Thursday, August 13, 2015

Building Back to School Classroom Tools: 2 Essential Items

I’m continuing to blog about education tools as part of #Teachermom’s Building Back To School blog series for August.  There are two classroom tools I want to discuss today which made teaching my ELLs much easier.

Building Back to School Blog post about classroom tools | The ESL Nexus

(This post contains affiliate links. That means that I make a small commission if you any of the products below but it's at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!) 

The first tool is something I cannot live without: File folders!  They were an essential part of my classroom organization and greatly helped with my management of paperwork.  I used them to hold articles I wanted to save but which didn’t fit neatly into any category; to store forms I had to fill out, such as blank ESL monthly attendance forms and ESL report cards; for teaching ideas I wrote on scraps of paper; and to keep track of info from other teachers.  I did have file cabinets but for the papers I used most frequently, I kept them in file folders in a bookcase near my desk for easy access.

Why file folders are an essential part of my teacher toolbox | The ESL Nexus
File folders from Staples; source: The ESL Nexus

I bought my folders in bulk at Staples.  Every August when Staples had a Teacher Appreciation Day, I got myself up early because the early shoppers could get some nice swag.  But the best part was the discount on back-to-school supplies so I stocked up on notebooks, pencils, file folders and other materials.  I usually bought around 50 file folders in a variety of colors—each color was used for a different grade level or purpose.  I preferred the style that had two pockets inside without fasteners.

My second classroom tool that I want to share with you is a dictionary.  Actually, I had several dictionaries; some were for beginning or intermediate proficiency level ELLs, one was for idioms, one was a rhyming dictionary, and I had sets of other regular dictionaries as well.  But the one I found especially useful was an academic content dictionary.  I’d never seen one like that until I went to a TESOL Convention one year and saw it on display at the Cambridge University Press table in the exhibition hall.  It was expensive but I bought it on the spot.  It helped that it was on sale to celebrate Cambridge University Press’s 400th anniversary, or something like that.  (Wow!)

What’s great about this dictionary is that it defines academic vocabulary words in easy-to-comprehend language.  Many entries include example sentences.  There are also lists of related words and word choice and usage information.  I consulted it a lot when trying to explain science and math words my students were learning in other classes and didn’t understand clearly.  We also used it when I couldn’t sufficiently explain a word in one of my own classes.  I highly recommend this Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary.

So those are my two essential classroom tools.  If you have a tool you are especially fond of, please share it in the Comments section below.