Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Like so many Americans, I'm living in a home that is worth less than the price I paid for it several years ago. If only I'd known at the time.... That isn't the only area of my life, though, where I've invested more in something than it's worth. For example, I have invested time in meetings that bore no significant outcomes or new insights. I have invested money in technology and books for school that have grown legs and walked. Does any of this sound familiar?
Fortunately, I have made many investments that I thought were worthwhile. Of them, I've chosen four of my top ones to share. These are materials I use in my classroom so often, that if the school went up in smoke today, I'd start shopping to replace them tomorrow.
#1-Dry erase boards
My first year of teaching, a colleague suggested I create my own mini white boards for my students. So, I visited Home Depot and purchased a large melamime board with a white resin coating on one side. I asked them to cut the sheet into 12" x 12" squares. I walked out of there with a class set of white boards (35-40) for under $25. I still have them more than a decade later. I use them to play games with large classes. Students break into groups and each group gets a board to write their answers to jeopardy questions on. I also use them with smaller groups. I give every student a board and have them do their work for the day on the board. They enjoy doing it and it allows me to see very quickly whether or not they understand.
#2-Post it notes
This may sound a bit mundane, but I use them all the time. Students use them to mark up texts, to create quick dividers in their notebooks, or for quick informal assessments. If there are five minutes left in class, I'll pass out post it notes and have students answer a few questions to check for understanding. I also use them for word sorts (see the blog entry about movement in the classroom).
There is rarely a day that goes by that my students are checking out books from the classroom library. Besides technology, this is probably the most valuable thing in my classroom--collectively, of course. I save money by going to thrift stores, library book sales, or checking out websites like BookSource and Townsend Press. (My students especially like the Bluford series--$1 books written at the middle school level about high school students).
If you have access to the internet or a phone with a timer in your room, then you don't need to invest in a separate one. But, I am always timing my students. I've found that time limits help them stay focused on a daily basis. I've also used them with timed reading activities to help my students learn to read faster.