is efficient and easy to keep organized.

    document camera space afterthe document camera area

    I utilized the space under and on the sides of the desk, as well as the wall behind it. A small dry erase board sits directly below the camera, and my laptop dock is to the left. 

    Items I included in the space:


    Keeping a few assorted sets of manipulatives nearby allows me to be creative in my teaching. I can quickly grab a "thinking tool" with which to illustrate a problem we have encountered. Having a few choices keeps student engagement up and ensures I'll have the appropriate tool for the job.

    supplies at my fingertipsmanipulatives

    I keep money, double-sided counters, and some translucent counters for marking numbers on a chart and letters and words in a passage.

    I also keep a small assortment of magnets in my collection. My dry erase board is magnetic, and I can use the little round office magnets to demonstrate without their rolling away. I also included time line magnets for discussions of a historical nature.

    timeline magnets

    Please excuse the condition of my dry erase board. A large, fossil-filled rock we were looking at left some dents. It was very engaging to be able to zoom in and look at it as a class, but I'll do it a little bit differently next time!
    Special note: Think about the type of surface you need for the activity you are planning. The rock should have been placed directly on the desk with heavy paper under it.


    Paper Resources

    Two plastic boxes on the bottom shelf hold spiral notebooks for modeling writing, software folders, and workbooks that I use to explain an assignment.

    There is a place for blank paper, lined and unlined, in the decorative file box that sits to the right of the desk. That box also houses file folders in which to store print resources, graphic organizers, pictures, transparencies (each in page protectors with white paper behind them), and many other items. Current class- or teacher-made documents such as graphic organizers, webs, lists, and small anchor charts that we need to keep for future reference are filed in the green and gray folders on the wall by subject. No more digging through stacks of papers to find that document we were working on a week ago!

    files for resourcessubject folders for storage of current documents

    Anti-Glare and Colored Overlays

    Near the subject folders, on the wall, hangs a set of colorful, transparent/translucent sheets on a big ring, along with a clear sheet with a matte finish. These are useful for cutting glare and softening passages printed on white paper. Besides being great at cutting glare, they can also be written on with dry or wet erase markers.

    document camera light glare on a mapmap with glare difused

    On the left is a map with a shiny surface. The glare makes it very hard to read on the interactive whiteboard. The picture on the right shows the map under an anti-glare sheet. It's actually clearer than my camera could capture.

    map under anti glare sheettilted board to relieve glare

    Do you still have a glaring problem in front of you? Try tilting the surface on which the document sits. I tilt the dry erase board slightly by resting it on the base of the document camera. (This is another good reason to use magnets!)

    Books for Warm-Ups and Sponge Activities

    I like to have some books available with short readings or interesting facts. My students love to read poems for two voices or learn a strange new fact as we gather for reading instruction. They also enjoy tongue twisters, brain teasers, and riddles at the end of a transition to help them refocus. I open to the next page in one of the books and place it under the camera. It keeps everyone's mind busy and they focus quickly after transitioning.

    books on doc cam deskWeird but True! 4 book

    I attached a lightweight desk organizer to the side of the document camera desk with heavy-duty Velcro. It houses the books that I am currently using daily, one page at a time. I don't have to look for them under the last three activities any longer! My many remotes fit in the front of the organizer for quick access.

    tongue twisterscomprehension questions

    These pictures are a little darker because the light panel over my SMART Board is turned off. I have two light switches in my room. One controls two lights in each panel and the other controls one in each panel. I had the single light removed over the carpet. The single switch will still light that panel, but when I use the double lights, that panel is dark. It makes it much easier to see what is being projected without making the entire room dark.

    What do you think?

    How do you organize your tech spaces for effective teaching?

    Would you like to hear more about how we use our document camera in content areas?



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Susan Cheyney