Posted on January 10, 2019 | By Jenni Fogg
27th Nov 2018
Throughout your teaching career, you’ll encounter colleagues with very different views on what you need to take with you to your lessons. There’s the rare creature who turns up to their classroom with nothing more than a whiteboard pen and an air of total smugness, looking like they’ve just rolled out of bed and seemingly teaching all lessons off the cuff. There’s also the teacher who’s struggling to carry two rucksacks, a mug of tepid instant coffee, a stuffed cat and, inexplicably, a large plastic clock.
This blog post will try to find some middle ground: we’ve asked experienced teachers what’s in their teaching toolkit, so that you can build up your own and be prepared for whatever happens in your lessons.
The Bare Necessities
Stationery is your ally in the classroom. Invest in a good-sized pencil case and ensure you fill it with the following:
Post-it notes: useful for myriad reasons, you can stick them everywhere and to everyone. Here are some of our favourite post-it note activities:
#1 Play the ‘yes/no’ game by writing the name of a celebrity on post-it notes and sticking them to your students’ foreheads. They must work out who they are by asking yes/no questions. Brilliant for practising question formation.
#2 Use them to review pronunciation, for example the ‘ed’ ending at the end of regular past simple verbs. Write as many past simple verbs as possible on your post-it notes and distribute to students who can stick them on the board, categorising them based on the pronunciation of the ‘ed’ ending – is it /t/ like jumped, /d/ like cooked or /Id/ like wanted?
#3 Post-it notes work well for delayed error correction too. If students make mistakes during a speaking activity, write them on post-it notes and stick them around the classroom. After the activity, students can hunt for the post-it notes and correct the mistakes with their partner.
Whiteboard markers: although it might go without saying, you’re gonna need markers to write on the board! Get a range of different coloured markers to serve different purposes.
So, for example, use black for your main text because it’s easy to read and blue to mark the stress or write the phonemic script. Depending on the brand you use, they can run out super quick so always make sure you’ve got more than you need!
If you have mini-whiteboards for your students, you’ll need pens to go with them too. Mini-whiteboards are great for materials-free revision games at the start or end of the lesson. Simply shout out a definition for a word your class have just learnt and let your students race to write it down and hold it up for you to see.
Paperclips: if you’re at the start of your teaching career, you might not have anticipated the amount of cutting out and cutting up you’ll have to do. Coursebooks will provide you with supplementary lesson materials, where you’ll have to photocopy and then chop up a task for your students. Use paperclips to group the materials and avoid a snowstorm taking place inside your classroom. Keep stocked up as they’ll soon vanish into the ether as students bend them beyond all recognition.
Blu tac: a real classroom necessity if you want to get your students out of their seats and moving around the room.
Use it to stick pictures to the wall, for example, people doing different jobs. Ask students to move around the room with a partner, discussing the advantages and disadvantages of those jobs. Turn it into a class debate, where students argue which job is the best.
A running dictation is the ideal task if you want your students to practise all four skills – reading, listening, writing and speaking. Stick a short text at the front of the room or just outside the door. Give students the role of writer or runner. The runner runs to the text, memorises as much as possible, runs back to their partner and whispers what they can remember. Their partner writes it down. The first team to finish with no mistakes will win! Remember to give your students the original text so they can check their spelling and punctuation.
Make a running dictation even more interactive by sticking numbered instructions for a short task around the room. Students run to the instructions in order, then run back to their partner who must follow the instructions. Origami works well for this – students race to fold a square of paper into an origami animal.
Here are the things that’ll spice up your teaching but are small enough to fit in your bag. And even better: they won’t break the bank. You can use them to create materials-free activities, such as if you’re reviewing language or if you have five minutes to use up at the end of the lesson.
Dice: Dice are a brilliant way to get students talking, even in low-level classes. Write questions on the board, corresponding to a number 1-6. Students roll the dice and answer the question, giving as much detail as possible. Ask questions based on what your students have learnt recently. For example, you could practise past simple with low-levels:
Or you could practise something like conditionals with higher-levels. Think of 6 questions that use conditionals, such as: if you found £20 on the street, what would you do?
The best thing about this game is that students can write their own questions. You can give students some question starters and let them finish the question and ask their partner. For example:
You can also use dice and counters for board games – use a photocopiable resource such as Games for Grammar Practice for Cambridge University Press or make your own board game using an online generator.
Fly swatters: a real luxury item for the young learner classroom but fun to get some competitive spirit between your students! Divide your class into groups and line them up in their group in front of the whiteboard. Give the person at the front of each line a fly swatter. Write words you’d like the students to review randomly on the board. Give definitions for the words and students must race to slap the correct word with the fly swatter. Fastest person wins. Then they pass the swatter to the next person in the line and the game continues. You can always use them for swatting actual flies too!
Bells/buzzers: great for getting attention from your learners if you want to wrap up a speaking task but also useful to hand out to students during any quizzes or games to create a more competitive element.
If you’re setting off on your travels or if you’re already teaching but want to add a bit of pizazz to your lessons, we hope you try out some of these ideas and add our classroom essentials to your teaching repertoire. And take a look at fun activities to get your TEFL students talking to get more inspiration for your next lesson.